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How Will I Get an Ice Cream Cone?

December 2016
By Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD

Losing the ability to drive shouldn’t keep us from the meaningful things in life. Help clients explore transportation options when driving is no longer an option.


Imagine it’s a warm summer evening—a perfect night to get yourself some delicious ice cream at your favorite ice cream parlor located just across town. You decide to head over after dinner to grab some with the family.

You may know now how you’ll get that ice cream cone tonight—just grab the car keys and drive there. But what if driving your own vehicle was no longer an option?

 

Staying Engaged
Being able to easily access the experiences that bring us a smile—like that simple summer treat—is important to staying engaged in the things that bring meaning to our lives as we age. According to a recent study, pleasure gained from ordinary activities increases as people age.1 Researchers found that we prefer extraordinary experiences outside the realm of our day-to-day routines when we’re younger, but as we get older, we put more value on the experiences that make up our daily lives.

As we age, we’ll want to continue to stay active and have fun in our day-to-day lives. But this may require exploring alternative forms of transportation or discovering communities that don’t necessitate getting behind a steering wheel. Planning for these contingencies is an integral part of preparing to live longer and better. While buying an ice cream cone isn’t a serious financial strain for most of us today, the ability to have that treat on demand does raise some important questions as we begin planning for tomorrow.

 

What do you like to do?

Staying socially engaged may be crucial to our overall wellbeing as we age. A recent study found that the busiest retirees, the ones who engage in three or more regular social activities outside of the home with others, also report being the happiest, too.2

The top hobbies of the happiest retirees include volunteering, traveling, and golfing. The unhappiest retirees listed more solitary activities, such as reading, hunting, fishing, and writing.

Realizing what brings you joy is critical. Once you uncover what you want to do, you’ll be able to begin considering how you’ll get there.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • “What do my spouse and I like to do for fun?”
  • “Will I be able to drive where I want when I want?”
  • If driving is no longer possible, “Will there be there seamless alternatives that enable me to make the trips that I want—not just those I need?”
  • “Will I age in a place where there are ample options to keep me engaged, active, and having fun?”

 

License to Drive

Many of us also aren’t fully aware of the cost to maintain, replace, insure, and continuously refuel our automobiles. Turns out transportation is the second largest category of our spending for Americans over the age of 65. Between 15% and 19% of out of pocket expenses goes to this one single area of consumer spending.3

So, it might not ultimately be an issue of being able to drive, but being able to afford to drive that is the catalyst to seeking other methods of transportation.
 

End of the Road
None of us like the thought of hanging up our keys for good. When the time comes, we all have different thoughts of how it should occur.

When surveyed, about a third of Americans 65 years and older (30%) said they would choose for family members to help decide whether or not they should still drive.4 Twenty-six percent would prefer to make the decision on their own, and 21% would favor a doctor or caretaker to weigh in on the matter. Just 10% believe that the government should be able to take away their keys.
 

Alternate Means of Travel
Take a look at some alternatives that could enable you to make the trips you want—not just those you need. More and more options are appearing for those of us who choose not to or cannot drive any longer. Although caretakers can help, to an extent, with transportation, identifying the approximate costs of these services and the importance of factoring them into your ongoing financial plan is important.

From traditional forms of public transportation to newer internet-based transportation services, the selection of alternative forms of transports available these days is quite extensive.
 

Alternative services to consider are:

  • Public transportation systems/fixed-route services
  • Taxi cabs
  • Car-share programs
  • Volunteer drivers
  • Paratransit services
  • ITNAmerica: www.itnamerica.org
  • Lyft and Uber: www.lyft.com and www.uber.com
     

Finding a New Way to Get Around
As important as transportation is, not having to drive can actually make things much easier. Transitioning to a living environment where driving isn’t necessary, there’s more social interaction, and you aren’t responsible for home maintenance can have benefits.

  1. CCRC
    Part independent living, part assisted living and part skilled nursing home, Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) living offers a tiered approach to the aging process, accommodating residents’ changing needs as they get older. Health services, meals, personal care, housekeeping, transportation, and emergency help are all offered in a CCRC. In addition, these communities feature a whole host of social activities without the need to travel far to enjoy them.

  2. Moving to the City
    Over the past few years, there’s been a growing trend for seniors to move closer to city and town centers. In 2013, 2.3 million more people lived in cities and their surrounding areas than in the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.5 In that time period, only 92 out of the country’s 381 metropolitan areas lost population. We’re also discovering new age friendly communities that feature a mix of luxury residential, commercial areas, and outdoor spaces. The supportive amenities surrounding these metropolitan areas make it not only a desirable location to live, but one in which transportation concerns are greatly reduced.

  3. Family Ties
    Many are choosing to move in with adult children or relatives. According to Census Bureau data, this number rose from 6.6% in the mid-1990s to 7.3% in 2013.6 More and more, family members are able to help facilitate the transportation needs of their parents or grandparents who are living under the same roof.

  4. Back to School
    The fastest growing populations of those 65+ are popping up close to college and university environments across the country. Some are actually going back to school. Today, there are nearly 60 college retirement communities located in the U.S. where retirees can find on-campus housing, take classes, and have the option of nursing home supervision, if required.7

    Here you’ll find:

    • Culture—Entertainment, arts, theater
    • Sports—Sporting events, access to modern exercise facilities
    • Better medical facilities—Hospitals, clinics, health networks
    • Greater access—More walkable locations, better developed systems of public transportation
  5. Join Together
    Senior group living has taken off around the country. They’re affordable options for spending your golden years in your own home or cohabitating with other retirees. This allows for access to social events, meetings, classes, and groups with other cohorts.

 

Begin Planning for Tomorrow Today
Discuss with your financial advisor how you can best plan to stay engaged in the things—both big and small—that’ll help make you happy in the years to come. Your financial advisor should integrate these issues into a comprehensive planning discussion to make an ambiguous retirement future—that may even be decades away—more tangible to you now. Being able to visualize that ice cream cone today can help you commit to preparing for how you’ll get one tomorrow.


 

Do You Like Ice Cream?

John Diehl, Sr. VP Hartford Funds, explains how to help clients identify what they'll like to do in retirement & how they'll access those things.

Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD
Director, MIT AgeLab


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1Source: “What Makes Older People Happy,” The New York Times, 02/11/14; most recent data available
2Source: “5 Secrets to a Happy Retirement,” Money, 01/12/15; most recent data available
3Source: “Consumer Expenditure Survey,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 09/14; most recent data available
4Source: Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI), 07/09/15; most recent data available
5Source: “More Americans Moving to Cities, Reversing the Suburban Exodus,” The Wire/The Atlantic, 03/27/14; most recent data available
6Source: “More Seniors Living With Their Children, but Don’t Blame Recession,” The Wall Street Journal, 11/19/13; most recent data available
7Source: “Going Back to School, Without the Pressure,” The New York Times, 04/04/14; most recent data available

John Diehl is a registered representative of Hartford Funds Distributors, LLC.

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