When my dad was taking care of his older relatives, he thought a lot about what he was looking for when he got older. He forced me to have a talk about it. At first it was awkward—he drew up a contract, and one part said that when a medical professional says it’s time to live in an old-age home, he and my mother will go. I’d always thought he’d want us, his kids, to take care of them at home, but they don’t want to be a burden. I can’t change his mind, and it’s nice that we’ve settled it so there’s no guilt. Frame the question positively: “What is your vision for your retirement and later years?” Open the dialogue early so you don’t have to guess.
Julie Agnew, PHD, is an associate professor at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at William & Mary and a Research Associate for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. She lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.