In 2016, adults over the age of 55 comprised 28% of the country’s total population . That may not seem like a large number, but take a look at the demographic one step down: adults between the ages of 35 and 54 made up 26% of the population. That is a lot of people who are currently or will soon be facing challenges related to aging, such as where to live, access to health care, access to transportation, and so on. In Maryland, our state’s population is 15% over the age of 65, 13% between 55 and 64, and 26% between 35 and 54 .
An Aging Population
As most of us are aware, an aging population presents unique challenges. In the past, the traditional trajectory for mature adults was to downsize and buy a smaller home or move to a managed care facility. However, this trajectory has been disrupted by a volatile market, a lack of affordable new housing, and higher costs for medical care. This has led to newer trends replacing the traditional model, such as aging in place, in which mature adults make their current homes more accessible, or moving in with family to save on costs, with family or children more often becoming caretakers for their parents . Given that the traditional model has been upended, how can you plan for an uncertain future?
Planning for Retirement
There are a few things you can do. The first is to be certain you have medical documents in place stating your wishes. This cannot be stressed enough! All adults, regardless of whether they have children or not, should consider having a power of attorney in place and medical documents stating their wishes on life support, organ donation, burial or cremation, etc. This helps to protect you and your wishes as well as give guidance to not only your loved ones, but the medical teams who may be taking care of you.
The second thing to do is begin estate and retirement planning as early as possible. Ask yourself a couple of key questions:
- Is my house safe and livable for the long term if I choose to stay into my old age?
- Can I afford to stay in my home for the next 15-20 years?
- In my current location, do I have reliable access to transportation, medical care, social activities, and food centers?
- Do I have a social support network or family nearby?
- Do I anticipate a need for children or grandchildren to need a safety net and need to live in my home for a while?
If the answer to any of those questions is not to your liking, the next question then becomes “What needs to happen to change this so my wants and needs are met?” Does that mean moving to a different town so you have easier access to activities you enjoy, like hiking or boating, or are closer to family? Does that mean saving more money while you are still working in order to anticipate future medical or transportation costs? 
By beginning the planning as early as possible, you may be able to make changes to your home to make it more accessible for wheelchairs, walkers, and caregivers. You may be able to plan financially for maintenance of the home to ensure you can stay in place. You may be able to account for affording assistance with driving, or social activities, or even affording travel and other fun activities so you can enjoy your retirement.
Estate planning doesn’t have to solely mean planning for what happens after you’re gone; it can also mean planning for your golden years and ensuring you have what you need to be happy later in life.
 “Population Distribution by Age.” 2017. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/distribution-by-age/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D
 “Family Support in Graying Societies.” May 21, 2015. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/05/21/family-support-in-graying-societies/
 “Aging in the Right Place: Plan Now for a Happier Tomorrow.” 2018. Wage, Grimes, Friedman, Meinken, Leischner. http://www.oldtownlawyers.com/aging-in-the-right-place-plan-now-for-a-happier-tomorrow/