The term “smart aging” means different things to different people but most would agree it presumes making thoughtful rather than foolish decisions about aging issues. I chose the name Savvy Aging for my company because I thought it better captures my philosophy than smart aging does. “Savvy” means smart too but with an emphasis on being clever or astute and factoring in common sense or practical considerations. It is more than book smart.
From my experience, being savvy about aging is awareness, planning and execution. This includes an appreciation of one’s resources and obstacles. It is difficult to make smart aging decisions if a person does not wisely reflect on their life situation in all respects including values. One sample checklist could include a senior’s physical, emotional, psycho-social, spiritual and financial health. Resources include family, friends, advisors, community, religious bodies, government, organizations, etc. When it comes to aging issues evaluation of care and housing options without relying upon untested assumptions or inaccurate information is critical. Considering the range of options a senior and/or their family has and under what circumstances is one aspect of smart aging. My standing advice is to visit an area assisted living and skilled nursing facility ideally long before their services are needed. Visit a friend. Visit a stranger. Test your assumptions about the quality of life available there.
A core concept at Savvy Aging is to advocate that seniors engage in smart aging by being savvy themselves. It means planning what you want to happen as well as preparing for what could happen. Planning for life events makes sense regardless of your age. This includes consideration of accidents, illness, decline and yes, death.
Legacy planning means addressing your values and circumstances to ensure your values and valuables, your wisdom as well as your wealth, are passed along as smoothly as possible to the next generation. This requires insight about what you can and cannot control, congruence between words and deeds as well as effective communication with loved ones. Mind reading is not an effective tool for legacy planning, but happens often. To achieve savvy aging unfounded or mistaken assumptions and avoidance must be discarded so you benefit from the peace of mind that comes with planning.
Assuming a legacy plan is in place through your attorney and financial advisor, please remember that most of these plans do not run on auto-pilot. They require follow through and various degrees of attention depending upon the terms. Your plan should also be updated to accommodate changing circumstances. Savvy Aging will help you remove barriers to effective legacy planning through family facilitations, co-creation of Guided Plans for Seniors (GPS) and referral to professional advisors worthy of your trust.
You cannot stop the aging process, but you can control whether you are making smart aging decisions.