Dear June, At 87, how should I plan for the future?

Enter your e-mail address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

By June O'Connor

I am an 87-year-old widow. I live alone, drive my car on local streets, and I am active with many volunteer groups and special-interest women’s clubs. Community is very important to me, and I have many friends. I love my life and I savor my continuing independence, a real blessing at my age. My three grown children live 500 miles away and, given my good health, I fly to see them and their families regularly throughout the year and they take turns coming to visit me in my small home. I am blessed and grateful.

As I anticipate the future, I sense that I must make a decision about what to do when I can no longer live on my own. I would hate to have to live with my adult children, but I also hate the thought of expensive institutional living, whether assisted or nursing care.

I don’t see any desirable options. How do I move into that next phase of life when it becomes necessary?

- Reluctant But Willing To Face Future Dependence

You are wise to recognize your many blessings: good health, mobility, friends, an active life, and loving family. You are also wise to envision a time when some of these blessings are likely to diminish or disappear with aging.

Since you are blessed with attentive and loving adult children, you might consider these two possibilities.

One is to spend four months of each year with each of your three children. Since your stay will be temporary, no one child and family will be burdened; you will have personal time with each. Your grandchildren will come to know you in new ways, enabling you to offer observations and encouragement that may generate special memories. This could be a tremendous blessing for all of you.

A second possibility is to sell your home and use some of the money to expand the home of one of your children and live with that family throughout the year, enjoying occasional trips to visit your other children. This has the advantage of sustaining some independence (your own space) while benefiting from family presence, meals in common, and immediate access to help. This also will save your family the time they otherwise would spend visiting and supervising your care in a live-in facility.

Although you might flinch at this suggestion, as many elders do, not wanting to impose on their adult children’s family life, it is useful to remember that when you die, they will expand into a bigger home in light of your add on and be grateful for it.

This second option holds the promise of a good business deal, that is to say, an agreement through which both parties benefit: You have your own space, integrally connected to family; and they get to enjoy you in your elder years and your add-on after you die. As I see it, this arrangement generates more blessings than burdens for both sides. It is probably not too soon to think along these lines. Better to do so when you can be a part of the planning process rather than simply dependent in the face of an emergency. Use your planning power today! CD

Ph.D June O'Connor

If you have a problem for Dr. June O’Connor, write to: Dear June, Catholic Digest, P.O. Box 6015, New London, CT 06320 or email her.