If the World Health Organization is correct, many of us will experience a “longevity bonus” of 20–30 years. That is, we will live a lot longer than we thought. So I am looking forward to, and planning for, those extra years, hoping that I can experience some of the best days of my life.

If it’s a fact that we should feel wiser and more liberated as we age, why do so many of us dread this time in our lives? I think it is because we haven’t done it before, and reminders of how people lived in their 80s years ago doesn’t fit with today’s reality. With two or three more decades to experience following retirement, focusing on making those years great requires planning. Too often, both we and our children leave what happens to chance, which is a terrible idea.

Since there is a great deal to consider in planning for those years, I decided to break down longevity planning into a series of three articles, focusing first on the concept of longevity planning and why it is important. One of the first steps in this process is to imagine what our needs and wants will be during this new, undefined period of our lives during which we are living longer. What products and services will be available, and what might it be necessary to develop for us to enjoy this longevity bonus?”

Families and their loved ones are smarter today and have greater expectations about how to live well as they age. However, our current systems for health care, legal services, financial planning, and social supports haven’t quite caught up with the times. Instead of being integrated, they are organized into separate standalone silos, leaving individuals and families to put the pieces together by themselves.

For example, you probably have a Will and, hopefully, a Power of Attorney. But did your lawyer review your finances with the person you named to handle these important matters? Have you designated someone who can step in and help in the event of a medical emergency? Does anyone know where your assets are located, or how you would like to spend them should you require long-term care? While you may be fortunate enough to have your children living in the area, have you thought about who would have the time or ability to help you remain in your home? Many people end up in nursing homes simply because their families don’t know what else is available.

Longevity planning helps provide answers to these important questions. It also helps you to envision a comprehensive picture of how you want your life to look, while integrating all of your medical, legal, financial, and social needs. As boomers, we lived differently, and redefined an entire generation. As we plan for these extra years, there is no better time to once again redefine our generation by embracing peace, love, laughter, health, and independence as we age.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of Buffalo Healthy Living