I had a conversation the other day with an acquaintance that reminded me that we are not getting any younger. This gentleman was sharing his experience caring for his grandmother in her later years. In the course of conversation, he remarked that despite the decline in her health and mental acuity, she never felt herself to be old. “In her mind,” he said, “she was still the young woman who joined the Army at the tail end of WWII. She would at times tell me that when she looked in the mirror, she didn’t recognize herself. She’d say, ‘who’s that old woman?’” I think many people of an advanced age would perhaps agree that, while getting older certainly can have some physical signs to accompany it, one doesn’t necessarily nor automatically feel old. I certainly don’t feel my age.
Many of today’s seniors are still very independent, both in body and in mind. The mindset that “I can always take care of myself” can make them reluctant to openly discuss their affairs—particularly their financial affairs—with their adult children. It isn’t an easy mental shift to think about needing assistance with anything, especially after so many years of being independent. Unfortunately, too many boomers are in denial about their own aging, or simply fail to plan for the eventualities that will come. At some point, issues of living to an advanced age will have to be addressed, and too many families struggle with managing a crisis that could have been averted. When that happens, sub-optimal solutions become the norm.
Senior adulthood is simply another stage of life and can be filled with growth and opportunity. To take full advantage requires that we continue to envision and plan for our future. A book I recommend on the subject is The Other Talk: A Boomer’s Guide to Talking with Your Family About the Rest of Your Life. It is based on the recollection of the often difficult first talk that we had, or didn’t, with our teenager about sex.
Now that the teenager is well into adulthood and we Boomers are moving into seniorhood, it’s time for The 2.0 Talk. I encourage every boomer to have the conversation with their adult children. While financial planning is an important topic when talking about the rest of your life, it is impacted by so many other questions: where to live, how to manage health concerns, and end of life wishes, just to name a few. Whether you have a plan in place or haven’t yet given much thought to doing so, simply sitting down with your family and talking through your vision and purpose has its own rewards. It can very well lead to deeper, more meaningful, relationships between generations. The how and when and what will differ from family to family, and it might be awkward for some, not so for others. It probably isn’t the most natural after-dinner conversation, but setting aside time with loved ones and mustering the courage to do this is important. It is almost assured that it becomes more urgent as time goes by.
The Other Talk doesn’t have to be a serious or morbid conversation, or even a long, detailed one. Just starting can make a difference and can open the room for other conversations. Being open to each other’s perspectives can be a step toward a fruitful discussion. You may not want to start off talking about what everyone will inherit when you are gone. We have some discussion starters if you need them. You could start by sharing this blog post.
By the way, it is much easier when the parent initiates the conversation. But the child can easily start the discussion with something like, “Hey mom, how do you want to be remembered when you’re no longer around?”
Scroll down and leave a comment on where you are on the topic and the questions that arise after you have read this post.