Plans after 60: talk early, talk often, form partnerships
Start conversations with family and loved ones about plans for the future early. Talking about retirement plans when it feels premature is actually the best time to start the conversation. Early and often will lessen the risk of communication breakdown later on, when good communication will be essential.
Family members in alliance is the aim
The later that family conversations about retirement planning happen, the more uncomfortable and emotionally charged the topic can become.
Conversations about ageing and health related choices can get heated and awkward when life circumstances force a role switch between parent and child. Take the following example. “Dad, you’ve broken your hip. And it’s not the first time you’ve fallen. You can’t keep living in this split level home, with steep access to your front door. You’re going to need to sell up. It’s time….”
An ongoing, open and honest dialogue, starting as early as 55 year celebrations, won’t be a parent / child role reversal but rather a conversation between family members in alliance.
Some guiding principles for retirement conversations
Provided family relationships are in reasonable shape to begin with, the goal of starting conversations about retirement and ageing related planning should be to gain a mutually respectful understanding of what future plans might look like.
The earlier the conversations start, the easier the entry point each time. Here are some basic guiding principles for ageing related conversations that a ‘family in alliance’ could agree to stick with:
Don’t talk about retirement or ageing plans when everyone is busy
Turn off the technology that could distract from an effective conversation. Better still, schedule a time to talk when you can shared dedicated time.
Be aware of personal objectives. Respect each other’s views and needs. Listen well.
If you’re the adult child of parents over 60, you may be experiencing your own phase of life challenges. You need to make sure that your current personal issues and concerns, don’t cloud what you’re open to hearing.
Conversely, your concerns also need to be heard. Remember, you’re not playing a parent role here – but an ally and supporter. Be prepared to really listen. And the same goes for your parent/s and everyone else involved in the discussions.
Project ahead, plan for a range of scenarios
You all need to be able to lift out of the now and project ahead – 10 years, 15 years, and 20 years and so on.
Talking about and agreeing to solutions based on different scenarios can be a productive exercise. Writing outcomes down will help everyone stay true to intentions. It also means you can revisit, and check in if circumstances have shifted.
Be interested. Ask open ended questions.
Good relationships are priceless. Maintaining these should always be the priority. Be interested. Ask questions that open up heartfelt conversations. Asking close ended questions can shut down good conversations. For example “Mum, you’ve worked hard for decades. What are you most looking forward to over the next three decades?” is a much more interesting, open question than “Mum, are you worried about getting older?”
Be prepared to do some research
Having knowledge about the options available to your parent/s over the coming decades, will mean being able to contribute more than just opinions. You’ll find everyone involved will welcome learning more about the choices everyone will face in the future.
Topics that come up in conversations that haven’t been explored beyond hearsay, must be given more consideration. This is a great opportunity to join forces and explore together. For example, arranging a time to visit a retirement village together, is a fantastic opportunity to ask questions and take a peek at what the lifestyle looks and feels like.
Resources you may find useful:
We care. Love from your family. – an impassioned plea from a child to an ageing parent.
Helping your parents plan an enjoyable retirement – a blog post with some tips for starting family conversations.
Retirement Living Costs Calculator – an interactive online calculator comparing home maintenance costs versus retirement village living.
Retirement Villages in Victoria: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – a downloadable EBook.
Not ready for a retirement village? – a blog post dispelling some myths about retirement villages
A retirement lifestyle or home maintenance blues? – a blog post that delves into the costs associated with maintaining an older home