Why We Created The Aging Framework
Carmen and I had parents that didn’t plan for their end of life. We also had parents that did. The difference was staggering. That’s why we created CarePlanIt’s aging framework. The planners had estate plans, advance medical directives, powers of attorneys, and prepaid mortuary and cemetery services. The nonplanners only had a few of these. We didn’t know if they wanted to be buried or cremated, they had no funds for cemetery plots or mortuary services, we didn’t know if they wanted a feeding tube or not, we didn’t know if they wanted to be resuscitated or not.
Seniors That “Plan-It” Make Life Easy For Their Children
Children of planners were able to spend stress-free time with their dying parent. They celebrated life, they loved each other, and they mourned together. Also, they never questioned what their parent wanted. They never had to think about money. They never had to argue about what their parent wanted in terms of life-sustaining medical treatments. It was all planned. We created the aging framework around the plans of Super Agers.
Seniors That Don’t “Plan-It” Create A Mess For Their Children
Children of nonplanners disagreed on what life-sustaining medical interventions their parent wanted. For example, one family argued over whether their ninety-five year old mother wanted chemotherapy for stage four cancer. Another family argued over whether to let their parent rest in a coma or shock them into consciousness.
We heard many stories where family members went so far as accuse other family members as trying to “kill our father” or “mother” because they disagreed over medical interventions.
When parents don’t plan for their funeral, the children have to make the plans the funeral service and burial. If the parents didn’t save money for these services, the children have to raise the funds. In most of these cases, the children don’t all agree to contribute. This creates tension, frustration, and anger.
In short, the children were not spending loving time with their family; they were creating plans that their parents did not. Worst of all, they were fighting with each other. A time that should have been sacred had turned scary.
Why Most Of Us Refuse To Plan
As a child, I remember scary monsters. I remember how scary it was when a monster stirred under my bed. A sound or shadow from a closet. A rumbling from under my bed. Over time they all seemed to disappear. The monsters weren’t real or at least they went away as I aged.
As an adult, I was taught the reasons psychologists say children believe in monsters. Their imaginations outgrow their experiences, and they have trouble classifying perceptions in the world of reality.
Most Seniors Can’t Articulate Their Basic Responsibilities
As a senior, I again found my monsters. I found them when I sought an answer to a simple question: What are your responsibilities as a senior? The answers Carmen and I heard astounded us.
Almost all the hundreds of seniors we asked responded similarly by saying something related to the following:
- “We need to wake up every morning”
- “Stay alive”
- “Keep moving”
- “We need to love our children”
- “We need to love our grandchildren”
- “See our grandkids”
- “Play golf”
- “Go to the beach”
- “Take cruises”
These responses made no sense to us. A few seniors, those we ultimately called Super Agers, gave us the answers that make up the CarePlanIt framework. But the rest gave the answers above.
Carmen and I decided to check our question with another group. We asked some nine-year-old kids, “What are your responsibilities?” They said things related to the following.
- “I have to go to school”
- “I have to do my homework”
- “Also, I have to listen to my parents”
- “I have to do my chores”
We asked some senior’s in high school, “What are your responsibilities?” They said things like:
- “I have to apply to college”
- “I have to get a job after high school”
- “Also, I have to finish high school”
We asked some new parents, “What are your responsibilities?” They said the following.
- “We need to keep our baby safe”
- “I need to build a career to support my child”
- “We need to find a new house for our growing family”
- “I need to grow up”
These comments made perfect sense to us. What made seniors so unaware of their responsibilities? Carmen and I were perplexed?
What Are Seniors’ Greatest Fears?
Frustrated, we changed our question. We asked seniors, “What are your greatest fears?”
Surprisingly they almost all responded similarly by saying something related to the following:
- “We’re worried we don’t have enough money”
- “We don’t want to stop working because we don’t have enough money”
- “We’re afraid we won’t be able to stay in our current home”
- “We don’t want to go to a nursing home”
- “I’m worried I’ll get Alzheimer’s”
- “Also. I’m worried I’ll have heart problems like my father”
- “I’m worried my diabetes will get bad and stop me from walking”
- “We don’t want to be a burden to our family”
When I changed the question and asked, “What are your greatest fears as a senior,” we started to hear what the Super Agers understood as responsibilities. We created the aging framework to help address these fears.
Like children that were afraid of monsters under the bed, we had discovered that seniors had their own fears. What did most seniors know of death? What did they know of aging?
Like many seniors, I had seen About Schmidt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Harold and Maude, Wild Strawberries, and On Golden Pond. Americans have a romanticized version of getting old, not a realistic one. No wonder my monsters were reappearing. I was clueless.
Once again, the monsters had come out because our imaginations outstripped our experiences. It turned out that seniors’ worst fears were aligned with their responsibilities. Most people don’t confront their fears. We created the aging framework to make it easier to address our fears.