As my clients face aging, some embrace it and accept it, some aren’t ready for it, some are bitter, and some have more problems than they or their family can imagine or handle.
How’s it going for you or your spouse or your parents?
I’ll compare two different men for you. They are both a few months older than 98, each man lives with a daughter, and they are both financially secure.
Although financially secure, one helps his daughter financially with some things even though she doesn’t need it, and the other, who is worth several million dollars, refuses to even pay a portion of the food, utilities, property tax, or insurance for his daughter. Even though the daughter of the wealthy man has to dip into her own retirement savings to support her father, he claims that that’s her problem and he refuses to help pay for anything.
It’s an interesting comparison. The gentleman who helps his daughter also happens have good estate planning documents allowing his daughter to help him. He’s a happy guy who jokes a lot and still goes into his studio to work on art projects every day. The father and daughter are great friends and absolutely trust each other.
The wealthier man is an absolute grump who sits in front of the television all day. He doesn’t have legal documents that allow his daughter to currently assist him, and he never participates in any level of family life.
The wealthy man relies on his daughter, but he doesn’t trust her, they don’t have a friendship, and she’s wondering whether she can evict him to protect her own finances.
But both men are mentally alert and still able to function just fine.
The type of legal documents tell the stories of the men in their level of trust of their daughters. Their level of happiness may be a function of trusting a loved one, filling the days with some activity that is not just passively watching the television, and participating in social interactions with the family.
As people age, others around them often notice what I call a level of brain decay. It’s a change in personality that may be triggered by a slowing of portions of the brain, or a loss of sharpness of parts of the brain. It isn’t necessarily dementia or the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s triggered by a change in the brain.
The wealthy grump was certainly a brilliant man at one point since he was an engineer who managed hundreds of other engineers on major projects. But he’s now living with his daughter and secluded from her in the same house by his own choice, and not experiencing any human interaction.
Studies of happiness and longevity certainly highlight diet and exercise, but they also highlight social interactions with family and friends. A good social circle can help improve the quality of life and longevity itself. Try it!
How will you age? Who do you surround yourself with? Who do you trust? Who will you allow into your life to help you?
Do yourself and others the great favor of having a good set of professionally prepared legal documents that will allow others you trust to help you as you age.
None of us know how we’ll age, but until we die, we all continue to age — one day at a time. Try to make the most of your life. Surround yourself with good people who can help you when you need it. It might increase your level of happiness and may even help you to live longer.
James Ward lives in Morgan Hill. He went to law school in New England and earned a post-graduate law degree in Estate Planning at the University of Miami. Jim worked as an Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney in Florida, and then returned to open his law firm focusing on Estate Planning and Elder Law. He has offices in South Valley and Willow Glen.
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