Good health is a blessing that we take for granted while young but learn to treasure as we advance in years. Something that takes no conscious effort in our twenties and thirties, starts to require a little attention in our forties and fifties as “things” begin to slow down (like our metabolism), and becomes a focal point in our 60+ and retirement life. In efforts to fight the effects of aging, we exercise diligently, watch our diet religiously, and cut back on the “bad things” even though they are so good. Without good health, our senior quality of life can be less than what we hope for and deserve after working all our lives.
Consider your health
To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable – Oscar Wilde
Baby boomers and the rest of the senior citizens that will increasingly make up our planet over the coming years need to factor health into elderly lifestyle considerations. Challenges of old age will arise as retirees become even more senior and it is important that we learn to cope with the impact of aging. Although we cannot plan 100% for what we do not know, it is important to make some preparations and start having discussions to avoid being caught flat-footed.
- If you are contemplating moving to a new location to retire, you need to investigate the local hospitals and health care infrastructure. How far would you need to travel for regular checkups? In case of an emergency, where is the nearest help coming from? What about your primary care physician? If you decide to move to a small town to enjoy your neighbors and neighborhood, your options may be limited.
- Understanding the current health care programs and selecting the right coverage for you and your spouse is critical. Walter Cronkite once said that “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” But it is what it is. Healthy now can change abruptly and you want to be protected. The laws and terms are evolving as we speak and to say they are complex is an understatement. However, to research the options and apply to your individual retired situation, the National Council on Aging provides some helpful advice and additional links as well as programs that can help you pay for prescription drugs and other health care costs.
- Senior housing may become a consideration as you move further into your retirement years. If you are unable to safely take care of yourself in your own home, for your sake and that of your family, you should examine this option. There is a lot of information available on the internet but a good place to start is with our friends at AARP. They offer a collection of helpful information about retirement communities including state by state listings as well as what to look for before making a move.
- The health of a spouse may become a factor as the two of you enter old age. You have been through the good times together and have built a mountain of wonderful memories. Now suddenly, half of that perfect couple is physically or mentally impaired and the future looks far different from what you planned. Support from other family members can help but it still comes down to the daily efforts required just to do the little things. Professional support and advice should be considered so you do not feel you are in this alone. A difficult time with no easy answer but you should consider the possibility.
Bottom line, we can continue to fight aging each day and strive for a healthy retirement living and we should. As Ellen Degeneres shared “You have to stay in shape. My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven today, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”
We also need to accept that old age with all of its senior health challenges is the reality. But rather than fear and fight aging, we can instead attempt to embrace this stage in our lives. We are evolving and maturing. In her article “Aging’s Misunderstood Virtues”, Paula Span references Lars Tornstam saying “the mistake we make in middle age is thinking that good aging means continuing to be the way we were at 50. Maybe it’s not. People tell us they are different people at 80. They have new interests, and they have left some things behind.”
Thoreau said “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” Be the person you were meant to be, live the life you want to live, do what you want to do. That is what retirement should be about. To your good health…
Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.