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Six pieces of advice if you plan to grow old in France

Having difficult conversations early is key to ageing happily abroad says columnist Cynthia Spillman

You might not want to contemplate old age but start planning now Pic: AlessandroBiascioli / Shutterstock

Ageing is a privilege denied to many, but it can be anxiety-provoking at the best of times – even more so when you have moved abroad and face the prospect of being left alone, far from home.

It need not, however, be as daunting if you pre-plan effectively for this inevitability.

It all starts now, with honest, no-nonsense communication with those you care about: your family and friends.

It is much better to have a conversation well in advance of any calamities.

Doing so should give greater peace of mind. You might not want to contemplate old age while it feels light years away, but in this respect, forewarned is forearmed. 

Financial planning

Get your financial ducks in a row. Who wants to have a miserable old age if they can possibly avoid it?

Talking about money can frequently be difficult but the last thing you want to do is to leave yourself or your loved ones in a mess.

Sit down with your partner, choose a time when you have no distractions, and listen respectfully to each other’s point of view.

Ask open questions in order to keep the heat out of it and, if possible, write it all down so that there is a record of your conversations. In this way, you will avoid confusion and upset further down the line.

If it becomes overwhelming, halt the discussion and resume it another time.

This is even more important when you live in a blended family, with children from different relationships. 

Not taking the appropriate action now can result in heartache and bad feeling. 

Read more: Which relatives have a right to inherit in France?

You should also find out what benefits you are entitled to back in your country of origin and in France – before you need them.

Likewise, be aware of what happens to your pension if you are moving or living abroad.

Other questions to ask: 

  • What tax will you pay there and back home? 
  • Will you be able to afford to travel back and forth to visit friends and family? 
  • Are your wills in order? 
  • Do you have lasting powers of attorney in place?

These suggestions might give you a sense of impending doom, but you may regret it if you do not bite the bullet while you still can.

You are in charge of your own future. Act now.

Read more: How do I make and register a ‘living will' in France?

Emotional planning

It is horrible to contemplate your own or your partner’s mortality. 

Who enjoys thinking about being left behind and alone?

However, as somebody who co-owned a successful wills and probate firm with more than 6,000 clients in London, I can reassure you that talking about it does not make death happen any sooner! 

Alternatively, you might one day discover that you and your partner have grown apart and you decide to go your separate ways.

Without a back-up plan for all these eventualities, you could end up feeling lost, stranded or panic-stricken.

Practical considerations

While you are still fit and able, consider the area in which you choose to live.

Questions to ask include:

  • What are the healthcare services like? 
  • Are you near hospitals and doctors? 
  • Where is the closest pharmacy?
  • Is there a bus route into a main centre, should you no longer want or be able to drive one day? 
  • Is there a regular train service?
  • Is there a supermarket within a short distance? 
  • Could you organise a food delivery if necessary? 
  • Will your property be easy to maintain and affordable in older age? 
  • Would you be able to adapt it if required? 
  • Do properties sell quickly in your area?

Develop a social circle now

You should also try to avoid isolating yourself.

Wherever you live, do not just rely on your partner for company. As we age, it is vitally important that we build a social circle. 

It does not have to be a large one, but enough people you can trust to help you out, and for whom you could offer the same support.

This will give you a feeling of security and inclusion – as well as enjoying the social aspect.

It is an effort, but one that is well worth making as it will pay dividends in various ways.

Read more: How to fight off expat isolation in France

Top tips for ageing abroad

  1. Forward planning is crucial. Be wise. Take action now
  2. Always be willing to ask for help if you need it
  3. Seek professional input for your affairs, if required
  4. Continue to network for enjoyment – and practicality
  5. Expand your horizons together while you still can
  6. Keep the lines of communication open with your family and be willing to re-evaluate your plans as time moves on

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Stress-busting tips for when friends come to stay with you in France

13 things you can do through a French notaire apart from buy a house

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