New Zealand’s population is aging as the large “Baby Boom” generation continues to enter their retirement years.1 This is an exciting time for many, trading busy work schedules for a more carefree, relaxing lifestyle.
For Baby Boomers’ children, this time might also bring challenges. Kiwis are living longer, meaning health issues and financial insecurity could affect more retirees in the future. Children may be responsible for a parent’s care for longer, and might need to shoulder some of the costs. They may also be tasked with making some tough decisions for mum and dad in the years to come.
If your parents are nearing retirement or already there, you may want to help them prepare for their future. Getting everyone on the same page early could help your family face any obstacles life throws at you.
1. Plan a talk with your parents
Springing what is often a touchy subject on someone isn’t fair, and might derail the conversation before it even begins. For this reason, it may be best to schedule a time to talk.
Setting aside some time will also give everyone the opportunity to reflect beforehand. You and your parents can collect your thoughts and make a list of topics or concerns you want to discuss. It will also give your parents a bit of time to consider their final wishes, if they haven’t already. It may feel too overwhelming to talk about everything all at once, so a series of shorter chats might be better.
2. Find out if they’ve already made plans
Many people make arrangements for their future, but might neglect to let their family know. Important documents might not be found right away after someone has passed. This could create confusion amongst family members, or may even mean that irreversible decisions are made that don’t match your parent’s wishes.
Ask your parents if they’ve done any of the following:
- Written a Will
- Drafted an advance care directive
- Made funeral arrangements, or written down their funeral wishes
- Taken out a funeral insurance or life insurance policy
Your parents don’t need to share details with you (for instance, they may not want to discuss the contents of a Will before their death), but it may make sense to at least let you know where these original documents are kept. Encourage them to review any end-of-life papers periodically, and make updates as needed. If they are comfortable with it, ask for copies of the originals, just in case.
3. Think about living arrangements
They may be spry now, but as your parents age they might need more help around the house or one-on-one medical care. For some, this may mean moving out of their home, either for convenience or financial reasons. That can be an emotional experience, especially if family members do not agree on what needs to happen.
Striking a balance between getting a parent the help they need and honouring their independence is often tricky. It may be helpful to think about different scenarios and decide what options might work best in each circumstance. These might include things like downsizing their home, moving in with you or another family member, or living in an aged care facility.
When weighing the options, be sure to remember your parents’ pets! Some communities may not allow animals, meaning a beloved furry friend might need a new home.
4. Consider a healthcare plan
As mentioned, health issues could mean that your parent will eventually need a nurse’s assistance at home or to move into an aged care facility. But there are other situations you may also want to prepare for.
Stroke, dementia or other health matters common to older adults could leave a parent unable to make decisions for themselves. You or another family member may need to answer doctor’s questions or approve certain medical interventions. An advance care directive could provide guidance to you and your parent’s doctors.
5. Look at their finances
Money is a taboo topic for many. It may be uncomfortable to discuss your parents’ financial situation with them, but understanding how they plan to finance their golden years could help everyone better prepare.
Ask your parents what retirement and savings accounts they hold, as well as any debts they may have (including household bills and other day-to-day expenses). This could give you a better idea of whether they may need financial help in the future. It may also impact other decisions, such as where they might eventually live.
6. Know their digital assets
Older adults are increasingly making their way online to connect with family and friends, stay on top of news or have a bit of fun. Just like you, your parents may be accumulating online profiles and accounts that could require your attention in the future.
You may want to review your parent’s online presence, including social media accounts, email addresses, financial sites and online shopping profiles. Depending on the type of account, they may need to be suspended or deleted after their death to prevent fraud. Until then, encourage your parents to choose strong passwords for all their accounts, and to update these periodically. In many cases, websites can help next of kin access a deceased relative’s account even if they don’t have the password.
7. Encourage healthy behaviours now
The best steps your parents take for the future could be tending to their own wellbeing. Poor health or a feeling of isolation might limit how much they’re able to enjoy retirement.
Encourage your parents to look after themselves, both physically and mentally. A visit to the GP could help them develop an exercise and nutrition plan suited to their health needs and abilities. Maintaining or expanding their social circle, perhaps through group activities or volunteering, may help them feel more connected to others. Pursuing a hobby or learning a new skill might help keep their mind active and healthy.
Plan for all their tomorrows
Discussing the end of someone’s life is seldom easy. But, it may be a good idea to start this conversation with your parents. Getting a sense of their plans, wishes and any concerns they might have could be valuable in the years to come.
Download our free Funeral Wishes Guide to help your parents plan a service that reflects who they truly are.
1. Stats NZ, Population ageing New Zealand - article
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is of general nature, and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs or seek professional advice, where necessary.