A lot of people have negative thoughts about aging. They think of it as a period of decline. Maybe they picture being alone or living in a nursing home. In reality, aging can be a time of growth and enjoyment. Of course, we may have to deal with physical changes and challenges. But, with the right plan we can embrace aging. It’s time to face aging with laughter rather than fear.
If you have a negative concept of aging, we first recommend you separate fact from fiction. Try this quiz to learn the truth behind common beliefs about aging. And, check out “How many times do I have to tell you, 65 is not old!!!”.
Our Five Step Plan for Laughing at Aging
Want to find out how well you’re doing? Click Here to take our aging wisely quiz and get a FREE planning checklist chock full of tips for various life stages.
Decline to decline.
Yes, an aging body is in a state of decline. No, this is not completely out of your control. For example, overall muscle strength decreases as we get older. However, any individual could actually become stronger in the next X# of years. How? By doing more to increase your strength than nature does to decrease it! Just take a look at our examples of Fit Over 50 role models for some inspiration.
Now’s the time to fight the decline with this action plan:
- Start exercising or increase/diversify your routine. Make sure to include weight-bearing/strength-building exercises and those that help with balance. Tai chi, pilates, and yoga are great for balance and flexibility. Check out our free/cheap (and fun!) exercise ideas.
- Keep the brain active. Socialization and intellectual stimulation are vital anti-aging mechanisms. This doesn’t mean you have to become an extrovert or start playing chess. But, you should plan regular activities with friends and family. Or, try something new if you’re open to it. Pick one of your favorite interests and find a local class or meetup. Volunteer. Trade in TV time for reading or listening to a podcast or audiobook. Get creative…draw, journal, garden. Try crossword puzzles, word games or brain games.
- Be cautious with medications. Ask your pharmacist to do a medication review. When you meet with your doctor, ask what could be eliminated or reduced. Are there lifestyle changes or natural remedies you could try?
For more great ideas, read Lessons from the Blue Zones.
Take control of your health.
Stuff happens. We can live well and still get cancer or any number of diseases. However, more and more of our chronic conditions are caused by lifestyle factors. And, many of the bad things we’ve done to our bodies can be reversed. This isn’t just about living longer. It’s about living well. Follow us on Facebook for the latest tips and tricks for health and happiness.
Additionally, you should take an active role in your healthcare. Ask questions. Create a medical file (preferably online) to keep track of everything. Have an advocate who can help. Stop to think and ask about tests and treatments. Many seniors find themselves spending half their lives in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Sometimes that isn’t necessary. Examine the expected outcomes.
State (and share) what you want.
Execute legal documents for advance planning. These include a living will, durable power of attorney, and healthcare surrogate designation. Make sure these documents are accessible. Also, talk to your designated representatives. Equip them to make the decisions for you should they need to.
Set up a family meeting with a care manager. You can discuss expectations and desires with the help of an expert. Build a collaborative care plan together. There’s nothing worse than assuming your son or daughter will care for you without understanding what that means. It’s bad for both parties. Can they do it? Will they do it? Do you even want them to do it? What would it really be like (living with your child, having them provide intimate care)? A care manager can help you picture different options. You will better understand the realities and choices.
Plan for transitions.
Get your finances and estate planning organized. Your financial situation plays a big role in your options. Did you know the average cost of a nursing home (semi-private room) in Florida was $7400/month in 2016*? The average home care costs were about $3600. However, home care costs can vary widely since it’s highly flexible. Many times, a little affordable home care will enable you to stay healthy at home. This can actually save you a great deal of money.
Other care options include Independent Living Facilities that provide meals and other conveniences. However many families are surprised to discover they don’t provide any care. Continuing Care facilities may offer different levels of care on the same property but rarely in the same apartment. Assisted Living Facilities offer different levels of care and services for those who need assistance. Adult day care may also be combined with home care or used for caregiver respite.
All of these care options MAY be (partly) covered by benefits programs. But, that depends on eligibility and program funding. Expect waiting lists in many cases. Do you know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid? Did you know Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care? If you were hospitalized, do you know what aftercare options are available? Do you understand what your insurance covers? A care manager can help navigate this seemingly impossible maze of information. Knowing you’re prepared brings peace of mind.
Build your village.
We’re social creatures by nature. A support system can help when times are tough. But, they can also make life more joyful. Loneliness has been linked to cognitive decline. So, being around others is good, and good for you!
Your “aging wisely village” should also include the right professionals. Have trusted people you can turn to for questions or challenges. Learn the value of professional advisors.
Embrace the “aging paradox”.
This planning stuff sounds kind of serious. It is no laughing matter. But, when you’ve done it, you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Later life is a time of greater contentment.
Studies consistently show older people are happier, more satisfied, less depressed, and have less anxiety than younger respondents. Despite facing loss, people in their 90s appear to be most content (those in their 20s are least). This has been termed the aging paradox. Embrace and enjoy this period. We’ve seen many clients bring their sense of humor to even the toughest situations. Being able to truly laugh at aging (and life in general) is a lesson worth learning.