Left to right: Tina Sadarangani, Susan Keating, Matthew Anderson, and Colette Phipps
Strategies and Resources for “Successful Aging”
By Rina Beder
There are approximately 248,000 individuals over the age of 60 currently residing in Westchester County, an area with one of the highest longevity rates in the nation. And, according to a recent AARP survey, over 80% of the U.S. population want to age in place. While few people want to discuss living and care options in advance of needing to make a change, the key to successful aging is to be proactive, said panelists at the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit’s first program of 2024, held on January 9th.
“Successful aging is really about pivoting and taking the time to recognize that we are at a different phase of our life and that we are heading toward a different phase of life” said Susan Keating, a licensed life care professional and founder and Director of Honora Care Management and Consulting, a private pay company that provides specialized advice for finding and ensuring the best aging care options.
Westchester County has a number of resources to assist individuals in identifying important questions and issues at ages spanning 20 to 80+. One such resource is “My Aging Plan” said Colette Phipps, the Director of Program Development in the Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services. Phipps, also an adjunct professor at Fordham and NYU, stressed the importance of staying informed about the field of aging and the resources available. While County services are means tested and directed to the most vulnerable residents, there are also resources available to residents regardless of income.
For example, a caregiver coaching program developed with Fordham University and the County Department of Aging has a comprehensive guide and is staffed by volunteers who have acted as caregivers. In addition, in 2006 the County launched The Livable Communities Initiative dedicated to “help seniors remain in their homes as they grow older with independence, dignity and civic engagement.”
Being part of a community is a major component of successful aging said Matt Anderson, the President and CEO of The Osborn, an award winning life plan community that spans from independent living to memory care and skilled nursing care. The Osborn is private pay and offers “one stop shopping and allows seniors to continue to live, learn and grow and do that in an environment with friends and near family”. Individuals should tour places before there is a need to move. Many places, including The Osborn, have monthly events and sales offices with information, said Anderson. “Our biggest competition is home and not the place down the road” he went on to say.
Given the cost of aging and healthcare, part of taking a proactive approach is to “realistically plan for what your expenses are going to be” said Keating. She went on to say that you need “real numbers”; for example, assess the cost of an assisted living community together with skilled nursing, compared to remaining in your home with a private aide, if one should become needed. “Many times you need to educate your financial advisor on the actual costs” Keating went on to say, as many seem to underestimate these expenses. Additionally, although the skilled nursing facility at The Osborn does accept some medicare, “reimbursements do not keep up with the rapidly growing cost of healthcare” added Anderson.
Some individuals purchase long term care policies which are helpful for both defraying costs and for overcoming some resistance to making a change, but like any insurance policy, these must be purchased in advance. “When it comes time that you need care, it is too late to buy a policy” Keating said.
Options vary depending on individual needs but given that the overwhelming preference is to age in place, available community resources are important in making this a reality. Locally, At Home on the Sound provides an informal support network through outings to movies and museums and Mah Jong groups. The organization’s volunteers also provide rides for seniors who can no longer drive. Not every community in Westchester is fortunate enough to have these type of organizations, pointed out County Executive George Latimer who was in attendance, but the County’s Livable Community Collaborative has a range of services and nine regional hubs “that coordinate programs and advocacy activities for the municipalities in their area”.
Planning, learning, and staying engaged are some of the keys to successful aging. “I know that there’s one thing that transcends all of this”, said Phipps “and that is that a person is able to live and to die where they want to be and as far as I’m concerned that is success”.
The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit is an informal community council that seeks to make a better life for the community by keeping it informed of major issues of concern. The next meeting will be IN PERSON, on February 13th, 8 am, at the Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck, to discuss our local courts. Visit the Local Summit online: https://www.localsummitlm.org/ LMC Media: https://lmcmedia.org/.