Ever wonder what makes people put off the predictable like retirement planning? Do they believe “someone” else will take care of it for them?

Ever wonder what makes people put off the predictable like retirement planning? Do they believe “someone” else will take care of it for them? Or could it be that they enjoy working so much they’ll never give up a job? The same is true for long-term care. Do people believe they’ll never get old?

It Was Freaky

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about aging, it’ll catch up with you so quickly that your head will spin. That’s what happened to my parents. One moment they were having fun traveling the country, and the next moment they were in and out of hospitals. It was freaky.

Why do I care about people’s decision to put things off, especially when dealing with aging care? Senior care and retirement topics are my passion and bread and butter. They are also hot items for the news media, product development, and even federal programs. See for yourself, do a search on retirement and it’ll serve up 256M results using keywords like retirement calculator, age, quotes, plans, guides, services, benefits, and crisis.

Throughout the nine years working in the industry, I’ve come across more  hardship than celebration. More problems than solutions. And a lot of dread around the topic of growing old. No one wants to experience it. Neither do I but, unfortunately, it’s on the way. Even right now as I write this, my friend Ginger comes to mind. She’s a beautiful woman in her early 70’s and she dreads sagging skin and wrinkles. Her on-going cry to me, “I’ll go to my grave before I concede to old age.” And Ginger means it too. It’s a fact that she spends over $5K a year on facial injections, not to mention the other anti-wrinkle products and services.

Why do Americans struggle with aging? We don’t want wrinkles, we don’t want to be a burden, and we don’t want our physical bodies and our minds to fail. We look for ways to put it off or ignore it all together. To prove my point, here are two studies to reference. 

The first in the Inquiry Journal, “Long-Term Care Over an Uncertain Future,” found roughly 70% of consumers over 65 will need long-term care. The second study, America Talks: Protecting Our Families’ Financial Futures, illustrates Americans denial of long-term care. Genworth’s study found that 67% of Americans say they will not use senior care at all, even as they grow older. Why the discrepancy? If research proves the high need for future care, how long can we ignore it? And can we take steps to teach or educate consumers to plan ahead?         

The Big Debate

It’s the biggest debate that elder care experts face. And the discussion intensifies each year since the number of people turning 65 broadens. I could choose to leave well enough alone and be satisfied with the fact that most Americans would prefer not thinking about getting old (Associated Press-NORC Center.) But since the “need” variance is extensive (70% WILL need vs. 67% think they WON’T need), I queried senior care authorities. Who better to ask than the professionals and thought leaders that spend their working lives dealing with aging and retirement concerns.

The long-term care debate questions:

  1. Why the big difference between consumers’ perception vs. researchers forecast of the long-term care need?
  2. What consequences can consumers expect for not planning?
  3. How would you close the discrepancy gap? (Provide more education? More media exposure?)
  4. What advice can you give consumers (to get more prepared) about their future care needs? (What do you suggest they do now to begin preparing?)

The replies and suggestions are golden nuggets. Ones we should pay close attention and follow.  

“Human beings have a very limited ability to predict accurately or even imagine the needs of their future self. It is especially true when that future contains scary possibilities and lies decades in the future.” Dr. Bill Thomas, Changing Aging.

“We all want to think that we will live forever and not need care. We will spend lots of time comparing wines, cars, and homes, but not this.” Tami Neumann, Conversations in Care.

“We don’t see people receiving personal assistance because they’re being cared for out of sight. It’s easier to ignore the likelihood that we’ll become one of the 70% of individuals who will need long term care.” Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Author

So, what do you think about American’s lack of planning? Are Americans in denial and do they embrace a Pollyanna prognosis about the future?

44 senior care experts think so. Read what they predict and suggest how to deliver us from the anguish of aging.