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Is Your Long Term Care Plan Stuck in a Time Warp?

The amount of change in the last 15 years is incredible and the pace of change has quickened.  Nothing stays the same forever, and forever is not as long as it used to be.  We are starting to see this in the senior market, beginning with how the term “old” is viewed by seniors themselves and by the businesses that serve them.  The generation turning 65 today is the Woodstock generation.  The term senior citizen doesn’t seem to fit and may itself become a relic before long. 

 If you ask anyone turning 65, they’ll tell you they don’t feel like seniors.  They also don’t act like seniors, certainly not like ones of past generations. Growing up with sex, drugs and rock and roll, many of the recently minted seniors, the oldest of the baby boomers, still think of themselves as young and are generally healthier than their parents were at that age. 

65 now is not what it was 20 or 40 years ago.  People are living longer, more active lives and that will have an impact on what services new seniors will require and demand in the marketplace.  For example, traditional senior centers in some areas are closing for lack of funding and lack of participation.   Many are too sedentary.  You are more likely to find younger seniors at a health club than a senior club.  They are more likely to be playing basketball, softball, tennis, golf, even adventure sports, than playing board games, cards and bingo. This change will affect many senior communities, including active adult communities and assisted living facilities.

It usually takes society time to adjust to change.  We’ve heard about how the Social Security and Medicare will run out of money within the next 10 to 20 years.  The retirement age for Social Security has been raised gradually from the traditional 65 and probably will continue to climb. The notion of retirement in 1935, when the Social Security program was created, did not contemplate 20 or 30 years or more of retirement but that has become the norm.  In 1935 people weren’t living with chronic ailments for years like we are now, thanks to advances in modern medical science.  In fact, the average life expectancy in 1935 was less than 65 years of age.  Social Security was designed with the expectation that a large segment of the population would never collect benefits.  That’s generally how insurance works, at least if the insurance company wants to remain in business. 

With people living longer, more active lives does that mean long term care services are no longer necessary?  Of course not.  While we can put off the aging process we can’t avoid it – at least until someone figures out that whole cryogenics thing.  It just means we are more likely to face significant declines in our health later, perhaps at 75 or 85.  Everything is stretched out over a longer time frame and we’d better be prepared for it.  We have to stop thinking about retirement and long term care as it was 75 years ago.  Most people have a plan that fits 1935, as if they are caught in a time warp.  It’s time to replace it with one that works in 2011.