In the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to take inventory of their lives — whether they’re making the most of their time on this earth and whether they’re prepared to leave it. In this panel discussion for Timeless in Texas, host Ron Corning talks with professionals in a wide range of fields — legal, finance, medicine and lifestyle — who want you to live long, enjoy life and ensure that you’ve got your affairs in order if things go awry.

Life changes fast, but you have to keep up. Here are four tips and trends that D-FW residents over 55 may want to consider.

Tip: Have a will — but know that a will is not enough.

Setting up a will requires two things that many people would rather avoid, says attorney Virginia Hammerle, founder of Hammerle Finley Law Firm in North Dallas: facing the fact that someday we are all going to die and spending money on the services of a lawyer. However, Hammerle says, everyone should have a will.

“Everybody has an estate of some kind, even if it’s just a car and a small savings account. So it’s important that they at least get the basic doc in place. A will is the primary and fundamental document that everybody needs to have,” she says.

But a will — which is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of your minor children — is not enough. You need other documents:

  • Power of attorney: establishes who can act on your behalf if you are mentally or physically unable to do so
  • Financial power of attorney: establishes who handles your money if you are unable to do so
  • Medical power of attorney/HIPPA authorization: establishes who makes medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so and permits another person access to your medical information
  • Directive to physicians/living will: outlines your wishes regarding life-sustaining measures in cases of physical illness or mental incapacity
  • Designation of guardianship: establishes who will be the guardian of your person and your estate in the event of physical or mental incapacity
  • Designation of burial agent: establishes who will make decisions about your body after your death; also outlines your wishes regarding a funeral, cremation, burial or other disposition

The State of Texas provides base documents, but they can be enhanced for individual situations, Hammerle says. The more specific you can be, the more heartache you may save your family.

Hammerle says that she generally takes about two weeks to prepare estate-planning documents after an initial conversation, and the cost typically runs $2,000 to $4,000.

Del Webb at Trinity Falls has miles of walking trails for enjoying nature and exercising with friends.
Del Webb at Trinity Falls has miles of walking trails for enjoying nature and exercising with friends.(kali9 / Getty Images)

Trend: Couples over 50 are downsizing and reprioritizing friends and activities over big homes with every amenity.

As their kids move out and they start to look toward retirement, people in their 50s and 60s are shifting their focus from huge, amenity-rich homes to spending time with like-minded friends and enriching experiences, says Walker Wagner of Del Webb, an active-adult community with locations nationwide, including Frisco and McKinney.

Del Webb offers clean, green, safe neighborhoods with lovely, light-filled houses and lots of activities, Wagner says. Del Webb at Trinity Falls, for example, has a resort-style pool, fitness center, bocce ball and pickle ball courts, and walking trails in a wooded setting. It’s especially appealing to those whose children have been transferred to the area for work. “It’s all about the grandkids!” Wagner says.

Tip: Enlist a team of professionals to help you reach your goals and protect your assets.

It’s been a challenging time for investors, says Eric Elmore of First Investments & Planning, who says the short answer to the hard question about how people can compensate for rising inflation and low interest rates on investments is “you’re just going to have to save more.”

Not only that, he says, people may need to work longer and access their Social Security benefits later than they’d planned. Some may work full time well into their 70s, and retirees may take part-time jobs. And though income after retirement is crucial, so is asset protection.

The No. 1 mistake he sees with his clients is failure to seek advice from key advisors — investment, tax, insurance, legal. “Bring in a team of professionals that will help [you] reach your goals and make sure your assets are protected,” Elmore says

High-net-worth individuals should also look into ways to diminish their tax liability.

Telemedicine has made it easier for patients to get care for chronic medical conditions during the pandemic.
Telemedicine has made it easier for patients to get care for chronic medical conditions during the pandemic.(drazen_zigic / Getty Images / iStockphoto)

Trend: Physicians and patients alike have embraced virtual health care visits.

During the pandemic, many people have opted out of seeing their doctors for regular appointments out of fear of coming into contact with the coronavirus. That’s understandable, says Dr. Cherese Wiley, an internal medicine doctor at Baylor Scott & White Health, but “I want to encourage patients and let them know that the doctors’ offices and hospitals are actually safer than the grocery store.”

At Baylor Scott & White Health, a comprehensive safety program protects both patients and staff:

  • Patients only in waiting areas unless it’s medically necessary for you to have assistance
  • Temperature checks
  • COVID screening questions
  • Waiting rooms arranged to allow at least 6 feet of distance between patients

High-risk patients are directed to virtual visits, which can also be an effective way for patients with managed chronic conditions and mental health conditions to get the care they need. Dr. Wiley says there are a few things you can do to have a successful vi
rtual doctor’s visit, including ensuring that your Wi-Fi is working properly, checking the video and audio on your device ahead of time, and choosing a location with good lighting for your appointment.

Most cancer screenings require in-person visits, however, and Dr. Wiley wants the over-55 set to know that screenings are safe. “If you are high risk, you shouldn’t delay,” she advises. If you do want to put your screening test off, she says, “speak to your health care provider about your particular case before you decide to.”

Dr. Wiley also encourages people to watch for anxiety and symptoms of depression as the pandemic goes on and address mental health issues with their physicians sooner rather than later.

And as the fall flu season approaches, she says get your flu shot. If you’re over 65 and you haven’t already, get the pneumonia vaccine, too. Two shots will last you the rest of your life.