It’s no secret the impact that the Baby Boomer generation has had on society. The second-largest generation in US history1, Baby Boomers have experienced some of the most significant events in American history – all while making their impact along the way. Politically, Boomers have witnessed firsthand the Cuban Missile Crisis, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and War on Terrorism. They’ve also been defined by events such as Woodstock and the moon landing. And lately, they’ve even encountered the worst pandemic and public health crisis in US History.
Known as a generation of non-conformists, Baby Boomers have rewritten the rules of society at every stage – and now, that includes retirement. But with skyrocketing healthcare costs, and inflation rates surging, today’s retiree’s face their share of financial challenges.
At Longbridge Financial, we specialize in helping seniors use hard-earned home equity to address these financial challenges that impact so many Americans who are in, or preparing for, retirement. Recently we welcomed Kelly Rogers to our team to work alongside our loan officers and sales team as National Sales & Business Development Coach. A Certified Gerontologist, Kelly brings nearly 3 decades of experience collaborating with seniors and their families.
As a previous Senior Care Agency owner and co-founder, Kelly’s firsthand experience working with seniors dates back to 1992 when she co-founded Respect Your Elders. She later went on to be an instrumental co-founder of Adopt an Elder Foundation in 2001. It’s this passion for assisting and advocating for seniors that drove Kelly to the reverse mortgage industry, where she educates people on ways to overcome the retirement crisis and provide senior clients with a higher quality of life. A true resource, we sat down with Kelly to learn more about her background in gerontology and get her take on the challenges facing today’s seniors.
Q: Kelly, you have a fascinating career. Can you tell us more about how you got into gerontology and sales?
A: Thank you! I genuinely love what I do. From an early age, I always knew that I wanted a career that revolved around making a positive difference and serving others. In college, I focused my studies on Social Work in Psychology and Sociology, which only reaffirmed that this was the right direction for my heart, mind, and soul. Also, around this time, I was helping my mother start a company called Respect Your Elders, a senior resource and referral service. This is where my passion for gerontology was truly ignited. I decided to add a focus in gerontology to my studies, was hooked from the first course, and never looked back! It was at this point that I decided to dedicate my education and future career towards helping seniors, their families, and their service providers as a Certified Gerontologist.
Q: You have such a unique perspective. How did you marry the two roles of National Business Development Leader and Sales Coach?
A: Easy! Simply stated, once a coach…always a coach ?. As a national sales coach, my focus has always been working with Loan Officers to make conversations and education all about the customer – the senior and their unique situations. Instead of just selling a product, I encourage Loan Officers to discover the “why” behind their customer’s decision to consider tapping into home equity with a reverse mortgage. By taking this approach, we’ve learned a lot more about our customers, finding that many need additional income to pay for their “aging in place” needs and services. In order to fully serve our seniors, this created the need for another role to build partnerships and relationships with various “aging in place” services including in-home care providers, home modification and repair companies, medical equipment manufacturers, Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS), Senior Real Estate Specialists (SRES), Hospice organizations, and many more. The two roles just came together organically simply by listening to our seniors “why” and “what” is important to them.
Q: What inspired you to study gerontology?
A: The driving force behind my decision to pursue a career in gerontology was simply my love, respect, and admiration for seniors. When I started Respect Yor Elders with my mother in 1992, I was exposed to the challenges faced by seniors, families, and service providers. Seeing this firsthand only further ignited my passion to help and serve the senior population.
Q: Who has influenced your career the most?
A: As the previous Owner of Respect Your Elders and Adopt an Elder Foundation, my mother, Karen Perry, has been a major influence on my career and studies in gerontology. In my studies, Barbara Gillogly, Director of Gerontology at American River College (also known as – “The Hook”) made a lasting impact on me as well.
Q: What do you enjoy most about serving aging seniors?
A: The best part of working with aging seniors is reconnecting with them after their loan has funded. There is no better feeling than knowing we’ve helped them to afford the services they need to age in place and better their retirement outlook. The stories and testimonials about relieving stress, lessening financial burden, and being able to sleep soundly at night without the worries of before – these are what keep all of us in the reverse mortgage industry both inspired and motivated.
Q: What prompted you to combine your passion for gerontology with a career in the financial services industry?
A: For me, this was a combination of two things. Firstly, discovering and witnessing firsthand too many seniors and their families not having enough private funds to cover all their aging, retirement, and care needs was truly eye-opening. There’s a disparity between the ample variety of services available to seniors and the lack of government or insurance covered funds to support their needs. The result is often a large private pay gap that our seniors are left to cover on a predominately fixed-income source. From in-home care services, to home modifications and remodeling specialists, and innovative medical equipment, there are more services than ever designed to help seniors age in their homes. Yet so many are not able to take advantage of these services. The heartbreak of seeing so many seniors forgoing the services they need and deserve or, being prematurely placed into skilled nursing facilities covered by Medicaid or other insurance was not something I was willing to sit by and watch anymore. I found myself questioning, “What good are all these amazing senior services when they can’t or don’t know how to afford them?” And from there, I knew I needed to get involved on the financial side.
Secondly, I was experiencing “burn out” as a Gerontologist and In-Home Care owner. These roles were demanding – 365 days a year, with 24/7 responsibility. The job was not a role that stopped once you left the office. My love and passion for seniors was both my virtue and my vice. I connected with each senior I served as if they were my own grandmother or grandfather, and I felt it was my duty and honor to always do what was best for them.
Q: What about retirement most concerns your clients?
A: Simply stated, running out of, or outliving their funds. This and being able to afford medical costs are two major concerns. There is also a notion that being able to comfortably age in place is only attainable for those who are extremely wealthy.
Q: What can people across all generations learn about retirement today?
A: One of the most surprising statistics out there is that 1 in 3 seniors do not have anything saved for retirement2. And even the ones that have saved, haven’t necessarily saved enough to achieve their goals of aging in place. Fortunately, there is good news – seniors currently have $10.6 trillion in home equity3. With this in mind, I’d encourage people of all generations to consider home equity as another source of retirement income, rather than forgoing important services you may eventually need.
The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be. When we’re younger, we tend to think we have plenty of time to save for retirement. But the reality is that we don’t. There are always going to be other expenses, such as starting a family, buying a house, etc. when it can be easy to put saving for retirement on the backburner. However, you really can’t afford not to. You are never too young to start saving for retirement or get advice from a reputable financial planner.
Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions facing our aging population?
A: There are so many misconceptions that today’s seniors face. Perhaps most notably, that aging robs you of happiness and that it’s normal and just part of aging to feel alone, isolated, or depressed. That is definitely not the case! There’s also a misconception that older people don’t contribute to society anymore. This one couldn’t be further than the truth – and there is so much we can learn from the older population. Another misconception is that older adults can’t learn new things, or as you may have heard it referenced, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” And when it comes to health and aging, there is a false notion that every senior will eventually deal with dementia or Alzheimer’s. With today’s modern medicine and innovations, this certainly isn’t true. Finally, it’s often said that seniors are obligated to leave a completely paid-off house to their children/heirs. While there are a lot of misconceptions, it’s important to note that these are simply those – falsehoods. After all, aging isn’t all bad – they call these the golden years for a reason ?!
Q: What advice do you have for seniors exploring retirement options?
A: When it comes to evaluating different retirement options, I’d encourage people to speak to a financial professional versed in each one so that they can get the education needed to weigh all pros and cons before deciding. Seniors or those nearing retirement should also meet with a reputable financial or retirement planner to discuss a customized retirement plan that is specific to individual needs. A financial professional can help you create a plan based on any savings, investments, 401(k), pensions, annuities, home equity, long-term care insurance plans, living wills, or other assets you may have.
I’d also stress the importance of including additional retirement costs you may incur in your plans – such as health care, increasing medical costs, and any future home repairs or modifications. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how much you will need, a good place to start is by researching the average costs in your area for home modifications or hourly senior in-home care services that you will likely need to safely age in your current home. You should also ask yourself if your current home is really your “forever home.” You may consider moving closer to family, closer to services you’ll need, or even just opt to “right-size” into a home that’s better aligned or more manageable for your retirement years.
Q: What is happening to aging America?
A: Overall, it’s good news – we are living longer than previous generations! The average life expectancy has drastically increased due to improved sanitation, medicine and medical care, and technology, among other factors. Data from the US census has some eye-opening statistics to support this. In 2030, the Baby Boomer generation will reach age 65, and as such older Americans will account for 21% of the entire population, a notable jump from 15% today. Looking even further out, this trend is only going to pick up momentum. By 2060, nearly one in four Americans will be age 65 or older, the number of Americans age 85 or older will triple, and the country will add a half million centenarians.
Q: How does a gerontologist assist clients with everyday living?
A: In every way possible ?. Overall, gerontologists are responsible for educating other health professionals, community practitioners, senior service providers, and the community at-large about the process of aging and how to age well. As highly educated advocates for our seniors, we specialize in giving informative presentations and publishing books and articles on the topics of aging and health.
There are two main branches of gerontology – social gerontology and biogerontology. As a social gerontologist, I specialize in the social and emotional aspects of aging, honing in on demographic data, statistics, assessments, and behaviors. Biogerontology studies the physical and biological aspects of aging. The roles and daily activities of a gerontologist varies depending on the type of company or self-owned business they’re associated with.
Q: What do you look forward to about your new role with Longbridge?
A: I am looking forward to being part of this incredible culture that Longbridge has built with their amazing team of diverse talent. I am eager to continue to learn, grow, teach, coach, and contribute towards the education of utilizing housing wealth as a strategic retirement financial tool. In working with our loan officers and brokers, we can build meaningful relationships and partnerships with our seniors and senior service providers. And above all else, I’m committed to being a part of the change in helping our seniors afford the services that they want, need, and deserve so that they can safely age in place. Overall, I’m excited and honored to join such a passionate and customer mission-driven company! It didn’t take long for me to already feel like this is “home.”
Thank you, Kelly, for taking the time to chat with us – and for all your contributions to helping today’s seniors!