On Aging Well

On Aging Well

Sharona Hoffman ’85

Aging with a Plan: How a Little Thought Today Can Vastly Improve Your Tomorrow
196 pages, $37.00

The financial press is awash with advice on paying down debt, building up savings, and maximizing one’s investments. But there’s one financial topic far too often overlooked that we will all—fate willing—confront one day. And that is dealing with the aging process.

Enter Aging with a Plan, a new book by Case Western Reserve University professor Sharona Hoffman ’85. A welcome addition to personal finance literature, the book offers much-needed guidance on the financial and legal practicalities of growing older.

With a blue-chip background including a J.D. from Harvard Law School, a master of laws in health law from the University of Houston, two sabbaticals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation fellowship in public health law, Hoffman is uniquely qualified to share insights about elder planning.

The magic ingredient in this book, however, is the way Hoffman weaves her personal experiences among the practical advice. Whether it’s eldercare experiences with her own parents, her in-laws, and, as of October 2013, with her husband, Andy, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 55, Aging with a Plan combines the very practical with the very human. My favorite part is Hoffman’s self-assessment of her own preparedness in the conclusion.

Why should you read this book? Because it is chock-full of helpful strategies and checklists that will help increase your odds of living a fulfilling and comfortable life in your later years. Topics addressed include:

Preparing financially for retirement

How much money you’ll need, buying long-term care insurance, the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, and how to seek out competent professional advice;

The benefits of community living

The various types of continuing-care retirement communities and specific criteria to use to evaluate them;

Dealing with the daily logistics of life

Driving while elderly, how to create a support team out of daily money managers, geriatric care managers, elder law attorneys, and emergency response and detection systems;

Getting your legal paperwork in order

A comprehensive discussion of essential estate-planning documents and activities including living wills, advance directives, anatomical gifts, wills, durable power of attorney, trusts, transfer on death, and other asset distribution instructions;

Exiting on your own terms

Navigating nursing homes, palliative care, and deciding about hospice.

This is a comprehensive book that you’ll want to add to your personal library, whether you’re approaching your own retirement or helping older family members manage their lives right now.

Thakor is director of wealth strategies for women at Buckingham and the BAM Alliance.

A Practical—and Personal—Guide to the Challenges of Aging

A Practical—and Personal—Guide to the Challenges of Aging

Sharona Hoffman ’85, an internationally recognized health law scholar, advocates a proactive approach to the challenges of aging. She offers sage advice, backed by in-depth research, on eight crucial topics at the intersection of law, medicine, and social services. We asked her to elaborate on her practical methodology.

Why did you decide to write Aging with a Plan?

The book grew out of a very difficult period in my life. During 18 months in 2013 and 2014 both my parents died, my mother-in-law died, and my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 55. Consequently, I learned a lot about the legal, social, financial, medical, and other challenges of growing older, getting sick, and facing the end of life. As a professor of law and bioethics and member of a hospital ethics committee, I knew something about many of these issues. However, there is nothing like life experience to enliven your knowledge and imprint lessons on your mind. I realized that I was uniquely positioned to write a book that could help a lot of people. As I learned the hard way, in the midst of crisis, it is very difficult to make good decisions if you know nothing about the problems you are facing.

How is your book organized?

I cover a broad range of issues, so the book is a one-stop-shopping opportunity. I present scholarly research, extensive endnotes, and a bibliography for further reading. I also incorporate a lot of personal anecdotes to make the book engaging and easy to read. And I provide a preparedness checklist at the end of each chapter that summarizes key points and outlines practical next steps.

What are some lessons readers should take away from the book?

A recurring theme is the importance of social and intellectual engagement throughout life. Social isolation and a loss of purposefulness cause significant declines in mental and physical health. Retirement communities, senior centers, and other resources can help people maintain well-rounded lives.

I also hope readers create durable powers of attorney for health care. You need a legal document that appoints a trusted decision-maker for medical matters who can take over if you lose decisional capacity.

Harris is a geriatric and hospice and palliative medicine physician and an attorney.


You Might Like
  • Dear Me,
    If we only knew then what we know now…. As the class of ’15 launched out into the world, we asked eight wise women, all Wellesley alumnae over 50, to write a letter to themselves as they graduated from the College. What advice would they share for the long road ahead?More
  • A Beeline to Better Investing
    What’s the buzz? Katherine Collins ’90, C.E.O. and founder of Honeybee Capital, is changing the landscape of investing with her new book, The Nature of Investing. A seasoned investment professional, Collins was head of...More
  • The Call of Midwifery
    When Ruth Tumen Wilf ’52 celebrated her 70th birthday, she thought her age was “a big fat joke.” But when her 80th birthday rolled around, she wasn’t laughing anymore.More

Post a CommentView Full Policy

We ask that those who engage in Wellesley magazine's online community act with honesty, integrity, and respect. (Remember the honor code, alums?) We reserve the right to remove comments by impersonators or comments that are not civil and relevant to the subject at hand. By posting here, you are permitting Wellesley magazine to edit and republish your comment in all media. Please remember that all posts are public.

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.