By Jim Towey
This month begins the 25th anniversary celebration of Five Wishes. Who could have imagined back in the fall of 1998 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver joined me at the National Press Club in Washington, DC for the press conference announcing its national release, or when the subsequent NBC-TV “Today Show” segment gave Five Wishes national prominence, all the great things that have happened since. Over 41 million copies have been sold or distributed in the United States and abroad, and it is now available in 30 languages through our network of over 50,000 partner organizations.
It is not the widespread popularity of Five Wishes that makes me proud as much as the difference it is making in the lives of the millions of Americans who have turned to Aging with Dignity for advance care planning help. They trust us to help them plan for and discuss how they want to be treated during times of serious illness. By making that discussion include the spiritual, personal and emotional dimension so that dying is not treated as simply a medical moment, we successfully broadened the subject to focus attention where it needs to be – on protecting and preserving God-given human dignity. The fact that today Five Wishes meets the statutory requirements of nearly all 50 states (when we began, it was only 33) gives legal assurance to families that the wishes of their loved ones will be respected and followed.
In 25 years, not one penny more
And here is the astonishing fact: in the 25 years since we launched Five Wishes, we have not raised its price by one penny. I repeat, a single copy of Five Wishes still costs $5, just as it did when we began, which was when Bill Clinton was president; the band U2 released “Sweetest Thing,” Lauryn Hill sang “Doo Wop (That Thing)”; and moviegoers were crying in their popcorn watching the year’s best picture, “Titanic.”
Twenty-five years ago, a dozen eggs cost $1.06; now they cost $2.90 – a 174% increase – and the price is going up fast. You could get a first-class U.S. postage stamp 25 years ago for 32 cents. Now you have to shell out more than double that, 60 cents. And 25 years ago, a gallon of gasoline cost an average of $1.66. Today, it’s $3.76 and climbing.
But at Aging with Dignity, the more things change, the more our price remains the same. Five Wishes still costs a dollar a wish! And if you order 25 copies, you pay a dollar a copy, a bargain price that, too, has not changed.
Sure, we could have raised our prices at various times, including now with inflation soaring, but we didn’t. We want to help as many individuals and families as we can. And thanks to the generosity of our donors and loyalty of our thousands of organizational customers, we can continue to operate our non-profit without raising the price of a copy of Five Wishes.
Happy customers, better lives
While prices have remained flat, the joy of our customers has soared. I love the mail, email and phone calls we get at our headquarters in Tallahassee. So many testimonials pour in and I can’t publish them all. But here are two that I love:
- “As a nurse, I chose to use Five Wishes as my instruction document for my family. They can understand and relate to the content…Thank you for your work. We all need to age with dignity, no matter what age we complete in our earthly journey.” – Joyce Eden, Clovis, CA.
- “[M]y sister is in hospice and I am her medical [power of attorney] and advocate. I have referenced her Five Wishes and have allowed others to read her Five Wishes to provide them peace and comfort as their loved one is facing imminent death. This couldn’t have come at a better time for me and my family.” – Theresa M. Barnard, Tulsa, OK
You will be hearing a good many stories like these as we celebrate this silver jubilee year and how Five Wishes has changed how Americans do advance care planning. As the health care decision-making process becomes increasingly less personal and more complicated, Five Wishes will be needed more than ever. Patients have the right to decide the kind of medical treatment they want or don’t want, how comfortable they want to be, how they want to be treated, and what they want their loved ones to know.
Families all over America will soon be gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday, which makes it a good time to have important family discussions, using Five Wishes as a guide. That turkey you’ll enjoy will certainly cost more than it did 25 years ago, but not Five Wishes. It’s the same value at the same price. Who else in America can make that claim?
(Aging with Dignity is offering a special holiday Gathering Kit, which includes 15 copies of Five Wishes; two copies of the Conversation Guide for Individuals and Families; access to a video on completing your Five Wishes; and five of our famous Five Wishes pens. The Gathering Kit is $50, which is 50% off the cost of those items if purchased separately. And share your Five Wishes story with us!)