Light Bulbs, Ice Cream Cones, and Lunch

I attended a presentation last week given by a financial advisor on planning to maximize quality  of life.  They used a publication by Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD, Director of the MIT AgeLab to focus their presentation:  “Three Questions that Predict Future Quality of Life.”

Coughlin submits three questions as predictors of future quality of life in retirement:

  1. Who will change my light bulbs?
  2. How will I get an ice cream cone?
  3. Who will I have lunch with?

We’ll take a look at each of these questions below.

(1) Who Will Change my Light Bulbs?

This question is all about having a plan for maintaining one’s home and one’s ability to continue living at home for as long as possible.  There may come a time when your father climbing a ladder to change a light bulb at home is simply no longer a good idea.  Who will be around to help with maintenance and household tasks?  Family?  Service providers?  Will home modifications be needed and/or desirable to facilitate one’s ability to “age in place?”

It’s helpful to think about the following activities and what the cost would be of hiring a service provider to take care of these areas:  House cleaning, maintenance and basic repairs, lawn care, grocery delivery, laundry, home modifications, other.

(2) How Will I Get an Ice Cream Cone?

This question has to do with “being able to easily and routinely access those little experiences that bring a smile,” such as driving to get an ice cream cone on a hot summer night.  Transportation is the key here.  Will you have adequate transportation to get to where you need to go to do the things you enjoy doing — by car, public transportation, flight, etc.

You may think about the following categories for this question:  Hobbies, volunteer activities, career, travel, time with family and friends, other.

(3) Who Will I Have Lunch With?

This question is getting at your social support network as you age.  Families are more geographically spread out than they used to be, and divorce is also more common.  Baby boomers are much more likely to live alone than were their parents.  Keeping in regular contact with friends and family, and being plugged into civic, hobby, and/or religious communities is important for decreasing negative health effects and maximizing quality of life as we age.

Some ideas for fostering that social network include:  attending a senior center, doing volunteer work, enrolling in a college course, visiting your neighborhood coffee shop, using online social networking to meet other retirees, joining a travel club, enrolling in an exercise class, and asking family or friends to introduce you to others.


I think these three simple questions are helpful in sparking some initial thinking surrounding what makes us happy and is important to us as we age.  Once we identify some of these factors, we can then plan more effectively to ensure we can preserve and continue to access those things into retirement and beyond.