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Age awareness
You don't know what lies down the road, but there are certain steps everyone should take to plan ahead

Date published: 4/29/2013

BEG YOUR pardon for stating the obvious, but you are getting older. This cordial heads-up is warranted because a new survey found that many Americans prefer the Scarlett O'Hara method when it comes to aging:

The poll, by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 67 percent of Americans 40 years old and up haven't really planned at all for what lies ahead. Half of those just don't want to think about it at all.

That's a little surprising, when you think about it, because of what they must already know.

For one thing, they should know that as a generation of American baby boomers grows older and lives longer, their sheer numbers--an estimated 79 million people--will overwhelm the services now available that senior citizens typically turn to.

They also know, perhaps firsthand, of the physical, financial, and emotional burden aging adults can place on the next generation. Your children may say they are there for you, but do they understand what "taking care of you" really means?

Today's aging Americans may have had hard decisions to make about where mom or dad would live when the time came, and how money, or the lack of it, dictated those decisions.

There's a chance they also discovered that they had no idea about their parent's wishes about life-prolonging medical treatments, the sort of information provided in a living will or advance directive.

But they still fail to consider the implications of these issues as they apply to their own futures, when doing so might be the best gift they could possibly give to their children.

The cost of long-term care insurance may or may not be prohibitive. There's only one way to find out: Look into it. Consider that nursing home care costs, on average $6,700--a month. And don't expect Medicare to cover it.

Other elements, like writing a will or a directive, can be free online (be careful), or be subject to a reasonable flat fee through a lawyer or local agency.

Americans should take the experts' advice: You're getting older, so do everyone a favor and talk about it, consider the implications.

Many of America's baby boomers have a misplaced feeling of invincibility. They feel like they'll live forever. Fact is they may well live a very long life, but the quality of that life, for themselves as far as their loved ones are concerned, hinges on how well they've prepared for it.