Summertime and Weddings

summer wedding pic

When I am asked what I do, I explain that I am an Aging Life Care Manager. Usually the next question is, “what does that mean?” And I explain, “we’re like wedding planners for growing older,” our company’s tag line for the last 4 years. Immediately, a picture is painted of all the specialized knowledge we have, the countless arrangements we make each day on behalf of our clients. Just as no two weddings are exactly alike, each of us ages in our own way, with our personal preferences, challenges and budgets to work with.

This summer, for the first time since planning our own wedding 33 years ago, my husband and I were delighted to be a part of the planning process for our daughter’s wedding. Where my husband and I had paper and pencil lists, our daughter and her fiancé had spreadsheets. Everyone mingled at our informal BBQ reception, while the guests at the wedding this summer had assigned tables for a sit-down dinner, and the staff knew each diner’s preferences and food allergies. My husband and I were engaged for less than a year and planned the wedding in 2 -1/2 busy months (while working and buying and moving into our first house!) but the wedding this summer absorbed hours of planning over a two-year engagement. The difference between wedding planning then and now made me think again about our “wedding planners for growing older” identity, and how having the wedding of YOUR dreams, but even more importantly, the LIFE that follows that special day all the way into old age, requires planning.

This spring, Sig Cohen, a wonderful mediator who is a tremendous resource for families in crisis, posted the following reflection on his own son’s wedding, and the need for planning the life that follows. I have reprinted his piece below, with his permission:

We recently attended our son’s wedding. It was beautiful. The weather was perfect and our son and his new wife couldn’t have looked more radiant. What amazed me the most, however, was the amount of planning that went into preparing for the big day.

Months before the ceremony our son’s fiancé (and he) began the process. Planning included the size and color of the calligraphy of the invitation, floral arrangements, seating at the wedding dinner, down to the ‘official’ color of the event.

I could not help but think that if American families put one FRACTION of the time and effort into planning their post-retirement years, disposition of their wealth, or end of life concerns that our son and his bride put into their wedding day’s activities, what a different world we’d live in.

But there’s more: They researched everything before making decisions. They shopped around for the best deals on floral arrangements, the wedding dinner, beverages, and which ‘officiant’ should perform the ceremony. Impressive, to say the least. They even wrote their own vows, which I compare to preparing one’s ethical will or end of life instructions: carefully crafted documents to reflect their hopes and aspirations.

So was how they reached decisions: through consensus, not a version of paper, rock, scissors, or taking an all-or-nothing approach. No, their decision making was transparent, unrushed, and flexible – marked by a willingness to make adjustments if conditions warranted. What a model for us as we age and need to decide on how we wish to live the remainder of our lives.

And yet, sadly most of us avoid, postpone or neglect planning for our elder years. We wait until an emergency or worse, a crisis, which forces us to make rushed, often un-researched decisions. Often it’s a sickness or the sudden death of a loved one that prods us to plan.

Perhaps, the time has come to create a new vocation: Elder Planner (think, wedding planner). Someone who can organize us BEFORE it hits the fan, to nudge us to think hard about where we might live if we lose our mobility, what legal documents to prepare or update, and how to inform loved ones of our plans.

Applications, anyone?

Sig Cohen
Beyond Dispute Associates

© Sig Cohen and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sig Cohen and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.