All About Estates

Smart Ageing: Lessons from the Business World

Ageing is a hot topic in the news this summer as the US presidential campaign ramps up. Our family was in town for the Fourth of July holiday, and invariably, the conversation turned to aging, working, and when to retire. With people living longer and in good health, many people will choose to continue working. How do we plan for smart ageing, and what lessons can we apply from the business world?

What is smart ageing?

In our practice, we define smart ageing as follows:

Smart Ageing means thinking differently about our ageing journey. It is about empowering older people to create their own path, to lead happier, healthier, and more meaningful lives, living with purpose and contributing to their community.

Ageing is a journey – and it is defined by change. What you see in this decade will be different in the next one. And as your body and mind age, your needs will change. Today, things may be going well, but tomorrow will not look like today. Some people don’t like thinking about it, but we know from experience that it’s better to state your lifestyle wishes ahead of time than make decisions in the chaotic environment of a crisis.

Smart ageing is like success in business; both depend on one’s ability to see ahead, plan, and manage. Yet we don’t seem to translate these goals into our personal lives and planning for the last decades of life.

How do we plan for smart ageing?

There is a cross-section of people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s who are active planners. We encourage these clients to use a holistic Smart Ageing planning model that’s based on nine essential and integrated quality of life factors. These factors include the following.

  • Physical health and wellness
  • Environment and living options
  • Financial preparedness
  • Legal preparedness
  • Social activities and relationships
  • Emotional well-being
  • Spiritual well-being
  • Intellectual and vocational pursuits
  • Mental health and wellness.[1]

Unfortunately, many more people are in a state of active inertia when it comes to thinking differently and planning for their last decades of life.[2]  One business author defines active inertia …as an organization’s tendency to follow established patterns of behavior—even in response to dramatic environmental shifts. Stuck in the modes of thinking and working that brought success in the past, market leaders simply accelerate all their tried-and-true activities.[3]

It occurred to me that these lessons could be translated from the business world into the life planning world. Many clients have been successful in business and yet have done almost no planning for their post-retirement years. What lessons can we learn from the business world?

Planning Lessons from the Business World

Recently some articles caught my attention about powerhouse companies such as Eaton’s, Blockbuster, Xerox, and Firestone that failed badly and the lessons that were learned.

  1. Address active inertia. Modify the mindset that ‘nothing will change’ as you age. As your needs change, recognize that today’s routines may not be effective or efficient for your future situation. Consider more flexibility, not less, in your relationships with family, friends, and potential care providers.
  2. Create a well-defined written plan to reach your defined vision and goals. Use scenario planning to develop a couple of options. Prepare for the future based on your own health needs, financial resources, geographic location, personal support, and other factors.
  3. Execute your plan with excellence. Lead with confidence or choose someone to lead for you. Put the right people in place with the right resources to deliver on your plan. Reassess regularly, follow up on changes, and execute.
  4. Stay up to date and seek out better solutions. Do an annual check on your plan, confirming where you are now and where you want to go. Consider any changes in your needs. Talk to trusted advisors who are experienced and prepared to focus on you and your plan. Be flexible and adaptable.

If you retire from full-time work at 65 years of age, you could still live another 30 years or more in good health. So, what is your smart ageing plan? Success in business means your ability to see ahead, plan, and manage ahead. Translating those abilities into a lifestyle plan, which then becomes an integral part of your estate plan, empowers you to create your own path and to live with purpose in later life.




About Susan J. Hyatt
Susan J Hyatt is the Chair & CEO of Silver Sherpa Inc. A leader and author in the ‘smart aging’ movement, she is a member of the Canadian College of Health Leaders and the International Federation on Ageing. She holds a post-graduate certification in Negotiations from Harvard Law School/MIT and an MBA from Griffith University in Australia. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy specializing in critical care/trauma from the University of Toronto.


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