About Aging Gracefully

Living With Dignity in Twilight Years

Well friends, you can immensely enjoy the twilight years of your life. Really you can!  I can emphatically pronounce that; it is very much possible if you plan and prepare for it methodically well in advance.  The earlier you start; the better is your chance of success. Well, you can trust me! I am saying this based on what my own life has taught me. Like everybody else, I never thought I would ever get old. I saw my father getting ill and when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (blood cancer), I saw his helplessness to face the situation quite unprepared.  The challenge was beyond his capacity to cope with. I was then serving a Ministry of Defence undertaking and had most of my parent’s medical expenses covered. I still shudder to imagine what would have happened otherwise; the fallout of facing this situation unprepared would have been disastrous. But then it taught me the desperate need to prepare for old age. I am here now to show you how. But for that, you will have to have a little patience .Listen to my preamble to the solution carefully.

Magnitude of the issue

Advancement of medical science over the last millennium and general awareness about the process of healthy living have made it possible for mankind to live longer, As per WHO report the average life expectancy of humans in 2015 was 71.4 years . This is expected to increase further in future, culminating in a huge population of elderly people in the world.
Statistics published by WHO forecasts that the growth of world population of people aged 60 years and above is expected to reach 2 billion in 2050, up from 900 million in 2015, which stands for a growth of more than double.
India’s population over 60 years of age has doubled from 17.7% to 35.5% in 10 years from 2001 t0 2011. These statistics are projected just to give readers an idea of the huge number of people who belong to this exclusive club of elderly people and that it is growing exponentially.
Point is, the readers either belong to this exclusive club already or will l join this club sooner or later. So what happens to them is everybody’s concern. One may question at this point, so what? What is the big deal?

How does the life change, as you age

The point here to note, while life expectancy of humans is improving, the quality of extended life is. There is a multitude of issues to be address to improve the quality of life for elders. Towards this end, let us take quick look at the opportunities and challenges present themselves as one enters this phase of life.  By nature some these changes are negative and others positive. List is very lengthy. One may summarise those as follows:

Negative changes:

Income level usually drops ,at times drastically;

Physical shortcomings aggravate ;

Typical old-age disorders and diseases creep-in;

Impaired mobility restricts movement which creates a host o problems ;

Dependence on others mounts;

Change in physical appearance and impaired beauty/grace / attractiveness impact psyche, women are affected most;

Medical expenses soar;

Forced alienation from near and dear ones when they are needed most;

Loneliness creeps-in often leading psychological disorders.

Positive changes: New opportunities:

Freedom from the daily rigor of routine slogging related to making a living,

No more pressure and tension of chasing targets or project completion ;

Feel relaxed;

Abundant free time released ;

Relief from work –life balancing problem;

Opportunity to pursue dreams cherished all along but had no time for that;

Spend quality time with family and friends;

Pursue hobbies, take part in social work , creative activities etc.

You can visualise that some positive developments provide opportunities to neutralise the obstacles posed by the negative. Task is to carefully analyse the situation (which is typical to every individual and differ widely from person to person)and work out solutions .

We can assure you beyond all apprehensions that with proper planning at the appropriate time and its meticulous implementation, one can overcome most of the negative impacts of ageing and turn old age into a celebration. Trust me you will not regret. First , you have to believe , you can.

We shall now draw up a road map to make a happy and dignified living in twilight hours of life.

If you look at the challenges of old age, you will realise that the three most vital components in this lot, are:

Sudden drop in income leading to paucity of funds and
Health related issues including mental health,
Alienation from family members.

In fact all other problems emanate from either of these three factors. We shall take up the case of managing the financial issue first. This issue is as important as it is complex. We shall deal with it in details in a series of blogs to follw.Inthis issue; we shall introduce the topic and outline the structure of Finance management for individuals.

Finance Planning for Individuals: The concept:

  • Start with identifying fund requirement at different stage of life (eg, Marriage , Purchasing a car ,Children’s higher education , Daughters ‘marriage ( in Asian context), Buying a home, etc.),medical emergencies etc.;
  • Making a budget for each event with a tag on when required .This budget has to make provision for inflation and make allowances for unforeseen developments in money market;
  • Prepare investment plan to yield the desired sum of money at each stage with a balanced portfolio of Mutual Funds, Long term Bonds , FDs in Bank, in Stocks
  • Monitor and reschedule portfolio from time to time depending on changing circumstances.

The aforesaid activities are easier said than done. It surely is a complex task. Barring the starting point of identifying the fund requirements all other functions need in-depth knowledge and experience of a competent professional Finance Planner. Such professionals are available for this service at a cost. A note of caution: choose a seasoned professional for the purpose even if it costs more since you can’t take any chance in this regard. Please remember to consult a professional from time to time for reviewing/rescheduling your portfolio.

We shall take up this subject in details in subsequent episodes. Please appreciate that this write-up will be for general understanding and guidance; each individual has to take expert advice for his specific   case.

We shall now share some fundamental ground rules to follow to enjoy a relaxed and dignified life in twilight years. These are as Follows:

  • Make SAVING a way of life. Transmit this code of practice to next generation.
  • “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving”( Warren Buffet).
  • Try to differentiate between WANT and NEED. Ask before making a purchase do I really need it or being prodded by a false feeling of want created by advertisement/urge to show off/because your neighbours own it.
  • Start saving early in life; the earlier the better. Even a small amount of money invested in Systematic Investment Plan/Public Provident Fund/in long term bonds can yield fortunes after 40/50 years.
  • Earn diligently>Save systematically> Spend Carefully is the clue to live a financially comfortable life after retirement.