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Who wants to live forever?

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

Writer and actress Sandra Tsing Loh has an article in the March issue of The Atlantic magazine called "Daddy Issues" in which she bemoans her 91-year-old father's longevity because, she says, hiring people to care for him is driving her to the poorhouse.

I added up the costs she mentions, and those alone were about $10,000 a month -- a staggering $120,000 a year -- for live-in help to look after her incontinent and self-absorbed but otherwise healthy father and her dementia-afflicted 72-year-old stepmother. Loh rages:

My family is throwing all our money away on powdering our 91-year-old dad’s giant-baby a--, leaving nothing for my sweet little daughters, with their thoughts of unicorns and poetry and dance, my helpless little daughters, who, in the end, represent me!

The problem Loh writes about isn't unusual and is likely to be increasingly common. She points to U.S. Census Bureau statistics showing that the number of people 85 and older will more than double by 2035 to 11.5 million. Meanwhile, the youngest of the 77 million baby boomers will be turning 70 that year. Loh writes:

Owing to medical advancements, cancer deaths now peak at age 65 and kill off just 20 percent of older Americans, while deaths due to organ failure peak at about 75 and kill off just another 25 percent, so the norm for seniors is becoming a long, drawn-out death after 85, requiring ever-increasing assistance for such simple daily activities as eating, bathing, and moving.

Depressing, huh? It makes retirement seem pointless and retirement planning futile.

As Bette Davis famously said, "Old age ain't no place for sissies."  And as Loh points out, it's a potentially terrible situation for our children, too.

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Joe Martin
March 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Suicide? Get out of these mortal coils so you can leave your money to your kids? How do you "personally have no intention of letting myself get into that helpless, burdensom place." ? I personally inherited zero from my parents and spent many thousands of dollars and years of effort before my Mom passed. So are we saying we have a duty to die for the welfare of our children? What if I just give them all my money and take a refrigerator box downtown to be my new home? Would that satisfy?

Steve P.
March 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Going through the same thing with father-in-law and agree with Loh entirely. I'm trying to retire myself and any potential future inheritance is being devoured by doctors keeping "someone" functional enough to keep going to the doctor to keep him alive to go to the doctor etc. etc I personally have no intention of letting myself get into that helpless, burdensome place.

Read Albert Brook's novel 2030, a fictional but easily believable look at what may happen as these trends continue.