MoneyWatch reporter Steve Vernon just did a story titled “Five hidden retirement trends of 2011.” He reported on some important emerging trends that might not have made the headlines, but they still require your attention in the months and years to come. One of them involves end-of-life issues. They include:
1. New products and services to generate retirement income
2. The Department of Labor issues regulations on expert advice in 401(k) plans
3. High unemployment and the consequence of boomers working longer
4. Many more children in poverty than the number of retirees
And this was the trend that I find most of interest:
5. More and more people looking for a “good death”
While most of my writing focuses on helping people live long and prosper during our retirement years, we can’t escape the inevitable conclusion to our life’s journey. Discussing end-of-life issues is tricky in America. Witness the demonization of hospice counseling as “pulling the plug on grandma” during the recent debate on health-care reform. But this topic was the subject of an excellent and tactful article in Contingencies, an actuarial journal that admittedly doesn’t generate headline news.
The article notes that families who take advantage of Medicare’s end-of-life counseling report outcomes that are more satisfying emotionally for all concerned — the patient, family and friends, and health-care professionals. This counseling often results in saving money by forgoing desperate yet expensive life-extending measures, although saving money certainly isn’t the goal of these services.
Boomers will receive a preview of coming attractions as they help their parents transition. My father moved from the hospital into hospice care after counseling from his doctor, and our entire family was very grateful for this decision. Boomers will probably redefine how we finish our lives, just as we’ve redefined all stages of life throughout the decades.
Lessons learned: If you haven’t already done so, adopt a medical directive that spells out the treatment you’d prefer as the end draws near. The people you care about most — your spouse, children and close friends — will be comforted by knowing your wishes.
The trends reported here are some of the tougher issues we collectively face, as our nation navigates uncharted waters with the aging of the baby boomer generation. The best way to meet these challenges is to face them head-on, so kick these ideas around with work colleagues, family and friends. We’ll figure it out together!