Planning for the inevitable
Nobody wants to talk about death, but many businesses profit from the end-of-life journey.
Illustration by Chelsea Weis
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Janet Bollig, a medical social worker, notes a common irony. During the various phases of our lives, we eagerly plan for milestones such as higher education, career advancement, and marriage. But for understandable reasons, there is one phase of life — the end game — where planning can take a back seat to living.
“Yet that’s the time in our lives when we have to have a very clear direction, and that allows us to provide guidance to family and friends who might be caring for us,” says Bollig, outreach manager for Home Health United in Madison.
Fortunately, a variety of businesses are available to help plan and, if you’ll pardon the expression, execute the final phase of our existence — largely for the benefit of our families. In this market report on the business of death, we examine various end-of-life business realms, including wealth management, wills and trusts, hospice care, and even goodbye celebrations for aging baby boomers. Five years ago, this 76-million-strong generation began to retire in earnest and those who had reached 65 years of age comprised 12.3% of Dane County’s 2015 population, up from 10.3% in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Area communities are getting into the senior-service act, as well, especially when they take steps to become “dementia friendly.”
Diane Mikelbank, director of the Monona Senior Center, is leading the way to gain dementia friendly status for the Monona community. “One of our goals is to encourage the practices of hospitality and inclusion to those affected by dementia by promoting acceptance and engagement in our community,” she explains. “We feel that — not only in our city government offices but also in local businesses — it’s important to give those reminders that it’s basic customer service.”
3 still-emerging businesses for late-life patrons
While there are many well-established businesses serving late and end-of-life needs, here are still-emerging pieces of business that cater to late-life affairs.
1. Concierge service: Susan Roseliep, owner of Concierge Consulting LLC, has a very telling website URL (seniorpositioning.com). Like competitors such as A Place for Mom and Segues, the core of her business is planning and executing the transition of the 65 and older age demographic into a viable housing environment that is more suitable to their needs as they age. The business also assists with understanding medical bills and reviewing insurance claims, and it serves as a medical visit advocate for doctor appointments.
Roseliep has been thinking about this since 2004 when her family moved to Madison from Iowa, where she was a financial advisor and an insurance agent. A lot of her clients were senior citizens who had many questions about health insurance when they were considering Medicare supplements. With 15% of people between the ages of 40 and 60 providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child, according to the Pew Research Center, the market will be much broader than the seniors themselves.
2. Brain health: As researchers discover more about dementia — including possible ways to reverse it — we’ve also learned that nutrition and exercise can help keep our brains healthy. Enter Cathy River, who started working with neuro kinesiology, brains, and seniors 20 years ago and finally took the entrepreneurial plunge with the Madison Brain Center in late 2012.
In her work with seniors, especially stroke victims, her aim is to get them “off their plateau” so their bodies function better. “Your brain stops working as efficiently as you age because that’s what brains do — they slow down,” she notes. “It’s where your platform is, from where you start, that could affect the level of dementia or Alzheimer’s you reach.”
Exercise and nutrition can help that “reset” and prevent dementia from starting or aggressively growing. River believes there are brain games that can help, as well. “Technically, we’re outliving our bodies,” she notes. “If you want to live a long life, you might need new bones, a hip replacement, cataract surgery, knee surgery — many things.”
3. Adult day care: This might seem odd, given that area organizations have offered adult day care for years, but one Dane County employer has found a gap outside of metro areas. This year, Faith Communities Assisted Living opened adult day care in Prairie du Sac, and while the need is evident, smaller communities do face a familiar challenge. “You’re probably not going to find this service as much in smaller communities,” notes Faith Communities’ Rachel Baehr, “because it’s harder to staff.”
Life insurance vs. annuities: What’s the difference?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, both annuities and life insurance are important aspects of a long-term financial plan. While both include death benefits, you buy life insurance in the event you die too soon and an annuity in case you live too long.
In other words, the institute says, life insurance provides economic protection to your loved ones if you die before your financial obligations to them are met, while annuities guard against outliving your assets.
Annuities and life insurance can be broken down into two main categories each — deferred and immediate annuities and whole-life and term-life insurance.