Solo aging: Eyes wide open

Aging comes to us all. What makes solo aging different is the need to be more proactive about arranging for help. Twenty-two percent of older adults acknowledge they will need to take care of themselves. (Even if you are partnered now or have children, you are wise to consider the possibility of solo aging because, well, things can change … death, divorce, estrangement. In that light, we are all potential solo agers.)

Successful solo aging requires that you

  • are very honest with yourself about changes. Act promptly if you notice something wrong with your health. Denial is not your friend! Especially if you want to age in place. Maintain a strong relationship with your doctor. Actively address safety concerns (e.g., a personal emergency response system, home modifications to prevent falls).
  • are prepared for the possibility of dementia. You may not realize or recognize the slow creep of cognitive impairment. And you don’t have children to notice or bring up the subject. Make a pact with friends to alert each other about any concerns. Meet periodically with an Aging Life Care™ Manager. They know the signs and can advise you when it’s time to get an evaluation.
  • actively plan for how to get help. This may mean moving closer to nieces and nephews (be sure they are on board with supporting you). If you intend to hire help, remember that Medicare doesn’t pay for it. Unless you have long-term-care insurance or qualify for programs such as Veterans Aid and Attendance, you’ll need to pay privately.
  • assemble a support network of professionals. Working together, they can ensure you receive the help you need.
    • An Aging Life Care™ Manager is an aging advocate who can help you plan for your future, focusing on your specific preferences and resources. Aging Life Care Managers understand the medical, financial, psychological, and social factors that influence solo aging. As local experts in aging well, they can provide guidance on what to expect, point you to the best providers, and suggest cost-effective options.
    • A wealth manager can help you determine how to achieve the financial reserves you need to afford your preferred aging scenario.
    • An estate planning attorney is essential for drawing up the documents all older adults should have in place: A will or living trust for disbursing your assets, and documents that name your health care and financial decision makers should you become unable to make decisions yourself.

Ready to get proactive? We are experts in solo aging.
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Getting rid of your stuff

Getting rid of your stuff

Once you get beyond the sentimental value of your belongings, you are still up against the logistics of how to get things out of your nest. Some stuff is easier to pass along to family than other stuff. Options for what’s left over: Sell, donate, or just “get rid of it!”

Start with family. You may have strong emotions about certain items. It may be disappointing, however, to find that your kids don’t feel such attachment to family heirlooms. Generally speaking, the younger generation is not interested in furniture (even antiques), books, china, silverware, crystal, Persian rugs, or embroidered linens. If there’s a special story attached, that may be a hook. For family photographs, ditch the physical albums by digitizing photos and creating online albums.

Selling it yourself. Give yourself plenty of time so you’re not hurriedly making deals at prices you later regret. A yard sale? That’s a lot of work, and you might not sell everything. That said, it can be a fun way to meet the neighbors or say good-bye if you are relocating. Alternatively, put ads on,, or Facebook Marketplace. Items move more quickly if you provide photos and detailed descriptions. Be prepared for phone calls, appointments, and no-shows. If you have specialty items, consider giving them an even wider buyer audience by enrolling to sell on But you need to be prepared to ship your items. (At the least, eBay is a way to get a sense of the going price.)

Having others sell it. Professional sellers will take a commission of 30% or more, and they may need to reduce prices if your goods aren’t moving. You might opt for an estate sale at your home (items from other households may be included). Auction houses take only specialized items. Consignment shops accept what they think will sell, but they’ll showcase only for a limited time, and then you have to take items back. Liquidators take everything, including the junk. Depending on the value of the good things, you may need to pay them. (For going prices, check out for antiques; or for books; for specific patterns of china, crystal, and silverware.)

Donating. For big batches, nonprofits such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army will come and pick up. But they might not take everything. (They know what sells and what doesn’t.) Contact local shelters as they often have need of most any household item you want to give away. Ask for receipts so you can take the donation amount off your taxes. You can also post on to give away items that would otherwise go to the landfill.

Get help. If this all seems daunting—it is! Consider the assistance of a senior move manager, especially if time is limited. We can help with that.

Are you “right-sizing”? Want experienced assistance?
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Thriving through life transitions

Thriving through life transitions

Change is the only constant. And as we enter our later years, it seems the changes are more frequent. Before writing Life Is in the Transitions, Bruce Feiler interviewed 225 individuals to gain a sense of the ways people navigate disruption across the lifespan. He found that we experience roughly thirty-six transitions in a lifetime, averaging one every twelve to eighteen months. Often several pile up at once, especially when we are older. Common transitions for older adults include a shift in health or ability, a marital change (death or divorce), a new housing situation, or a drop in expected income.

There are general phases to transitions. One phase is the “long goodbye,” our reconciling with the fact that one aspect of our life is irrevocably coming to a close. Another is the “messy middle”­—figuring out how to find balance in the chaos of change. And the third is the “new beginning,” embracing a new way of living. 

Here are seven strategies Feiler suggests using during a transition:

  • Accept it. Grieving your loss is key for acceptance. Identify the emotions that arise in you as you let go of your old way(s). In Feiler’s study, fear, sadness, and shame were the emotions most commonly cited.
  • Mark it. Whether burning a photo, burying a stone, or hanging a prism to represent your next chapter, ritual helps bring closure and open the door to something new.
  • Shed it. This is one of the tougher activities. Identify what it is that needs to end: Habits, identity, dreams. Not that you won’t have new dreams or identity. But people describe a kind of molting before finding their new selves.
  • Create it. Take up a creative pursuit—ukulele, poetry, juggling, dance. By introducing joy and creativity in the midst of chaos, it appears we cultivate the insight and innovative thinking needed to envision a revised sense of self.
  • Share it. Make it real. Talk with others and be open to their wisdom.
  • Launch it. People in the study frequently remarked upon their “first normal moment.” The first day without worrying. The first hearty laugh. Unexpectedly, the shadow of the past was superseded by a glimmer of what their new life might be. Nurture that ember when you feel it. Start with small goals or projects that enable you to build momentum in this new direction.
  • Tell it. After you’ve regained your footing and are past the raw parts, reflect back. “I was X, then Y happened and I became Z.” Piecing together the meaning of the journey helps stitch your life back together, integrating purpose into your transition.

Are you in a transition of aging? See one on the horizon?
Let us help guide you through. Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Should you move (closer to your kids)?

Should you move (closer to your kids)?

The most common reason to move in later years is to be closer to children and grandchildren. Regardless of your reason for relocating, unless you plan to live with family, there will be many hours of the day when you are just plain newbies in town. How will you spend your time?

If proximity to younger kin is compelling your thoughts, clarify the role you want to play and see if it’s a shared vision. If you have hopes they will help as you get older, be sure to discuss that, as well as any childcare expectations they may have. Also think through if they need to relocate (e.g., job transfer), what will you do then?

Relocating can be a late-life adventure of discovery. Some issues to consider:

  • Social and cultural options. What do you enjoy now? Does the new location have similar opportunities: Nature, museums, social or religious groups? If having friends and an active social circle is important to you, how will you make new friends? Is this a snowbird town? What will you do in winter?
  • Access to health care. What if your health status changes? Are you comfortable with the local emergency services? Is state-of-the-art medicine available for serious conditions such as cancer? What about home care or assisted living? Meet with a local Aging Life Care™ Manager to discuss costs and likely prospects.
  • Transportation options for older adults. Most of us outlive our ability to drive safely by seven to ten years. Is there good public transportation or ride-sharing options in the new community? Research neighborhood walkability at
  • Cost of living. There will be differences in your day-to-day spending. Look at real estate websites for local housing, property tax, and insurance costs. Look up available health insurance plans. (Medicare Advantage, for instance, cannot be transferred to a new region.) Use the CNN Cost of Living Calculator to get a comparative sense of other expenses (food, utilities, recreation). Factor in transportation to far-flung relatives. Meet with a certified financial planner to verify that you can afford this change.

Give it a trial run. Before pulling up stakes, rent an apartment for a few months. Get a sense of the town, its resources and culture, and its neighborhoods.

Optimal timing: As soon as possible! If you know a move is in your future, don’t wait. Research shows successful transitions occur when you relocate while you still have the ability to get around easily and establish a strong social circle. Plus, decluttering is not easy. Even with hired help, packing up and unpacking is taxing—physically and emotionally.

Are you considering a move?
Let us help you evaluate the options. Call (208) 321-5567.

“My kids treat me like a bank”

When an adult child asks for money, it’s hard to say no. You want to respond to a need. But perhaps your child perceives that you don’t need all you have, or that they’re simply requesting some of their inheritance, just a bit early.

Before you answer, ask for time to think it over. You want to make a decision based on wisdom, not emotion. You also need time to discuss this with your spouse, if you have one.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Can you afford to give? Check with your financial planner to see what you can realistically provide without jeopardizing your own security. Recognize that your likely biggest expenses in aging are yet to come: Home care or assisted living, neither of which is covered by Medicare. Perhaps some home remodeling, if you plan to age in place. You also may live longer than you planned. Unforeseen events, such as inflation or a down market, could have unfortunate consequences for your portfolio. You may not be so flush after all.
  • What is your motivation for giving? Beyond an understandable desire to help, do you feel guilty? Would you feel like a bad or unloving parent if you said no? Are you embarrassed to admit you don’t have “extra?” Dig deep for your inner thoughts about what you will “get” or avoid if you give. It’s important to evaluate the wisdom of your deeper motivation.
  • Is this a pattern? Does this child routinely have money problems? Giving them another infusion of cash may be enabling their poor planning rather than truly helping. Of course, you don’t want to lecture them on spending habits. At the same time, as with any funder, you have a right to require a picture of some solvency. Consider requiring that they work with a credit counselor as part of the arrangement.
  • Is this a gift or a loan? Loans between family members can be fraught with emotional baggage. Financial professionals say you need to treat the loan objectively, signing paperwork with an agreed-upon repayment schedule. But enforcing repayment can jeopardize the relationship. That’s why many suggest you be prepared for it to become a gift, or just frame it as a gift from the outset. But do this only if you can truly afford to not be paid back. (Also check with your attorney. Gifts to family may compromise your eligibility for VA benefits or Medicaid in the future.)
  • An advance against inheritance. Even if you can afford to make it a gift, your other children may resent it. Talk to your attorney about an “advance against inheritance” arrangement so it is well documented that these funds are to come out of that child’s share of the inheritance down the line.

Concerned about money and your relationship with your kids?
Let us help you sort through the issues. Give us a call at (208) 321-5567. 

Adding smart home safety features

Adding smart home safety features

You probably already have some “smart” features in your home.

For instance, a thermostat you can program for a higher temp during the day and lower at night. Perhaps it has remote capabilities, so you can make changes from afar.

Or sensors, such as garden sprinklers that shut off when it’s raining, or outdoor lights with motion detectors.

The most-recommended safety features for older adults include the following:

  • Automated indoor lighting to reduce the chance of falls. Many a fall occurs while walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Consider motion-activated nightlights set to turn on when you swing your feet down from the bed.
  • Voice-activated assistants. Similarly, a digital assistant allows you to change lighting or close the blinds simply by calling out to “Alexa” or “Siri.”
  • The video doorbell. This smart device tops AARP’s list for safety. Home invasions are on the rise, and just the presence of a camera will dissuade many a n’er-do-well, including “porch pirates” who steal packages left at your door. The ability to remotely check who is at the door is MUCH safer than getting up to look through a peephole. When linked to your phone, you can see, and even talk to, the person outside while remaining where you are. Features to consider:
    • Battery-operated or wired? Batteries must be recharged or replaced two to three times a year. Wired video doorbells can piggyback off the electrical wiring already powering your doorbell.
    • Two-way audio to talk to the person at the door.
    • Video storage: Where and how long? Some models overwrite the video every few days. Others allow you to store recordings in the cloud for longer, but this requires a monthly subscription.
    • Compatibility with your other smart devices. This enables centralized control.
    • Speed. How long does it take to get an alert or access the video?
    • Artificial intelligence to reduce false alerts. With this, some video doorbells can discern the movement of a person from that of an animal, car, or tree branch.
    • Do you want to monitor the alerts 24/7? If you prefer to have someone else on night duty—and false alerts—it usually requires a monthly fee.

Wondering how to wisely age in place?
Give us a call to talk about options. (208) 321-5567

Is cohousing for you?

Is cohousing for you?

Cohousing is like a retirement community in that it is a group of residents in individual, private domiciles. Plus, there are shared facilities for group activities. What’s different is that retirement communities are created and run by a developer.

Cohousing communities are created by the people who will live in the buildings. All members hold an equal investment—personal and financial—in the process of creating and running the community. Decision making is shared and is usually by consensus.

Cohousing is the most ambitious of the housing alternatives for older adults. Cohousing is legally operated as a condominium with a homeowner’s association. But the intention is to provide much more of a group experience. A community typically begins when a few founding partners assemble like-minded people with a vision. The group buys a piece of property and remodels or builds from the ground up. The layout specifically supports social interaction. A central common space is designed to host periodic group meetings and meals. Living units are small. Parking is on the periphery. Gardening is communal. From architecture to landscaping to decision making, the group determines everything. Residents also participate in maintaining the community once it’s built and everyone has moved in.

Communities can be as large as forty households or as small as two or three. And they don’t have to be built from scratch. Some groups purchase a large, old house and remodel. Others buy an apartment complex or a mobile home park and add the communal elements. Many communities are “all ages,” but some organize specifically for those age fifty-five and older.

Caring for members as they age is challenging. As residents age and lose physical or mental abilities, they may not be able to maintain their participatory role. Over-fifty-five communities, especially, need policies that address who will care for ailing residents and who will take up the slack in terms of their communal duties. The balance between older and younger members requires careful monitoring.

Cohousing is not for everyone. It’s certainly not for those with dementia or health challenges going in. And it helps to be a relatively young older adult, since it takes an average of three to seven years to assemble a community. Cohousing also tends to be expensive. But if you are an innovator, like your privacy yet are attracted to communal living and group decision making, it can be an excellent way to offset the isolation of aging in place. Learn more about existing communities or how to start one, at the Cohousing Association of the United States.

Interested in alternative living arrangements?
Contact us! (208) 321-5567

Should you change to Medicare Advantage?

Should you change to Medicare Advantage?

October 15–December 7 is Medicare’s annual “open enrollment” period. This is when you can switch plans. Are you getting a lot of mail about the cost savings of Medicare Advantage (MA)? The initial outlay may seem less than your current plan. And if you have “original Medicare,” plus a supplemental plan for the 20% Medicare doesn’t cover, and prescription coverage, bundling it all together is tempting.

Contrasting the options. There is no doubt that having facilities (Medicare Part A) and providers (Part B) and prescriptions (Part D) all through the same company offers simplicity. In theory, one payment covers everything. There’s no need to shop for supplemental insurance or track whether the insurer paid its part of a bill. But it’s not an apples with apples comparison. MA plans have some serious drawbacks:

  • Limited selection of providers. You can only see providers listed in the plan. If you want to go to a research hospital for cutting-edge cancer treatment, that would not be covered.
  • Providers change. An MA plan may drop your doctor or hospital at any time.
  • Limited geographically. Do you travel? Have a second home outside the area? Clarify the coverage if you are away from your home base.
  • Higher overall fees. While the monthly premium may be eye-catchingly lower, the devil is in the details. Check out the deductible, the copayment per visit, and the coverage for your particular set of prescriptions. Also look at annual caps. For instance, MA plans do not have an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses for medications. These nonpremium expenses can really add up and result in net higher cost.
  • Extras you do not need. It’s become common for MA plans to add components such as dental, hearing or vision care, or a gym membership program. Be sure these are services you really want and will use.

No looking back. If you leave a supplemental program paired with original Medicare, there may be no way to return. The plan may no longer be offered. Or you may fall within a “preexisting condition” category that allows the plan to refuse you or significantly raise rates.

If you are considering a change, even from one MA plan to another, be sure to compare apples with apples by running through some hypotheticals. What would your out-of-pocket expenses be if you were hospitalized? Or in skilled nursing? Are your favorite doctors and hospitals in the network? What if you were traveling and got sick or injured? What are the likely costs by the end of the year for the medication you currently take?

Need Medicare advice? Let us point you in the right direction.
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.

Learn more about our services.

Long-distance grandparenting: Toddlers and kids

Long-distance grandparenting: Toddlers and kids

If you are like 68% of grandparents, you live too far away for regular interactions with your grandchildren. No reading bedtime stories or soothing little tears. No ticklefests or hands-on projects. These casual yet meaningful activities just aren’t an option.

Video visiting helps. But according to Kerry Byrne of The Long-Distance Grandparent, you can count on only about a minute of video engagement for every year of your grandchild’s age.

Here are some tips for building an online relationship:

  • Coordinate with the parents. Can you make life easier for them? Try reading stories over Zoom while the kids eat breakfast and the parents pack lunches.
  • Plan for topics or activities. Find out from the parents what’s of interest lately. Are dinosaurs a hit these days? Send dino stickers. Roar together and pretend to be T Rex.
  • Be SILLY. Don’t be afraid to make funny faces or do the unexpected. Remember, if you were with them in person, you’d likely be more of your playful self. Express that online: Three jumping jacks and run around the chair when they guess the correct answer in a riddle.
  • Enhance your visits with props. Send them something in the mail that they can do with you the next time you video call. A tambourine. Heart-shaped Valentine’s glasses. Or popcorn you can “share.” (Who can catch the most popcorns with their mouth?)
  • Use photos and video. Send photos of you doing silly things. Make a video of a children’s activity song, like the hokey-pokey. Ask your grandchildren to sing and dance with you. Put it on YouTube so the parents can play it whenever they need a break.

See how this “gran” used Zoom and simple props to record the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” on YouTube. Now her two-year-old granddaughter frequently asks to watch “Gran videos.” With this repeated exposure, Gran is a known figure and immediately recognized during FaceTime chats, even though they have met in person only three times in her granddaughter’s short life. Relax and have fun. You don’t have to be polished. (This isn’t PBS!) And if you still feel self-conscious, set the videos so they are only visible by those you send the link to.

Interactive apps that might be of interest. The “Longevity Explorers,” a grassroots group of tech-savvy seniors, recommends these apps for their high interactivity. The parents will need to download a version too in order for these to work.

  • Readeo. (ages 2–5) With the BookChat feature, a video of each of you appears side by side above an e-book. You can read, point to images on the page, and you or your grandchild can “turn” the page.
  • Caribu. (ages 4–12) This app has a library of e-books, plus puzzles and games, mazes, and sharable “paint and draw” activities.
  • (age 8+) A virtual shared “tabletop” allows you to play games such as Hearts, Go Fish, and Crazy 8s. Or rummy and canasta for older kids. There are board games too, such as checkers and chess, backgammon, and cribbage.

Do you live far from your family?
Let us help you stay connected. Call (208) 321-5567.

Aging in place: Pros and cons

Aging in place: Pros and cons

A vast majority of older adults (77%) say they want to remain in their own homes as they age. Of course! Home is comfortable: We know where everything is—in the house, and also in the neighborhood and town. Friends, doctors, grocery store. We know how to get around quickly and easily. Plus, the emotional benefits of memories, identity, and history are baked into the walls of a home.

But for many, the concept of staying put is based on how things are now and doesn’t factor in the changes that are bound to come: The need for help with shopping and meal preparation, housekeeping and repairs, yardwork, and transportation. And in the very last chapters of life, assistance with personal care such as bathing, dressing, and continence issues.

There is also the possibility of dementia (33% for persons 85 and older), which may prompt a need for help earlier than imagined. And with that, the fact of care providers coming in and out of the house.

If you plan on aging in place, it may be necessary to

  • remodel your home. Very few houses are built to meet the needs of an older adult. You may need better lighting, or a bathroom downstairs. Plus, the house will continue to age and have maintenance issues.
  • arrange for transportation. Most of us outlive our ability to drive by seven to ten years. Is your current home conveniently located in terms of public transportation, ride sharing, or other options? If not, you may find yourself more homebound than you want to be.
  • budget for assistance. Maybe you plan to rely on your kids or friends when the time comes that you need help. Despite good intentions, they may not be available. And if you are partnered, what happens if your spouse passes before you do? How will you accomplish the things they used to handle? Paying for help gets expensive quickly, and more so as we face increasing shortages of professional caregivers.
  • recognize change is inevitable. Many of the reasons you want to stay where you are, are out of your control. Friends will die or move to be closer to their kids. Doctors will retire. Stores will close. In that context, does staying put hold the same appeal?

And none of this addresses the key disadvantage of aging in place: Isolation and its companions, depression and anxiety. Twenty percent of older adults speak with three or fewer people over the course of a week. Technology and video chatting can help. But again, you must be proactive to avoid the very real hazards of loneliness.

Would you like help planning to age in place well?
Give us a call at (208) 321-5567.