When close friends or family members enter their golden years, their needs change and they may require more support than they used to. Little things like shopping for groceries or moving furniture around the house can feel more challenging. Observing these changes may evoke an urge to help, but it’s often hard to decide how to be helpful, especially if the loved one in question is emphatic about retaining their independence. Try these tips to support an aging loved one while respecting their boundaries.
Be curious about their experience
Rather than making assumptions about what a loved one needs, it can help to get their perspective first. “Ask about their day-to-day life and inquire about any difficulties they may be facing,” said Wealth Management Advisor Ben Voigt of Heritage Planning Partners, a Northwestern Mutual Private Client Group firm. “Simply prompting them to speak about their lives may encourage them to volunteer information about possible financial struggles, health issues, mobility troubles, and more.” Being a good listener is important: aging adults may not always feel comfortable speaking openly about their struggles, especially if they are likely to be judged or given unsolicited advice. So, it’s crucial to be supportive and empathetic once they open up.
Loneliness is often a part of aging—older adults, no longer working and sometimes in a new environment, can feel isolated—but it doesn’t have to be a defining feature. Aging folks can usually benefit from some companionship, whether that’s spending time with them one-on-one or helping them find sustainable social networks. There’s value in exploring gaming groups, adult education sessions, and community meetups for seniors. Community centers and religious organizations sometimes set up events specifically for retirees and seniors.
Make suggestions when asked for help
In cases when seniors ask for advice, it’s appropriate to provide suggestions or insight as needed. A friend may ask for help with researching a medical issue or they may have questions about new investment opportunities.
“In some cases, the right thing to do is recommend a financial advisor or medical professional who is best placed to support them in their decision making,” said Voigt. “However, at other times it may just be a matter of reminding them of their options. For example, someone in need of extra cash flow may not remember that they can utilize the cash value accumulated in a universal life insurance policy that they already have.”
Pay attention to them
One of the best things that anyone can do for an aging friend or loved one is to pay close attention to them. Look for changes such as sudden weight loss, confusion, or an unkempt appearance. These can be signs of health struggles, cognitive decline, or mobility and dexterity problems. These can be difficult subjects for them to talk about, but observation and early intervention can help. Sometimes, a conversation with the aging person’s primary caregiver or family may be necessary.
Everyone experiences the aging process differently, but supportive and compassionate family members and friends can make the transition easier. Remaining open and curious, paying attention, and helping when needed can be key.
The primary purpose of permanent life insurance is to provide a death benefit. Using permanent life insurance accumulated value to supplement retirement income will reduce the death benefit and may affect other aspects of the policy.
Source: Northwestern Mutual
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