What will you be doing when you’re 73? If you think you will have earned the right to have someone take care of you, think again; you may end up serving as a caregiver for someone else. A recent article in the New York Times describes a new trend in caregiving: the elderly are being cared for increasingly by the elderly. According to the article, “Professional caregivers — almost all of them women — are one of the fastest-growing segments of the American work force, and also one of the grayest.”
As odd as it may sound, the arrangement of 55-75 year olds caring for 85-100 year olds often works out beautifully. Older caregivers may not be able to do much heavy lifting, but what they are able to do is connect with their charges. Many older caregivers have already spent months or years caring for their parents or spouse, so they have an understanding of the fear, frustration and stress the families are going through. In addition, because older caregivers often share similar culture and experiences, the relationship can end up turning into a friendship, as with the case of Grace Jackson and Mary-Lou O’Neill:
“Grace Jackson, who is 101, said she never wanted a helper at home and resented Mary-Lou O’Neill, 73, when she arrived four years ago at Ms. Jackson’s daughters’ insistence. But as their relationship has grown, ‘It’s developed into a friendship,’ Ms. Jackson said, adding that friends who had younger aides were often offended by their manners or language.”
The down side to this “graying trend” in caregiving is that most of these elderly women—in spite of how they excel and make the best of their situation—become caregivers because they have to, they can’t afford to retire completely, even at the age of 70 or 75. The time to think about your own future is now. Talk to your advisors about planning for your own retirement; because although you may have everything it takes to be a wonderful caregiver in your senior years, the fact is that you may not want to.