Losing cherished aspects of lifestyle, hobbies and passions can be a disheartening process. Aging is said to be a continuing and depressing process of losing your abilities if you can’t redirect your energy. The loss of independence is the greatest fear of older people, and many need support to transition to safer activities. Look around your community and think of situations where a senior would be at more risk if they continued doing some things without monitoring. In my neighborhood, chain saws, motorboats, tractors and shotguns are commonplace. Twenty-five percent of Americans age 65 and over own a firearm. One of my neighbors, now 82, has several hunting rifles and shotguns. He was always a very careful and considerate hunter, but when he moved to an assisted living facility after the death of his wife, his weaponry was stored in an unsecured garage until a neighbor reminded the family of his stash. (Don’t get me started on the risks of unsecured firearms.)

I’ve often heard the excuse from family members after some avoidable accident or tragedy involving an older person with failing judgment that the person “always used to do that” or “is pretty careful.” Reduced “executive function”—including impulse control—is the reality of an aging brain. Seniors might make decisions based on inaccurate information or take completely different actions from the ones they took just months earlier.

And there are so many available risks present in the homes of retirees—cars, stairs, mobile phones, power tools. My mom has been hospitalized for accidents in her yard clearing brush. Many of the risks could be minimized if we took more care in watching our older family members and neighbors. It really takes a village.

I think of these proactive aging plans as “seatbelt” financial planning—plans that may not be needed but are there to prevent truly devastating results. Start with your family. Can your mom get to safety?

Steve Gresham is an industry executive, consultant and investor. He is chairman of Cogniscient, Inc., parent of Whealthcare Planning, LLC. See more at whealthcareplan.com.

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