Advisors naturally focus on the financials when helping clients with retirement planning. But as lifespans lengthen, aging clients increasingly face physical and mental challenges that come with old age. Through forward thinking and proper planning, advisors can help clients prepare for these hurdles.
It's important for advisors to think beyond the standard financial discussions with clients. And a more well-rounded relationship often leads to a more successful one.
Healthcare, including unforeseen maladies, is a major expense for the elderly. For example, recent findings from the Consumer Product Safety Commission cite "slip and fall" accidents among the main causes of injury and hospitalization among seniors. The resulting injuries may leave older adults dependent with long-term home care, and can limit their future independence. For seniors living at home, falls are not inevitable and can be prevented.
Advisors can raise awareness of the risk by suggesting that clients or their family members take preventative steps to make home modifications, such as: installing handrails on both sides of stairways and bathtubs, toilets and in the shower; removing tripping hazards such as throw rugs and clutter; ensuring pathways, stairways and bathrooms are well lit, and installing non-skid mats in bathtubs and showers.
Paying the cost of renovations like these today can mitigate possibly large healthcare bills down the road.
Advisors can also talk with their aging clients about home safety in general. There is a very easy to use home safety evaluation that older adults or their families can access online. It's a comprehensive, how-to on safety proofing a loved one's home. Click on the home modification checklist, at www.caregiverslibrary.org.
If aging clients intend to stay in their current home as they enter their golden years, then advisors may also encourage them to consider modifying their home along the lines of so-called universal design concepts. These design ideas are meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, as well as people with disabilities. Just knowing that there are resources available to assist seniors in remaining as independent as possible in their own home can provide great peace of mind to your client.
These concepts include: smooth ground level entrances without stairs, and ramp access in place of stairway entrances; wide interior doors, hallways, and alcoves with 60" x 60" turning spaces at doors and dead-ends; lever handles for ease of opening doors rather than twisting knobs, which requires a tight grasp; light switches with large flat panels rather than small toggle switches; volume controls that operate on auditory sound and buttons and other controls that can be distinguished by touch.
We also find the more active people are, the happier they are. As advisors discuss clients' finances, they can also take an active interest in how clients are using their time in retirement. Our advisors recommend our older clients get some form of exercise regularly to maintain muscle strength, and keep a robust social life for good mental health.
Getting to know the resources in your area can enable you to provide suggestions to your elderly clients to remain as personally independent as they are financially independent. For instance, adult day care facilities and community centers offer exercise programs and social activities for older adults. There are many community support systems in place for seniors, such as transportation services, that cater to older adults, delivery services for groceries and medication are now available from most large grocery chains, and the Meals on Wheels Association of America delivers healthy meals to seniors in many metro areas across the country.
It is just as important to look into how clients will live their life in retirement as much as how they will pay for it.