What’s your Plan B?

by Catherine Rickwood

In a perfect world I’d like to remain at home until the end of my life. Wanting this is one thing. Creating the environment in which this is possible is another. Can I really stay at home to the end? Planning is crucial.

My plan is to age well. My dream and Plan A is that I’ll be capable with few physical or cognitive challenges until the end.  At least none that stop me from doing what I want to do and living where I want to live. Always fiercely independent, I can’t imagine being anything other than capable and confident. The reality is, life may not work out that way. Then what?

Thinking about, reading, discussing, and understanding the Third Phase of our life provides us with greater freedom and security than if we remain ostrich-like, thinking “I’ll be OK”. If we don’t implement Plan B, that’s one thing.  If we don’t have a Plan B, our choices and therefore freedom are potentially taken from us or made more difficult as we try to navigate our way through a system, processes, products, and services that may be overwhelming and difficult to understand.  This may be exacerbated because we’re forced into decision-making at a time when our life has changed to the point where a Plan B is necessary.

What might we consider in our Plan B?

  • Living arrangements. Is remaining in your own home realistic?  If so, what would you need to do to adapt your home to make this genuinely possible – practically as well as for your own safety and security?  For example, ramps, grab rails or softer floor coverings if you fall. There’s also an ever increasing number of new technologies that are being developed to enable us to remain at home. If remaining at home is not an option, where would you like to live? Here’s one idea, created by a group of people keen to remain at home and is an expanded version of the one I wrote about here.
  • Community. If you do remain at home, how will you continue to be engaged with community and/or have some form of regular social contact – ideally intergenerational? I don’t mean regular dinner parties, luncheon dates, or high teas – although one of these occasionally might be nice. I mean regular contact and conversation with a friendly face.

Intergenerational friendships, beyond our family, are crucial to achieve this. Friends of all ages avoids the problem of being the last one alive amongst our close friendship group.  Therefore, how we live our life and engage with community today will influence this social contact when our abilities may become compromised. Which brings me to my next point.

  • Home Care. I can’t imagine having anyone assist me with any part of my daily routine. And, it might happen. Thinking about this and discussing options with friends and family is important for our wishes and needs to be met. In the first instance it may be simple things, like gardening and cleaning. Then it may be shopping, meals, a buddy for encouraging me to do some exercise or being my companion and driving me to a park, beach, art gallery, or cafe. Ultimately, I may need assistance with daily functions such as showering and dressing.
  • Purpose & Meaning. No matter how old we are this is important. Having a good group of friends and community that you’re still involved with provides a solid foundation for bringing purpose and meaning into our lives.

Acceptance of our changing life is also important in order to retain a sense of freedom and choice as we adapt our lives to accommodate the changes as well as for our safety and happiness.  Acceptance does not equal giving up. Acceptance means creating a full life, acknowledging our limitations, and embracing the support that’s necessary in order for us to remain independent and living at home.

What do you think?



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About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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