So Old Now, the Joke’s on Me
Today – Join us at Elderblogger PhoneCon

Elder Life Coaches

Crabby Old Lady might, on a good day, accept the idea of a Career Coach. Life Coach, however, fairly screams SCAM! And when she discovered recently that some of these unregulated counselors, who most frequently ply their trade by telephone, promote themselves as Elder or Retirement Coaches, she had such a snit that Ollie the cat ran for cover under the bed.

One guy offers to explore issues and problems around retirement and aging “by telephone from anywhere in the world. 50 percent off for seniors.” Another offers email coaching for those who can’t afford telephone coaching. A third “elder coach” apparently believes there is nothing left for old people except illness and dying. There is no mention of living.

It’s a dead giveaway that something is amiss when a web search for “life coach” turns up more listings for “how to become a life coach” than coaching itself, and the paid Google ad at the top of the search page is also for life coach training. It looks like a Ponzi scheme to Crabby.

As she waded through websites of coaches who include elders among their targeted dupes, Crabby began having a strong sense of déjà vu – and for good reason. She eventually realized she was reading the same material again and again. At least half a dozen sites she visited used this marketing spiel, word-for-word, whether they were touting life or elder coaching:

“Have you asked yourself these questions:

  • “I need to feel more alive and passionate in my daily life. What’s my soul purpose?
  • “Something’s missing but I don’t know what. Can I find my creativity and imagination again?
  • “My life must mean more than this. How do I integrate my daily life into a sacred, soulful, and cohesive experience?
  • “My life is so disjointed, not quite together. Will I consciously claim the tension of opposites in my life: light and dark; fire and ice; joy and sorrow?
  • “I sometimes feel alone and somewhat lost. Do I know how to honor nature and do I trust my connection to the cosmos?
  • “I don’t know who I am anymore. Will I claim my intuition and my ability to tune in to universal truth?
  • "I want to do something new. Where do I begin?"

Aside from the fact that the new age-y, pseudo-spiritual language makes Crabby twitch, if you’ve gotten to be 55 or 60 or older and haven’t dealt with these issues, well, maybe you do need an elder life coach - even one with no discernible qualifications.

For the rest of us – and Crabby believes that means all sentient elders – it’s obvious that these flimflam artists are practicing psychotherapy without a degree and doing it long distance. Anyone can set themselves up as a career, life or elder coach with or without certification from one of any number of phony coaching institutions which have no standard requirements and promise to turn anyone into a coach for $946 – or thereabouts.

One of the sad realities of getting old is that many elders are alone and lonely - people who can easily fall prey to an imposter with a warm voice and sympathetic ear while fleecing their trusting marks of food money. And make no mistake, these are predators.

If you doubt that, consider this: Tim Dowling, writing recently in the, recounted his experience investigating life coaching:

“If I complete the course, I will receive a short sentence that gives my reason for being on Earth, something like ‘I show the way’ or ‘I explore in wonder.’”

Undoubtedly there are people - even some elders - who can find meaning in such blather from an stranger across a telephone line - or even in person. For the rest of us, the journey is in the personal seeking to understand what life is about, and if there are any answers they will be found in private moments in our own hearts and minds, and not from an internet purveyor of instant wisdom suitable for framing.

Without fail, Crabby Old Lady reads Chris Locke’s missives on the research he’s doing for Mystique Bourgeoisie, a book subtitled, “Numinous Lunacy & the Sanctimonious Narcissism of the New Age++” which he also describes as:

“The unlikely story of how America slipped the surly bonds of earth & came to believe in signs & portents that would make the middle ages blush.”

If Chris has not already considered it, life coaching or, of particular interest to Crabby, elder life coaching, could easily fill a chapter among his collection of charlatans, fakes and dangerous rogues.


Who knew? The things you uncover!
Lord, preserve us. It really points up the fact that we must stay connected and rely on others to help us protect ourselves. Interdependence is a good thing!

I have to believe that the numerous websites that you found using the same "come ons" are probably run by one person/back-street operation. They used to (maybe still do) advise guys to ask a lot of women out on the theory that even if only 10% of the invitations paid off, 10% of 100 is 10 women.

Ah, to hope that one never comes so desperate as to respond to such drivel. Right on, Ronni!

Life coaching (for clients of ANY age) always struck me as odd. I wonder if it really works for anyone, just as I doubt self-help books work for anyone except the author of said self-help book. Any life coaching testimonials?

I met a young woman several years ago, very nice person, who was doing life coaching as she had had problems, gone through the training for herself and saw this now as a career opportunity. I saw it as one of the pyramid deals where you buy into it hoping to find others who will do likewise.

I receive an online newsletter from one of the women who has written books on improving your life and has life coaching programs where people go to receive training to do this. I read the email generally as it's mostly about things that make sense, which as you said above most of us already know, but I have never believed in programs that follow rote material for everyone, and you are right, the people doing it have very little real training.

I think, with most things we don't like about ourselves, we already know what we need to do. It's us making us the decision, then taking the first step, and I don't see how anybody can do that for you. Like you, I am always suspicious of any pyramids and believe they are first and foremost about making money for those at the top.

Life coaching for elders? Soon we'll have people offering to coach us into death!

Am glad somebody is finally taking aim at these money-making (for the "coach") schemes. There's always a flim flam artist around somewhere trying to make a buck off the trusting and unsuspecting. Older people do seem to be subjected to these tactics of individuals trying to worm their way into others lives through the platitudes of warmth, caring, and love -- "I can help me...just listen to my words...just send your check." Quite often they seem to latch on to, then spout off some others reasonable sounding ideas as though they were there own.

You get what you pay for and for someone to turn my life around and help answer my life's questions would probably cost me my entire life's savings. Life coach? I thought that was what friends were for?

It is always amazing to me that the general public doesn't require some sort of credential that makes sense and doesn't see that you get what you pay for and if it is a super bargain, it isn't worth it.

Hmmm...I wonder if Crabby's thinking clearly, turning down the chance to reconcile the tension between the fire and ice in her soul? But since she won't hire an elder-coach, we can only hope that she'll pick up on the signs and portents the cosmos is strewing in her way. For instance, the bitter Maine winters that Crabby just happened - heh heh - to choose for this last stage of life's school will bring her plenty of ice, and she'll have to keep a warm fire - or at least a furnace - going for the next six months.
And if we all use creative visualization to image Crabby bringing this fire and ice together -let's say melting icicles or putting a pot of snow on the boil - she might just consciously claim the gift the universe has destined for her: water. And didn't we always intuit that Crabby's life-force is water? In fact, the short sentence that will complete this ritual to show Crabby why she's on earth goes something like "Like a raging river, I sweep away all flim-flam before me."

Crabby will do just fine in the Maine winters. She and Ronni and Ollie plan to spend many pleasant days curled up on the sofa, dozing and daydreaming and some night dreaming about smacking several of those life coaches in the schnozolla

Dear Crabby...please slow down a minute. Yes, it is true there are a lot of incompetent oportunistic and unqualified folks promoting themselves as 'coaches'. When I wrote the first article on coaching as a diffent paradigm for working with and empowering people (in organizations) there were about 100 of us working to address the questions of how do people intentionally achieve breakthroughs, why do all professional performers and athletes have coaches while coaching is missing in the command and control world of management... Now there are probably 50,000 people either practicing or trying to become coaches...some are good and some are not...there will be a sorting out as happens with any new field. As I point out in my blog tomorrow however, coaching is an incredible area for Elders to learn and grow and continue contributing to people. We need more Elders to become 'Life Coaches". To take responsibility for some of the messes in the world and engage people of all ages to make and achieve the kind of unreasonable commitments that none of us can achieve by ourselves. Where I take some issue with you today is that your are using examples of some "bad apples" to generalize and immpune the legitimacy of thousands of very qualified and committed and competent people who are working constantly to upgrade their profession, their standards, ethics and value of their work. You could say much of what you said about lawyers , healthcare providers and financial coaching is another field that is waking up to the commercial opportunities of the boomers. That's all.

Wow, it's a totally different experience to read Crabby go off on some topic that I agree with or that doesn't concern me directly, and a whole 'nother thing to be (even marginally) in the targeted group.

First - Way too much of what Crabby has said about coaching is true and these are some of the reasons I'm not practicing a craft I spent over 3 years training for.
Second - I agree with SereneAmbition that you're practicing a 'babies & bathwater' thing. You lump all coaches together and call it scam.
Third - I've been coached professionally by three different trained people. The worst one was OK. The other two were really excellent.
Fourth - 'those who can, do; those who can't, teach'. This is true in every industry I've ever been part of. If one can't market their coaching services, then perhaps s/he can sell a tool of some kind to a coach.

So Yes, there are scammers and charlatans in the coaching industry AS IN EVERY INDUSTRY. My experience with coaching as a client has been that it is an action-oriented approach to accomplishing whatever task I choose. My coaches never gave 'answers', never spoke psychobabble at me, and above all never assumed that they knew more about my life than I do.
Coaches - good coaches - are like sports coaches in that they can enable a person with a particular interest or talent or situation to become better at it -the skill or whatever. They can be some combination of sounding-board and truth-o-meter. And they helped me stay grounded and on-track instead of drifting off on various tangents as I am wont to do.

Of course one must be discerning when looking at the vast (and growing) array of life or business coaches out there. A generic computer search may be the worst way. I found my first one in a coaching instructor, the second and third thru a coaching school and a coaching association. I looked long and hard for the right one, and I communicated with three or four before I chose one. No different than the way I choose a doctor or a painting teacher.

And as for death coach - I have one.
I want the subject of my dying to be open, I want to be as conscious as possible (in a spiritual sense) and I want my significant others to be able to see me off in style.

"....tune into universal truth"???
Wha.......? Death coach?
Hey, I know! How about a bathroom coach? Groovy man.

I can't believe that anyone who has lived long enough to be called an "elder" needs a coach for living. Life should have taught them all they need to know by that time. It sounds like another "feel good" program right out of the 60's to me.

Wow, turn my head for one minute and I end up as fodder for someone I thought was here to be of service. Yes, it is true, my words lifted off my website ( and placed here for the whole community to laugh and scoff at. Talk about being hit by a sledge hammer!

I don't pretend to be able to fix all the problems of the world, but I do know the people whose lives have been changed by the work I have been called to do. I left the field of mental health after years of training and expense exactly because I didn't believe that emotional and spiritual pain were illnesses most of the time and that I couldn't live with the idea of having to diagnose what I saw as the natural unfolding of life as sickness. This was not easy for me to do and I had to wrestle with the "fire and ice" experience.

Since then I have found that the coaching model has been a great fit for me because it does not label people. Coaching recognizes that we don't always do the right thing and that if we could we would. There is some piece of the puzzle that we don't have and through the use of skillfully placed questions, the person being coached actually finds that right answer for that moment.

Why is it that we can't use friends and family for this? Usually, it's because friends and family have an agenda and they have their own needs that are getting in the way. Sometimes we get lucky and find that someone, but let's face it in today's world everyone is so busy, they just don't have the time or energy to hold the space for someone else's life.

So, what about an elder coach or a death coach, or as Richard Groves, the author of The American Book of Dying says "anam cara" or soul friend? He and his wife have spent the last several years building up a team of supporters to spread this idea into our mainstream society. And why? Because, even if you don't want to admit it, people, old and young, are dying and they are dying alone. As a hospice worker, I see it all the time. A person, now seen strictly as a useless body, abandoned by families who have for various reasons chosen not to be there. I think this is an outrage. No person should have to be alone at such a time unless they choose it freely.

There is a whole cadre of professionals out there working in the field of death and dying, including Ira Byock, whose book Dying Well, offer us much food for thought about our current view of death. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross pioneered the idea of stages of grief that we may go through during a loss and that if people can get support, the process may be less painful and less costly.

An elder coach hired by the family is one of the best gifts a family can give, much better than almost any other gift. Family has it's own set of struggles with the aging process. And they have a role to play that is often times difficult to get out of. If we could be there for our loved one it would be great. Many times we just can't.

I don't discount any of the discussion here in this forum about the way our society treats aging. Yet, I keep seeing this trend to "positive thinking" and what I see as pretending "I am OK". I don't think it's helpful to wallow in self pity or sorrow, but I have a firm belief that the drug industry has benefited greatly from our need to escape our deep human emotions. If there were more opportunities to honor and acknowledge formally loss and grief we would not see so much psychosomatic illness and we would see much less need for psychotropics.

Lastly, back to the field of coaching. I do agree that much of what you will find doing a search is teaching people to be coaches. I am finding many of the reasons that I left mental health cropping up here in this new field. I realize that it seems to be part of the human condition to make problems. But there are so many great coaches being trained out there and these coaches have the desire to be of service to those who have a need. How can that be wrong? And, in spite of your lack of appreciation for coaches, there are many people who could use the support and who would be able to then go out into the world and give back in an even bigger way. I suggest you go to Leadership University or B-Coach and read about our programs there. Executives and business leaders know the value of coaching; why shouldn't lay people?

I think most folks could use a good death coach. Here's my death coaching advice, after dealing with my mom's estate the past three years:

If you're getting too old to clean your house, sell it and get an apartment. My mom's house was an absolute mess when she finally went into the hospital after serving everyone' s needs except her own for far too long.

If you have people who depend on you, like disabled children or grandchildren, assign someone to be responsible to take over their care. Leaving it to the state to appoint guardiandships and fiduciaries for them can lead to said grandchild refusing a guardian even though he desperately needs one, leading to lots of frustration for the aunt who is dealing with everything.

Please, please please, go through your things and get rid of all unneccesary papers and organize the rest. Your daughter, son, and son-in-law do NOT want to spend four days tracking down all important financial papers.

UPDATE your will on a regular basis, especially if you haven't done so for ten years since your spouse died. Otherwise, the daughter you told would execute your estate will have to deal with the evil, nasty JP Morgan, who has bought up your nice little local bank and now refuses to settle the estate after three damn years. Better yet, put it in a trust and plan who your trustee will be. AGAIN, update as needed.

For gods sake, get rid of all the frou frou crap you've collected over the last thirty years. Your family doesn't want it, and getting rid of it all is a royal pain. Hopefully, your church will be having a rummage sale and people will want to have a remembrance of you, but it would be really nice if you had simply given them one already.

CLEAN THE ATTIC, or hire someone to do so. Otherwise, it will take four MORE days, after all that paper sorting and finding all the old pictures and going through all your old letters, some of which you might not have wanted daughter to read, to clear out all THAT mess.

Make your funeral arrangements, so your daughter won't have to spend a day planning a funeral you might not have liked, but oh well too bad, you left it to be her problem.

Have a living will, so we don't have to decide. Really.

I think that's most of it....

Get a grip boomers. The 60's are long gone.
How much do these coaches charge for their services anyway?

Hey Suzanne,

Given there are actually very few doing the work, I would have to say "it depends." [Promotional information for a commercial business has been removed. RB]

Most of the work in hospice is about the federal government paying the way through a Medicare benefit. But again, hospice gets called in late in the game usually, maybe even literally days before the death. How much time is that to develop a friendship/trusting relationship?

[Promotional information for a commercial business has been removed. RB]

I actually have to say thanks to Ronni for writing her article. It has strengthened my resolve to educate and promote the concept of planning a good death, whatever that may mean to the individual. If someone wants support, it would be gift for it to be there.

I would like to add a comment to her statement that I'm only interested in death and old age. That couldn't be further from the truth. But as she has her work to do in the world, so I have mine. We are enriched by showing up to do that which is our work, not just mimic others. I am glad there are those who bust myths about aging and who deepen the dialogue about what elders bring to the table. I just know how much suffering goes on when people are facing loss of strength, independence, and life. So, I am just showing up to answer the call that has come my way.

Like Cinderella, I think this coach has turned into a pumpkin.

As for the advice about a will, my personal advice is to check out Suse Ormand's info and then get a specialist in estate planning to set up a revokable living trust. Revokable means you can change it, living means it is effective for your lifetime, and trust means your assets (house, bank accounts, stocks, etc.) go directly to your designated heirs without having to go through probate (provided you put the assets in the name of the trust). Ormand is a financial planner who has done shows for PBS and has a daily show on one of the cable channels. It costs more than a simple will (about $1000 rather than $500, but those prices are from about 5 years ago), but is definitely worth it because probate costs thousands of dollars, and if there is property but no cash, the court sells the property to divide the estate and pay the court costs and lawyers' fees. Lawyers tend to like wills better than trusts because they make more money from probate, unless they are getting paid to administer the trust for a set period of time, such as in the case of a minor child.

My mom set this up with my parents being the first beneficiaries of the trust, and after both their deaths, it passes to me. And I have no financial interest in any kind of estate planning, just for the record, so I'm not trying to sell anyone anything. My mother is a fiscally conservative retired accountant who checked this out before she did it. The main thing is, make sure you consult a specialist in estate planning, not just any lawyer. And everyone should have someone to take care of their affairs, especially life support options. In addition to signing the document, talk to the person involved and make clear your wishes, such as no feeding tube, etc.

Perhaps because I am very independent and have already taken care of the issues put forth in the previous comments I should not be so judgmental. I know there are those who need the help of someone to guide them. I think I have done everything I can to prepare for my death and I hope I don't need any further support when that event occurs, but I realize that I may be the exception and not the rule. I may have been to harsh with my "feel good" comment.

Sorry Ronni,

It seems I broke a rule when I shared some actual resources with Suzanne. It wasn't my intention to go against the grain, just not aware it wasn't allowed here. It just seemed that with the lack of awareness around the legitimacy of this topic and the direct question, your loyal bloggers would welcome the info.

As for Cinderella and her pumpkins, I guess it is not the right timing for this ball. As Nietzsche's madman says in his book The Gay Science, "I have come too early."

I will say, before I shut up and exit stage right, that most of the comments of advice mentioned around the issue of dying well have been about the pragmatic issues, taking care of business, etc. While all of that is important, there are many individuals who die without getting the chance to forgive, to thank, to say sorry, and to say I love you (Ira Byock, head of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine). This is really the meat and potatoes of the concept of a "good death". Peace sometimes eludes the person dying, whatever peace means to them. Clearing away the debris of decades is not always easy. Family and friends can't always hear it. And it's not a sickness that needs a therapist. So, who will be there?

Ok, done for now.

Yes, Verna, you broke one of the cardinal rules of blogging: slipping advertising onto a site disguised as a comment.

We've been through this in the past with authors flogging their books and it now appears that at least one life coach is trying to do it too.

Those "actual resources" you refer to are the websites of commercial businesses. This blog is not a vehicle for free advertising for you or anyone you want to promote.

I let it slide when you linked your comments here to your business website which is, by no means, a personal blog as other commenters' links are. But promoting an event that is designed to solicit clients is going too far. It is advertising and that is not tolerated on this blog without payment.

I remove spam advertisements when they appear here and I removed yours too.

I owe you an apology. I don't know what got into me, but, my message came off as flippant and stupid and I really didn't mean to sound mean-spirited. I appreciate you giving access to the information you have, even though I didn't get to see it and for being a better person than me and responding in a mature and kind way.

Gee Ronnie, when I first came to your blog through Naomi, I thought cool! Some elderly folks can help younger people navigate this foolishness out here. Then I read the post. The questions in the ad sounds like those you'd ask a younger person.

It IS sad that a lot of elders are lonely. But an equal number of the elderly become suspicious of younger folk, especially if they watch a lot of TV. I'd like to see a trans-generational center where a variety of us could go, not just a senior center. If it wasn't for the knitting group I belonged to, I wouldn't have learned about menopause; all the women in my family had hysterectomies. And my older girlfriends learned to enjoy their retirement more. The only problem I have now, is with their kids, who are middle-aged like me. How can such cool older people have such uncool kids?

One thing to remember is ya don't get it until you get there. My father, a widower since January 2006, first met my Mother when he was 18 years old. Why would anyone not think that an Elder Coach, if they were of any caliber, wouldn't be a good idea? What a phenomenal transition he's now experiencing. He's lonely, depressed, and his life is completely different. To say there isn't a great need for gerentological programs in this area is ludicrous. Our society is focused on the young, couples, etc. thus a serious change needs to take place to support our precious elders in this period of their lives.

I think that there are a lot of genuine retirement coaches out there but I do agree that there are a lot of scams. I hate that so many people provide for themselves. I think the best way to hire someone that is truly who they say that they are is to have someone, a trusted friend or family member, help them while working with the professional at least until trust is established.

Seniors are far more advanced in their thinking than the negative replies in the commentary presented in such a negative theory. Shame on you

I have never seen so much negative material in my life. I must admit that I did not read every word on these pages but I don't think I could. You negative folks remind me of some old grannies that are complaining about young people who wear clothes that are different from your granny stuff that you don't approve of because it's new fashion.
Everything in the old days was better.
I am a 70 year old woman and you people sound like my grandmother. Wake up and smell the roses this is not 1945. you are missing so much in this world it makes me so sad. I know many of you are on a fixed income which doesn't allow you to spend money on the extras but get a life and let go of those old archaic thoughts. When was the last time you even read a book? Open your minds to 2016. Thank GOD that you are still alive and try to catch up with the times and try to live the updated life you deserve. Wake up and LIVE. Try it you actually might enjoy what's left of your life.

I was happy to find this site in an internet search but terribly disappointed when I saw 2006
at the top of the first page. A real turn-off for someone looking for up-to-date info on dealing with life as a senior. I saw no reason to read further but thought you might find my comments of interest.

The comments to this entry are closed.