According to the 2020 Profile of Older Americans published by the Administration for Community Living of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, noninstitutionalized Americans aged 65 and older comprised 16 percent of the population in 2019. 77 percent or 10.8 million were homeowners, while 23 percent or 3.3 million were renters. Their general median annual income was $27,398, but homeowners among them had a higher median household income of $36,200, and renters had a median household income of $18,280.
Almost one in ten were below the poverty level, while 4.4 percent or 2.6 million were near the poverty level. Those who lived in nursing homes numbered around 1.2 million. Almost one in five stated that they had difficulty or could not function in at least one of the six functioning domains comprised of seeing, hearing, mobility, communication, self-care, and any disability.
In 2020, 61 percent or about 18 million lived with their spouse or partner, and around 27 percent or 14.7 million lived by themselves. About 15 percent of them were divorced or separated. While 9.8 million of them were working or actively seeking work in 2020, the pandemic more than quadrupled their unemployment rate from 3.7 percent in March to 15.6 percent in April. Between the latter part of 2020 to 2021, those aged 80 and older reported a dramatic increase in feelings of anxiety and depression.
As of April 2021, the unemployment rate among Americans aged 65 and older is 5.5 percent. Based on projections of the United Nations, and excluding the impact of Covid-19, the average life expectancy of Americans as of 2021 is 78.99 years.
Prepare for Older Years Now
As early as now, you must start thinking of your situation when you reach these senior years. Check on your retirement funds. Are you contributing enough to provide yourself with a comfortable life in your twilight years? While you are at your most productive, you must prioritize putting more and more money into your retirement fund. There is no time to lose because your aging does not slow down. Every dollar you save and put away for retirement will serve you when you need it most. Start rethinking those impulse purchases and expensive Starbucks coffees. Live frugally now, and you will thank yourself later.
Decide on Your Living Situation
Many of the elderly prefer to age at home rather than at an institution. If you are already an empty nester, with your children grown and away from home, think about moving to a smaller home that is exactly right for you and your spouse or partner, if you have one. Selling the bigger house will give you a large amount that must also go into your retirement funds.
Make sure to prioritize age-proofing your home. Consider all the consequences of old age, such as having difficulty walking and keeping your balance. Choose a single-level house. The home entrance must be level with the ground or have a gradual slope. All doors must be wide enough to accommodate various mobility-assistance devices such as a walker or wheelchair. All faucets must be the lever type. The bathroom must be non-slip and have a safety shower seat, handheld shower, and several grab bars and rails. Toilet seats must be three inches higher.
When you are no longer able to do things independently, you can hire home health agencies that will provide professional caregivers or nurses who will visit you at home to provide the assistance or medical care you need.
Legally Document Your Health Decisions
Hire a lawyer and make a living will that specifies your end-of-life decisions, such as whether you want to be revived and receive life-sustaining treatment through a breathing machine. This compels everyone to follow your wishes even when you no longer have the mental or physical capacity to express them.
In addition to this, identify someone and get their agreement to become your health proxy. This is to make decisions in non-life-threatening health cases when you are also incapable of expressing your wishes. The health proxy document must also include in detail your wishes for health care, such as whether you will allow tube feeding and blood dialysis. The document will be the reference of the health proxy. Make sure the health proxy also knows you well enough to make health decisions not included in the document when you cannot do so. The proxy must do what they believe you would want to do.
Take Control Now
You have the right to live your life according to your preferences. Take control as early as today so that you can live your older years with peace of mind.