Mitchel Nickols: Making decisions as we age | TribLIVE.com
Featured Commentary

Mitchel Nickols: Making decisions as we age

Mitchel Nickols
1447246_web1_gtr-cmns-nickols-072919

My childhood pastor in Aliquippa, the late Rev. Asa W. Roberts Sr., used to often say at funerals, “The only way not to get old is to die young.” Both he and his father lived into their 90s. The same is true for my mother-in-law, Magnolia Combs of Brackenridge, who recently passed one day shy of turning 98. She was at a stage in life where most of her important decisions were being made for her.

The Population Reference Bureau notes that there were 52 million Americans 65 and older living in the United States in 2018 and projects that will nearly double by 2060. In Pennsylvania, the state’s senior citizen population grew 16.3% between 2010 and 2017. Life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years.

A 2018 U.S. Census report suggests that “Older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.”

Whether seniors outlive their children or not, critical decisions must be made about pressing issues like medical care and finances.

Sometimes there is a rush to judgment on what a senior has the capacity to do. I have long been a supporter of allowing older people to make their own decisions as long as they can.

However, I also believe that someone needs to be a part of the decision-making process for senior citizens, or anyone facing medical or financial decisions.

As we get older, we should have discussions with family and friends to make our wishes clear, and ask family members to commit to honoring those wishes. If we don’t put our wishes in writing, or set up a legal living will or a trust, then someone is going to make decisions for us at some point.

We have all heard stories about predatory financial scams and repair schemes where seniors are duped out of their life savings. Often seniors are too ashamed to tell family members about the scams and lost money. But who, young or old, hasn’t made bad decisions?

The Securities and Exchange Commission lists these “red flags” concerning senior investors:

• appears to have difficulty speaking or communicating

• is unable to appreciate the consequences of decisions

• displays erratic behavior

• is not aware of, or does not understand, recently completed financial transactions

• appears uncharacteristically unkempt or forgetful

• appears concerned or confused about missing funds in accounts

Sometimes children want to reach in too quickly to take over the affairs of their senior loved ones. Working together is often key to ensuring the best outcomes.

Mitchel Nickols, Ph.D., of Lower Burrell, is an instructor in the leadership and administration and community engagement programs at Point Park University. He is a diversity and sensitivity trainer and consultant for police departments and school districts throughout Western Pennsylvania.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.