Driverless Cars Are Likely to Liberate the Elderly

In the UK alone, some 1.5 million senior citizens are largely confined to their own homes due to incapacity or lack of transportation, reports The Telegraph. That’s an astounding number, and the statistics are undoubtedly even more wowing here in the U.S.

But problems only persist until technology can solve them, and it looks like the days of “default house arrest” may soon be over for elderly people all around the world. Just thank the driverless car.

Self-driving automobiles have been all the rage in technology circles for a few years now. Indeed, they’re already on their way. Major manufacturers have whole fleets in development, and experts are working to refine their reliability and safety features. They may be just a few years away from the mainstream.

In a new report by the International Longevity Centre UK, researchers conclude, “whilst a few years ago the idea of driverless cars would be firmly in the realms of science fiction, the rapid advancement of technology means that driverless cars are now a real possibility – and they are likely to be on the roads in years, rather than decades.”

That could utterly revolutionize life for seniors, empowering them to access everything from the local supermarket to the emergency room whenever they need it. In a sense, gone would be the days when someone has to stop driving because they’ve gotten “too old.”

The really interesting thing about this article is that, when we first started hearing about driverless cars, I dare say no one imagined elderly people inside them. It just goes to show how endlessly applicable modern technology and the imagination can be in the realm of senior care and modern aging.

It’s a fast-emerging future, speeding toward us so steadily that it’s practically driving itself.

Wine & Dine at Age 89? Why Not?

The assisted living industry is out to make a new name for itself, or at least certain parts of it are. As seniors live longer lives, they’re increasingly interested in finding better places to enjoy their time. For many, the conventional nursing home just doesn’t cut it, and the market is becoming ever more aware of that fact.

I recently came across an English-language article in a Finnish newspaper, and it reveals some of the fascinating new developments in Finland’s senior care.

A slew of new retirement homes are opening there, each designed to cater to popular pastimes or specific hobbies. One home emphasizes gardening, for instance, and its residents spend much of their day outdoors. Others, meanwhile, focus on providing fancy four-course dinners and excellent glasses of wine every night.

There are even “old-age homes,” as they call them, that specialize in environmentalism, cultural media, and sports! Those options have apparently proven quite popular there, though the more diverse selections are largely confined to Helsinki and other big cities.

Cost is a major concern, too. Even by-the-book senior care is expensive, so more specialized services like these come with a considerable upcharge. That makes them an option only for the wealthy or those who’ve planned prudently and well in advance.

Stateside, we’ve started to see specialization and innovation in our own senior care industry as well, though perhaps not yet quite so creative as the Finns. As the pendulum continues to swing in that direction, we’ll probably see much more specialization in the years to come. Of course, cost will be an all-important factor for America’s seniors, too.

If you’re peering down the road into your own future and think that a different kind of “old-age home” might be right for you, the time to start planning is now. One of my primary focuses is helping people employ sensible strategies for saving and utilizing all the available resources out there to secure their futures in advance. Give me a call to talk about what we can do together.

CNBC Is Shocked You Don’t Have an Estate Plan

Some headlines get right to the point.

“No estate plan? Wow, BIG Mistake.”

That was the original headline in this CNBC article about the shocking lack of estate planning among average Americans. It’s a frank title, but not an altogether unjustified one. Such widespread indifference toward estate planning is a little surprising — and certainly unwise.

“We’re all guilty of not doing what… doesn’t seem urgent,” the article says, “but there’s no excuse for not having a current estate plan—which will matter a great deal if you suddenly become terminally ill or incapacitated or die.”

Just how bad will it be? CNBS answers that rhetorical question with, well, candor:

“You’ll lose control over who gets your property and how it might be used; who cares for your minor children and how; and your own care, should you become incapacitated. The courts will also likely need to step in, at a potentially heavy cost—both financial and emotional—to those left to pick up the pieces.”

Simply put, it’s important (verging on downright necessary). Not having one is unwise, and the temporary hassle of creating a plan is vastly outweighed by the benefits and peace of mind you’ll have when all is said and done. Besides, an experienced Middlesex County estate planning attorney can largely eliminate that hassle for you.
That’s CNBC’s other big piece of advice: “Every family and financial situation is unique, so you should choose an estate-planning attorney who is not only knowledgeable in the laws of your state that govern probate, wills and trusts but also one in which you feel comfortable sharing your most personal details.”

For many years now, I’ve been helping clients of all ages prepare for their futures. My office is here to serve clients from anywhere in Massachusetts, including Arlington, Winchester, Lexington, Medford, Woburn, Burlington, Somerville, and all of Middlesex County.

If you’re ready to remedy CNBC’s jaw drop and create an estate plan of your own, I hope you’ll contact me for an initial consultation. I very much look forward to meeting you in person.

Assisted Living Facility Offers “Virtual Dementia Tour”

A senior living community in Texas is giving visitors and family members a chance to experience dementia first hand. They call it the “virtual dementia tour.”

By way of newfangled “virtual reality goggles,” the Silverado Memory Care Community in Plano, TX is able to offer a simulated disorientation for its visitors. The experience is similar to the loss of motor function observed in numerous dementia patients.

Donning special glasses, gloves, headphones, and shoe insoles, tour takers are assigned four simple, everyday tasks:

  • Make the bed
  • Find a black jacket and zip it up
  • Feed the dog
  • Take medication (a placebo pill)

Sound easy? For those with dementia or other diseases or disorders, it isn’t. The tour takers had a tough time, too.

“I felt disoriented,” one visitor told The Dallas Morning News. “If I had been by myself, I think I would’ve sat down and waited until someone told me what to do next.”

Indeed, one guest after another failed to grab the jacket, forgot to feed the dog, or fumbled in finding the pillbox. Some of them couldn’t even walk without holding onto the wall.

The whole experience is part of a national effort to educate the public about the challenges posed by aging. The nonprofit creatives behind the project, Second Wind Dreams, are taking their initiative to various sites around the country. The idea is to remind people that aging isn’t just a matter of cognitive impairment. Dementia is very much a physical condition, too.

It’s encouraging to see the kind of revelations that come out of these simulated experiences. I think one of the most difficult aspects of the senior experience is the frustration the elderly sometimes feel when trying to aptly describe their day-to-day challenges. By all accounts, the “virtual dementia tour” helps to overcome that barrier and lend real understanding to these patients’ loved ones.

Naturally, understanding yields both compassion and progress. Let’s hope the “virtual dementia tour” generates plenty of both once it makes it’s way around America.

10 Ways Technology Will Change Your Old-Age Experience

The future never quits changing.

I’ve written a lot in recent months about technology’s exciting entry into the fields of elder law and senior care. Each week seems to bring about a brand-new and truly intriguing story.

Now, The Huffington Post has a list of ten new ways that everyday technology could revolutionize the old-age experience during the next decade. I think you’ll find that a number of them seem remarkably plausible, not to mention incredibly exciting:

  • Talking street signs — A lifesaver when eyesight begins to fade!
  • Self-driving cars — They’re already on the way, and they could extend how long seniors are able to safely transport themselves.
  • Virtual doctor’s visits — As the Post says, Skype could revive the old-school “house call.”
  • iMonitoring — Your smartphone and other devices will allow doctors and nurses to remotely monitor your blood pressure, vital signs, and more.
  • E-medicine— Just as banking, buying, and communication have all gone digital, experts predict that medical records and physician referrals will soon unfold on the web.
  • The Robo-Nurse — Robots are already under development as in-home medical assistants. Those who saw Disney’s smash-hit Big Hero 6 last year may soon have a Baymax all their own!
  • LED integration — Here’s more good news for those with weak eyes… tiny LED lights are being built into smartphones, duffel bags, restaurant menus, and much more.
  • Safety sensors — The fear of falling will be less ominous thanks to new technology that can instantly detect a tumble and alert family members or 911.
  • The “Smart House”— Imagine that your bedroom lights turn on as soon as your feet hit the floor. That’s the kind of fantasy that may become reality in new, high-tech homes. The Post even imagines a day when your refrigerator will tell your television that you left the freezer door ajar.
  • Apps aplenty — As I’ve discussed at some length before, smartphone apps specifically designed for senior citizens are in rapid development. That wasn’t true a couple of years ago, but it’s all the rage now. I think the Post is absolutely right to predict that we could see scores of life-changing apps over the next ten years.

Read the entire HuffPo piece here.

The future couldn’t be much more exciting, and one thing is clear: we have a lot to look forward to! Here in my office, I help people of all ages plan proactively for the many days that wait ahead. If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you secure a comfortable future for yourself, please give my office a call today!

Lessons Learned From A Multi-Millionaire Janitor

We don’t often hear about the passing of unassuming, elderly janitors… but when they leave secret multi-million dollar fortunes behind, that tends to get newspapers’ attention.Man mopping factory floor

Ronald Read lived in Vermont his whole life. He worked as a soldier, then a gas station attendant, and then a J.C. Penny janitor. He was well liked but lived a simple life, reportedly working right up until his death last June at the age of 92.

Upon his death, his friends and family were shocked to learn that he’d acquired nearly $8 million in stock holdings and assets over his life — and he left almost all of it to charity.

In reflecting on Read’s incredible story, The Washington Post says there are both lessons to learn and mistakes to avoid. Let’s look at a few items from each of their lists.

What Read Did Right, According to The Washington Post

  • Patience. Read held a lot in stocks, but he rarely traded. He owned most of them for many decades.
  • Dividends. “Read was not an active trader,” the Post says, but “he was an active buyer. There is a very big difference.” Read preferred stocks that paid regular dividends. He then used those dividend checks to buy more shares of the same companies.
  • Diversity. Read owned many different kinds of stocks, but he avoided technology and anything trendy.
  • Philanthropy. By designating charitable beneficiaries for his assets, Read was able to significantly reduce his estate’s tax burden. (In fact, in his case, the whole fortune passed tax free).
  • Revocable trusts work well. Read had one, and it made life much easier for his beneficiaries.

What Read Did Wrong (By Post Standards)

In praising his financial prudence, the Post is quick to question whether Read really made the most of his life. Friends and family say he did not enjoy his retirement. They wonder whether he might have been happier had he loosened the purse strings and “lived a little,” so to speak. Maybe.

Of course, most of us are driven to do that which we enjoy most. Who’s to say that Read didn’t lead exactly the life he found most fulfilling?

Whatever we might make of his frugal ways, the Post is absolutely right about one thing — we can all learn a lot of lessons here. Financial responsibility pays off. So does planning. Life is short. And above all else, never judge a book by its cover.

How An Adam Sandler Movie Is Changing Dementia Care

Well, nobody saw this one coming.

An Adam Sandler movie, of all things, has inspired an effective new trend in healthcare and therapy for dementia patients. And it only took 11 years for it to catch onNoreenMurphyBlogPic

50 First Dates made its way to theaters in 2004 and has aired ad infinitum on cable ever since then, so many of you may already be familiar with its premise. Sandler plays a bachelor living the wild life in Hawaii, but when he meets a lovely young lady named Lucy (Drew Barrymore), he sees fit to change his ways. The only problem? Lucy suffers from short-term memory loss and starts each morning with no memories from the previous day.

It’s a silly romantic comedy, but according to TIME, one plot point in particular caught the attention of dementia care providers. In the film, Sandler’s character records videos to help comfort Lucy and remind her of who he is — and who she is.

One nursing home, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York City, decided to give that ideal a whirl for their own patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“[The film] was fluff, but it made me think, ‘How could that translate to our residents with memory loss?’” says Charlotte Dell, the home’s director of social services.

It’s working, Hebrew Home tells NBC New York. The video program helps to set a positive tone each morning, establish routine, and trigger residents’ memories.

Of course, every patient is unique. Alzheimer’s and dementia present differently in different people. Experts expect the therapy to be more effective in some people than in others.

Still, isn’t it nice to know that life-changing inspiration can come from the most unexpected places?

Growing Old Together: What It Looks Like

Growing old together: it’s the dream that drives many couples toward marriage. The idea of two people so in love that they can’t wait to live out forever together is about as lovely an idea as I can think of.Senior couple face to face

Now just imagine that you could fast-forward to the future with your significant other in the blink of an eye. One lucky couple got to do just that.

Just last month, in St. Louis, a young couple was given the chance to see and feel what forever looks like just before they tied the knot. The idea came from The Cut, a popular fashion channel on YouTube, renowned for its incredible work in the hair and makeup department.

The Cut team asked two soon-to-be-marrieds, a young man and woman named Tavis and Kristie, to pose for a little aesthetic enhancement. They proposed to age the two from their current ages (late 20s) to three future milestones in life: ages 50, 70, and 90.

They put the whole thing together in a video, and it just might be the most poignant thing you’ll see all week.

In just under six minutes, we witness Tavis and Kirstie’s transformation before our eyes. At each stage along the way, they react with emotional candor to the changes they see in front of them. It’s incredibly touching to see the couple reflect on what kind of life might have led them there.

Plenty of laughs are shared, but it’s the tears that really reveal how powerful this couple’s love is.

Once they hit their 90s, the two are asked a profoundly personal series of questions, including what their last words to one another might be. With tears in both their eyes (and admittedly mine), Tavis and Kristie say exactly what the other needs to hear — before it’s too late.

We all know that they’re just 20-somethings in wigs and makeup, but for a brief shining second, the two become the age they see.

Then Kristie brings us back to reality when she mentions, “We should write these down because we’re writing our own vows.” And just like that, we suddenly remember that they aren’t even married. Still, we somehow feel that we lived a whole life with them.

Watching the video, I’m truly reminded how beautiful a thing aging really is. Whether with a companion or on our own, we all deserve a full and meaningful life in each of the years ahead. I’m proud to play a part in securing that kind of future for so many of my clients, and I hope that this video inspires some joyful reflection for many of you too. Watch it here.

“Middle Age” Now Begins at 60

When are you “old”? Once upon a time, the most popular answer to that question was 50. Some said 55, 60, or 65… but almost everyone agreed that by the time you hit the big 7-0, you were anything but a spring chicken.

Well now that’s all changing… big time.171095033

A few months ago, I wrote about a major new report proclaiming that age 60 can no longer be considered the average clinical onset of “old age,” medically speaking. The statistics simply don’t support that classification anymore — too many people are living well beyond that age with vigor and in perfect health.

Now another new study is going even further. As featured on The TODAY Show, researchers from Stony Brook University and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis now say that age 60 should be considered the beginning of middle age. In other words, 60 isn’t even close to “old” anymore!

Unquestionably, that’s a major shift in the way we think about aging in America. By bumping “middle age” back by fifteen or twenty years, medical science is extending a much longer lease on life for today’s seniors. The next generation might expect that benchmark to move back even further.

So what does that mean for those of us who might be bouncing back and forth between categories, depending on whose definition we use? Well, we’re just getting started! And that can change everything.

Mortgages, life insurance, retirement plans, long-term care funding, lifetime savings accounts… all these things demand reconsideration in the context of a longer life to live. As America’s middle-aged-and-up population look down the now-suddenly-longer road ahead of them, it’s important that we all make sure we’re well covered for the long haul.

Part of my practice is devoted to helping people in Massachusetts — regardless of their ages — start planning today for financial security in the future. The earlier you start, the easier it is to ensure that you won’t face any financial problems years or even decades from now.

Peace of mind is one of the best gifts you can give yourself for the rest of your life. Feel free to give me a call to talk about how you can get started on that — and pretty painlessly, I might add — right away!

Nursing Homes Replacing Hospitals for Primary Senior Care

We always hear about the rising number of Americans who turn to hospitals (particularly Emergency Rooms) as their primary source of healthcare. Likewise, we hear a lot about the constantly rising costs of nursing homes in America — especially here in Massachusetts and throughout New England.

I was struck, then, by a recent New York Times article that makes a surprising report: senior citizens are increasingly less reliant on hospitals for healthcare, as nursing homes are able to step up to the plate in their place.

Why the shift? Here are a few factors:

  • Healthcare Mobility — As the Times notes, many complex procedures like blood transfusions used to require several days spent in an outpatient hospital wing. These days, those same procedures can practically be done on the go. Nursing homes can give their residents a quick lift to a nearby medical center for a transfusion in a matter of hours. All of the follow-up care, including IV therapy, can be done back in the resident’s own room.
  • Risk of Injury and Infection— Despite popular belief, the hospital isn’t the safest place for the elderly. Falls, bedsores, depression, and hospital-acquired infections are all dangerous and increasingly common risks of any hospital stay. While those perils are present in nursing homes too, the rates of occurrence tend to be a little lower there.
  • Costs — Nursing homes are extremely expensive, but so are hospitals. Regularly relying on hospital clinics or Emergency Rooms can prove even more financially taxing than the monthly nursing home bill. That fact has insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid urging nursing homes to ramp up their roster of hospital-like services.

Of course, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Amazingly, many of today’s nursing homes still don’t staff registered nurses 24/7, and not all homes offer the same easy access to nearby outpatient clinics.

It is encouraging to know, though, that alternative approaches to senior care are developing quickly. Within the next few years, we may see seniors spend less and less time in hospitals, and that should hopefully translate to financial savings, fewer infections, and a lower rate of hospital-related injury.

Naturally, though, paying for nursing home care remains a real challenge, regardless of how much additional time gets spent in a hospital. Fortunately, proactive planning can make those costs much more manageable. To that end, my office can be of some help. Give me a call today to talk about setting up a plan that makes sense for you.