The ranks of aging retirees are swelling, and by 2050 the number of Americans 85 and older is expected to reach 19 million, or 5.5 million more than in 2010. Financial planners in turn are increasingly swamped by older clients with a host of critical and, at times, unfamiliar issues.

While many advisors have already begun to alter their practices to serve an aging client base, approaches vary. Some planners choose to hire additional staff or build out their practices to meet these clients’ needs, while others are inclined to work with outside partners such as elder-law attorneys.

Five years ago, Lauren Locker, a former NAPFA chairwoman and founder of Locker Financial Services of Little Falls, N.J., created ElderLife – a special division of her firm devoted to the needs of older clients. The group works on issues related to Social Security and Medicare and helps research in-home and institutional care options. Services for current clients are covered by their asset management fees, while new clients who aren’t already clients of Locker Financial are charged hourly fees at half of Locker’s rate.

Similarly, Dennis Stearns, president of Stearns Financial Services Group in Greensboro, N.C., has hired a specialist to help older clients research and vet assisted living facilities and locate geriatric care managers. “We can foresee a time when we are going to see tons of these issues. We wanted to get ahead and be prepared,” Stearns says.

Other firms develop relationships with outside experts to help clients navigate the unfamiliar waters of aging. Glenn Frank, a partner with Lexington Wealth Management of Lexington, Mass., refers clients to a nearby geriatric care manager. The manager also helps Frank understand the costs that will come up for his clients who need care and the nuances of various care options. For example, assisted living facilities and continuing care communities have very different fee structures, which can have a significant financial impact on the client.

Frank says engaging a geriatric care manager has been crucial for clients. “It’s priceless in many cases,” he says. “In addition to getting the best care for the older person, it can be invaluable for the rest of the family to have an independent resource.”

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