The longevity epidemic


In 1977, my mother died of lung cancer. She was 39. I was 6. It was devastating to our family. We were already a two-income family in the seventies (a precursor to the norm found in the 80s and beyond). It was financially overwhelming to our family as my dad busted his ass to keep things as “normal” as possible. She did not have life insurance, but she did have a burial plot already purchased. It still hit us pretty hard.

In 2002, my mother-in-law moved into our home. She was 69. I was 31. In the 10 years she lived with us she was morbidly obese, broke her ankle, had a quadruple bypass, and breast cancer with mastectomy. [Being 100% transparent we never expected her to live through the bypass surgery or the cancer treatments.] She’s 84 today, lives in an adult daycare facility we pay for, and financially (as well as emotionally) it takes a toll on our family. She had no long-term care insurance or burial plan.

The difference? Healthcare technology in the 1970’s was not the healthcare technology of the 2000’s. Access to quality care, caregivers, medicine, and different therapy was not the same. People today – they just live longer.

Welcome to the new norm: longevity.

I think when we hear longevity, we immediately go to the gratification of living longer. I mean that’s the goal, right? We are all trying to live as long as we possibly can. And in theory, this sounds terrific!

We have excellent doctors who have a background of medical therapy to call on to solve most issues today. Thus, we are living longer.

However, with longevity, comes a new kind of outlook – – really old age.

You mean everyone isn’t golfing in their retirement?

I know the brochures say we are all supposed to be happy and healthy and bright-eyed and playing golf. That’s all the imagery on the product stuff you read today, however, the real stories – like mine I shared – are never the ones we see or hear. Why do you think that is?

Nobody wants to think of their selves as old. We are in our moment… and today, we feel good so why think about stuff that far in advance? That’s how we got to an epidemic status. It’s an epidemic and we push issues under the rug and don’t want to be bothered with them.

With longevity comes taxed out resources.

Caregivers vary across the board from the low-paid to the highly paid one-on-one service. This is a valid crisis to consider in this longevity epidemic, too. Ai-jen Poo, an activist, and director of The National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, authored a book called, “The Age of Dignity” which I highly recommend all in FinServ to read.

Poo’s book highlights the need for quality care for our seniors today because the number aren’t going to go down – seniors will become more plentiful. Making sure we understand the differences in adult day care available, the importance of long-term care insurance in your planning portfolio, and relieving family members of having to make hard decisions about their loved ones, the book covers a plethora of things we need to consider as she walks you through her personal and cultural journey of having Taiwanese parents and her decision to hire a caregiver versus putting them in assisted living. Impactful and meaningful – read the book.

Family members simply don’t want the bother of taking care of someone. They have their own lives and craziness to sift through each day, then add a parent who needs a bath, fed, clothes changed, etc. This isn’t what children sign-up for when they grow up, but is a very real part of aging. (We don’t see the real pictures of this either when we get the product flyers either!)

This constant need to push mom and dad off on someone creates animosity and we all know if our folks are cognitively sharp, they feel like a terrible burden. One child seems to always be saddled with the majority of the responsibilities and resentment sets in. It’s just not the situation we hope for when we build a family.

Retirement income is also maxed out in many cases because we can now outlive our money. If I asked you how many centenarians (folks who live to be 100+) there are in the world – what would be your guess? In 2016, CNN reported that in 2014 there were more than 72,000 individuals in this age bracket. Although that number may not sound like a lot, in 2000 there were just 50,000. This means the numbers are going to keep growing. Do we really want to outlive our money?

So many FinServ products today help with this planning need. Riders, traditional LTC policies (mixed reviews there), and the more popular hybrid long-term care insurance plans should be a part of every FinServ professional’s portfolio for clients. Not doing this, I would even venture to say, is malpractice in my opinion. Are you prepared for your client’s children to come back to you and say, “Why didn’t you offer a long-term care insurance solution to my parent?” It’s real and something you should consider.

Be a person of action – I really encourage you to read Ai-jen Poo’s book, The Age of Dignity. I also encourage you to look holistically at longevity. Do you have a process in place to help identify this need and offer to your clients? Are you prepared to tell a judge why you didn’t offer this solution to your current client? There are many things to consider, but hurry up – everyone is growing a day older right now and likely to be alive tomorrow to talk to you about it.





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