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‘Knobby knees won’t kill you’

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

The trouble with retirement planning is that it often doesn't take into account the inconveniences of growing old and the cost of accommodating its discomforts.

Or as Dr. Sharon Levine, a gerontologist at Boston Medical Center and professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, says: "Knobby knees won't kill you. They'll just make you miserable."

It's also important to remember that Medicare doesn't pay for assistance with daily living. Being unable to clean the house, open the cat food can, or tie your shoes aren't defined as disabilities, yet 82 percent of Medicare recipients have at least one chronic condition that can lead to these sorts of limitations, Levine says.

The people most likely to struggle with these issues during retirement are women because they live longer than men, have lower incomes and often live alone. "Most of the older people who need help are women who became poor after they stopped working," Levine says.

Levine asks patients these questions to gauge their ability to cope with everyday issues. You might consider posing them to family members who are at this stage of life, and you might ask yourself how you would manage if faced with these kinds of limitations and risks.

  • When was the last time you were able to get in and out of the shower by yourself?
  • When was the last time you fell, and where did it happen?
  • What's harder for you to do today than it was three months ago?
  • What one service or piece of equipment would make your life easier?

Helping a loved one with these kinds of problems is one thing, but considering them from a personal point of view is more difficult. Planning to be incapacitated isn't pleasant, but all the evidence suggests that's where many of us are headed.

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