Never in life has a generation been in more control of their future than Baby Boomers are now.
Baby Boomers are redefining what it is to be in their “retirement years” just as they did with their youth. It’s a mega and positive trend leading to extended careers, entrepreneurialism and purpose-driven fulfilling lives that make a tremendous difference for them, their families, and the world as a whole.
But that is all about now and the near future. Perhaps it is also worth reimagining, reinventing, and redefining the last years of our lives (and to do so before we get there) in order to make them better and more appropriate as well.
I’m speaking of those final years and months of lifespan when your “healthspan” is running out. Cognition and physical issues are such that we can no longer fully and independently function to one degree or another.
In other words, life in the dreaded “nursing home”.
Granted, there have been significant advances in this area. New iterations such as Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care. Many facilities are nicer, with better food and more activities.
I have often heard it said (and experienced it myself) that these changes often make it better for the children of aging adults with a lessening of their guilt. But not necessarily all that much better for the parents who reside there.
Yet, are these changes enough for we, the potential residents? Not from my experience with aging parents and the experiences I have heard from others. That means there is a need to bring our own changes, our own ideas, and our own solutions. Boomers can profit by this with a better life outcome and as a business possibility.
Some of these changes could and should be significant. They can be radical. They can also be simple.
In his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande tells the story of Bill Thomas, a doctor at a stereotypical nursing home who transformed life for its residents by bringing in animals as permanent residents. Everyone shared four dogs and four cats. Each resident had their own bird.
Reclusive people came to life. Overall health and mobility improved. Drug costs for psychotropic drugs needed for agitation fell 38% and deaths fell by 15%.
Dr. Thomas introduced life and purpose in a very basic way and the benefits were tremendous. Yet, this is just one way, one example, and one aspect to improve and radically change how we handle our final days and transition to them.
The list is long and the challenges significant. Nevertheless, this is about how you and I want it to live out our last days within the confines of the reality of our health and function.
Then there is the simple yet huge issue of how to die.
In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition, and language about our mortality and created a new difficulty for mankind: How to die. –Atul Gawande, Being Mortal
Gawande dives into what it’s like to die with the costs and extensive measures to keep people alive even when there is no hope and the person as we knew them really isn’t there anymore.
The point is this: How do we want to go? What do we want it to be like for us and our loved ones beyond providing Do Not Resuscitate and Health Care Power of Attorney or accepting what few options are available?
So, think about how you would want to go or have it be for those close to you. Is it a way that exists now?
Or does it not yet exist? Are there methods, enterprises, services, and approaches that we as Boomers develop and bring to the world?
Boomers redefined expectations of age in their youth. They redefined business and technology. They are redefining the so-called retirement years and all for the better. Now is the time to redefine our final days and how to die as well.
How? Certainly, by demanding it and sharing with adult children what they want when the time comes. The market needs to drive the change and market demand is the most powerful force for this type of change (money talks!).
Which leads to major business opportunities for Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers lead Millennials by a two-to-one margin in startups every year (and have the highest likelihood for success). Boomers have the experience, networks, and money to start and grow businesses that take us into a new age of eldercare.
Biggest of all, we have a vested interested to define how we age and, when necessary, are cared for.
We radically redefined what it was to be a young adult. We’re radically redefining what it is to be in this older phase of life. Let’s radically redefine what it will be like for us and those we love in the final times as well.