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We sometimes like to attribute our longevity to “good genes.” Since life expectancy in developed countries has increased by 25 years in the past 100, “good genes” may have little to do with it. But they do have something to do with the ills we experience. This may be why senior living facilities want to check your genetics.

There are genes associated with cardiovascular disease, acute ischemic stroke, heritable cardiomyopathies, breast and colon and pancreatic cancer and with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, ataxias and frontotemporal dementia.

Long before these have been cured, they have become, to some degree, predictable. Many of us would rather not know.

But the people who lend us money want to know that we, our estates or a life insurance policy will be able to repay them.

The people who market independent living facilities and continuing care retirement communities want to know that they will have a mix of relatively self-sufficient individuals both to predict costs and to successfully market. When we visit an independent living facility, a continuing care retirement community or even a naturally occurring retirement community (or “NORC”), we, too, want to see a lot of vibrant, active people in their 60s and 70s, not a lot of wheelchair or homebound people in their 80s and 90s.

Today, there is no law preventing the operators of senior living facilities from checking on your genes. Housing laws are based on discrimination based on current disabilities. What’s to come is still unsure.

Estate Planning attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.


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