Do It While You Can

No one knows how long they will remain physically or mentally able to enjoy what life has to offer. The reality of aging is things get harder rather than easier as the years pass. Activities we took for granted just a few decades ago may suddenly become too difficult to undertake. No one wants to spend their second act looking in the rear view mirror at what was. We want to look forward to what will be.

Glenn Frey of the Eagles said, “People don’t run out of dreams; people run out of time.” Think of all those plans you hope to embrace once you leave work behind to focus 100 percent on retirement. Free time is a blessing. Freedom to do what you want when you want is what retired life is all about. Once you arrive the trick is to not let the moments pass you by without making an impact, without grabbing for all you can.

My folks have been retired about 20 years. They have pretty much given up on long distance travel. Hassles of airports and security lines, rental cars and navigating unfamiliar surroundings is to the point they just don’t want to do it anymore. But before that they were traveling machines. They wandered Europe in a VW bug while my dad was stationed in Germany. They made regular car trips across the US in search of historic sites and memorable monuments. Mom and dad truly traveled, loved it, have collected many great memories, and are now content with staying closer to home. The point is they did it while they could.

A month ago my dad had a stroke. He is 85 and had been struggling a bit over the past year with his balance and a slight slur when he talks. The stroke was severe impacting his speech and leaving him paralyzed on his left side. After three weeks of intensive rehabilitation he is improving and we are moving him home. But once home, mom will require 24/7 help to assist with day to day living for how long yet to be determined. Dad is improving – we can understand what he says and he is getting stronger. But how far will he recover? No one knows.

You don’t always have to wait for retirement. I know it’s hard to set aside time when living an incredibly busy life but how rewarding it can be to explore your passions before you retire. Younger with more stamina and no sore knees you can truly enjoy the moments to their maximum. Your eyesight is as good as it will ever be. You may feel a bit tired at days end but you have the will to press on – mind over matter is still possible. Although you cannot do all those things you hope before your second act delaying everything is a risk. You never know where you will be or in what shape in 10 or more years.

Most of my family is big believers in walking, hiking and generally getting out into nature. My wife and I deliberately chose a retirement area with an abundance of state and national parks packed with enough winding trails and hidden vistas to keep us busy for years. My favorite aunt at age 75 traipses around the world on tours and trips that inevitable involve navigating many miles on foot each day. And don’t get me started about my Swiss family. They can walk me into the ground while easily hiking seemingly vertical paths leading to hidden lakes and secluded restaurants only accessible on foot (or helicopter). We are generally in the same age group and love hitting the trail. And we realize we may not be so fortunate to be as mobile as my aunt when we reach her age so we do it now while we still can.

Having reached retirement age or thereabouts most of us realize we are not in control of as much as we would like to be. So much is beyond our sway if we hope to make good on our second act we must remain opportunistic. Don’t let possible good times pass us by. Stop thinking about it and instead do it. Get going while the going is good. I know I cannot change the past. And I don’t know exactly what the future has in store. But I am here today, now, in this moment. It is up to me to make the most of this moment while I am still ready and willing and able.

How Better Self-Care Leads to Happy Retirement

Written by Jessica Hegg

The sunny horizon of retirement glows with hopes and ideals of a work-free, pain-free, worry-free life. A happy retirement, however, depends on how you prepare in the decades leading up to your Golden Years. Outside of working hard and bolstering savings and investments, attention to regular self-care is a must for building a happy future.

Self-care literally means “taking care of yourself.” Amidst working, setting goals, raising kids, running errands, and essentially just functioning on a day to day basis, we can lose the drive to actually live and flourish in our experiences. Self-care is the little voice that tells us to pause, breath, be alone with ourselves and tune into the love and attention our bodies and minds are begging for. Don’t miss these quick self-care tips for promoting a happy, well-rounded retirement:

Regular exercise: The coincidence of retirement and old age means plans and dreams can easily get blindsided by health problems. Regular exercise now, and into retirement years, bears innumerable benefits, from combating Alzheimer’s and dementia to warding off weight gain, high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes. Retain muscle strength, flexibility, and balance with routine fitness as well, which helps prevent falls and common injuries that plague older adults.

Mini-meditations: Mini meditation can happen through yoga, tai chi, or simply taking a few minutes to sit still and practice deep breathing and body awareness. Checking in to your emotions and thoughts without the distractions of devices, chores, or work is vital to understanding your own needs and state of happiness, now and in the future. Body and mind awareness also make you a better communicator and partner in relationships. Understanding how you are feeling and vocalizing your wants and needs with honesty will benefit your social connectedness and relationships you have in retirement with your spouse, family, and friends.

Dealing with aches and pains: Sore muscles and chronic back pain don’t just disappear once retirement rolls around. Recognizing day to day pain and developing a daily care routine that helps address it means a stronger, healthier pain-free you in retirement. Your self-care practices to deal with pain may include daily stretches, weekly baths, self-soothing techniques like rubbing lotion on your hands or applying heat and ice to your back.

Routine check-ups: Preventative check-ups and treatments are a bit of medical self-care that you can find assistance with from your doctor. Yearly exams, physicals and preventative tests (i.e. blood tests, prostate and breast exams), give you control over your future, help you prevent disease and illness, and provide peace of mind knowing that there are no mysteries surrounding your health.

Finding time to play: Take five to ten un-orchestrated minutes of your day to literally play. Goof around, dance to your favorite song, roll around with your dogs – being actively unstructured in just being you is great practice for a happy retirement and promotes mental wellness. In retirement, you start working at living, no longer the other way around. Letting loose to play, relax and simply enjoy the fun of life is the type of self-care that will inspire you in retirement.

Cleaning house: Your mental clarity and physical well-being can often reflect the state of your own environment. Feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Look around your room, house or office – is there disarray, piles of paper, dirty dishes, simply loads and loads of “things” you have collected over the years? Prep for a happy retirement by taking time to declutter your surroundings. Make it a monthly practice to donate gently used items and clothing that you no longer use or that don’t truly bring you joy. Self-care of your own space builds a positive foundation for a happy retirement.

The Key to an Easy Retirement…

Self-care nourishes your body, mind, and soul; helping you feel more connected to yourself and the world. While your working years are so often devoted to others – your kids, your job, your house – retirement is a time of reawakening and rediscovering the simple pleasures in life. Take care of yourself and retirement will take care of you!