15/01/2015 05:36 GMT | Updated 16/03/2015 05:59 GMT

Why January is the Perfect Opportunity for a Vital Conversation

Usually the beginning of the year signals a time for change and something new. Where previous Januarys have seen people searching online for holiday deals and high street sales, this year more and more will be typing terms into Google such as 'care home', 'nursing home' and 'retirement living'. The latest figures reveal Google searches for these terms increased by 73% between December 2013 and January 2014, and, the current number of enquiries we are getting heralds another rise in this year's statistics, too . We know that this spike following the festive period is no coincidence.

It's often only when families come together over the festive period that it becomes apparent an older relative is need of extra care or support. At other times of the year it can be easier for people to conceal how much they are struggling when speaking on the phone or having visitors for a day. Talking about what happens when we need help and support in later life is really difficult. Last year we commissioned some research which found that 76% of people have not discussed their options with the person they trust most to make a decision for them. That's why we created Grey Matters to help people have open and clear conversations about later life, sooner.

Co-authored by a leading behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings, our Grey Matters guide provides tips and advice for talking about retirement living earlier and helps us all to be more proactive about planning for later life. Having this kind of conversation earlier (rather than waiting until a defining moment over the turkey when you realise something is wrong) is vital so older people and their relatives have time to explore the options for retirement, care and housing, well before a crisis point.

We strongly believe that later life is about living well; there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution that will suit everyone. Having a conversation earlier allows more time to really think about what's important to you at that stage of life. It's all about choices and shaping the retirement that you want. For example, when it comes to downsizing, there are a variety of options available from retirement villages and retirement housing. While those with greater care needs might have to consider moving into a care home.

So, don't leave it until next Christmas to have your Grey Matters conversation. Why not make that a new year's resolution that you can stick to?