Aging and the Financial Implications

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Everyone around me is getting older.  Come to think of it, I might just be getting older too.  My mum (mum is Canadian for mom) came back from a bookstore with The Merck Manual of Health & Aging.  As I glanced through the book I was reminded of the unique needs we have in our different stages of life.  As those around enter into their senior years of life, it is important that we as a Christian community are aware of the financial burdens that come with aging.                                                                               Photo by AMANITO

Here is what the Merck Manual has to say about finances and older people:

High inflation rates hit older people hard as well, because their incomes do not usually adjust upward as prices increase.

Many older citizens are on fixed incomes that do not necessary adjust to inflation.  Furthermore, they constantly interact with one of the highest inflationary markets – health care.

Here is a chart to illustrate how health care expenditures have increased.  The chart is from the article Health Care Costs Have Skyrocketed:

healthcare-cost

Two for the Money: Financial Success for the Sandwich Generation. (source was the WSJ, Jan. 3, 2006) shares the following stats regarding a day in the hospital

1934 day cost = $12

1980 day cost = $344

2004 day cost = $3,889

Over the last few months there has been a lot of discussion about inflation and even hyper-inflation.  Read this article as an example of what some people think will happen with inflation in the near future.  If we see significant increases in inflation, it will probably impact you (if you are young-middle aged), but your income will likely adjust accordingly.  It will, however, have a more severe impact on those who are on a fixed income.  Furthermore, if seniors had money invested in the market they will more seriously feel the sting of the 2008 market demise.

Here are a few illustrations* that highlight the burden.  As cost of living increases, the fixed income of the elderly remains constant.  The greater the increase in inflation, the greater the burden.

cost-of-living-i

By way of comparison, the following image* represents the working class:

cost-of-living-ii* Above illustrations were adapted from Two for the Money: Financial Success for the Sandwich Generation.

We as the church need to be especially aware of the needs of the elderly in our congregations.  In Acts 6:1-6 we see the church considered the needs of the elderly as an essential part of Christian ministry.  They even had lists for those the church would and would not assist (1 Tim. 5:9).  We need to ensure we do not neglect the needs of our older members.

How can we serve the older people in our churches?

  1. Provide services and assistance to those who are older – car maintenance, home repairs, tax filing, and billing assistance.  These task need to be done by trustworthy Christians who will not take advantage of the aged.
  2. Communicate resources available in your community.  Inform members of organizations like meals on wheels and other community services.
  3. Visit older church members. Many times a relationship is necessary in order to build trust.  Real help does not exist until there is trust.  Build the relationship and the real needs will surface.
  4. Communicate with out-of-town children. People are becoming more and more transient.  Children are not often living near parents.  Church members can be in contact with grown children as to the progress and status of their parents.  Be especially aware of changes in behavior, diet, and physical characteristics.
  5. Educate the benevolence committee as to the physical needs of the elderly. Assistance must be offered in love and wisdom.  One of the greatest losses in aging is freedom.  The elderly are forced to depend on someone or something for an increasing number of things.  Honor them in how you approach them if you feel like they have a financial need.

I pray that we will all be more considerate of the physical needs of the the great men and women of faith who have walked a long journey in Christian service.

Any thoughts?  How can the church provide a supportive network in difficult times while respecting the independence of those who are older?

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