40-70 Rule: Executive Summary


Independent research by the Home Instead Senior Care® network of seniors, adult children, senior care and legal professionals provided new insights into the dynamics of the conversations that do – and do not – take place between Baby Boomers and their aging parents. This updated research revealed that families who wait too long to begin discussing and planning for end-of-life issues could be vulnerable to uncertainty, family fights and even legal disputes.

The research shows that while many of these families think they have had adequate and timely conversations about a number of issues including finances, living choices and health, these families are generally being overly optimistic about the quality of their communications and their preparedness. Senior care professionals surveyed estimate that less than one-third of families (31%) have had adequate conversations about aging and end-of-life issues.

To prompt families to start conversations and turn these talks into an action plan, Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network, has created the "40-70 Rule®: An Action Plan for Successful Agingsm; The idea of the 40-70 Rule is that by the time you are approaching 40 and when a love one is about 70, you should have had the “talk” about aging and end-of-life issues that so many families are avoiding.

The 40-70 Rule: An Action Plan for Successful Aging provides expert advice to help families start critical conversations about the future and put their wishes and desires into action. This plan includes conversation tips and considerations for a wide variety of circumstances such as living alone, blended families, having dementia and religious preferences. Here’s more about the research behind the program:


Talking Happens Too Late

  • Senior care professionals surveyed report that 70% of family conversations about aging are prompted by an event such as a health crisis or other emergency.
  • More than two-thirds of families (68%) wait too long to begin discussing and planning for end-of-life issues, according to senior care professionals.
  • Most often Boomers are talking to their parents about topics that could be classified as "everyday things" including family, hobbies, and work.
  • A majority of estate planning attorneys (54%) surveyed say that waiting too long is the most common mistake that parents make when it comes to communicating with their adult children about aging and end-of-life planning.

Discomfort Kills the Conversation

  • More than one-half of adult children (54%) surveyed described their end-of-life conversations with their parents as uncomfortable at times, difficult but necessary, emotional with yelling and tears, or difficult and unsuccessful.
  • Two in five of these adult children (39%) surveyed reported having at least one barrier that prevents them from having conversations with their parents about aging or end-of-life issues.
  • According to senior care professionals surveyed, the most common reasons that people avoid planning for the end of life are: It’s uncomfortable to think or talk about; they procrastinate; and they don’t know how to start the conversation.
  • The most difficult topics to discuss, according to senior parents, are sex life of parent (56%), parent may need to move (25%), and parent’s financial situation (19%).

Ignorance is Not Bliss

  • Approximately three in five families (58%) who are managing the care of an aging parent experience problems such as fights or hurt feelings due to lack of communication about financial issues, health crises and end-of-life decisions, according to senior care professionals surveyed.
  • One in five adult children (20%) surveyed reportedly fears his or her family could have problems in the future due to lack of communication.
  • Two-thirds of family disputes (66%) over aging or end-of-life issues that end up in court could have been avoided if the family had clearly discussed and documented wishes in advance, according to estate planning attorneys surveyed.
  • A plurality of estate planning attorneys (37%) surveyed says that disputes regarding wills or whether a will exists is the most common aging or end-of-life issue that leads to legal action between family members.​


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