So often when we think about people aging in place, we envision people in their seventies, eighties, and even nineties. But aging in place is a lot like NOW AND LATER candy. You need to be doing things NOW, as in while you are in your fifties and sixties, in order to greatly increase the likelihood that your LATER years can be spent where and how you want to spend them…at home.
With that being said, let’s talk about what you can and should be doing now.
1: Eat a healthy diet. As we get older, our bodies don’t process foods in the same way as they did when we were younger. That is the nice way of saying you can’t eat as much as you did a few years ago without gaining weight and going up a size (or two). It’s called metabolism. A decrease in activity as well as the level of activity are also contributing factors.
A healthy diet, for those of you who need to be reminded, is one that consists of fresh foods from all food groups, instead of processed foods, pre-packaged foods, and foods filled with dyes, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and sugar. This is not to say you should never enjoy a piece of pecan pie or a handful of cheese puffs, but these should be the exceptions rather than the norm. A healthy diet also consists of proper portions. We are a society that is grossly addicted to excess. Super-sizing, deluxe sizes, and extra-large are not terms that should be applicable to the amount of food on our plates.
A few decades ago, there was a popular slogan used for a number of different reasons. It was, ‘garbage in…garbage out’. It is still applicable to our diets. If we eat ‘garbage’ (the things listed in the previous paragraph), it is going to come out by way of belly fat, plaque on our arteries, high blood pressure, and a whole lot of other health issues. Another slogan we need to keep in mind is the one that says, ‘you are what you eat’.
Once we reach the age of fifty, medical research and real life, proves that we are at a higher risk for a number of different health conditions and issues:
High blood pressure
Arthritis, osteoporosis, and other causes of weakened bones and joints
Most types of cancer
Anxiety and depression
Hearing loss and impaired vision
Decreased levels of coordination and balance
Your body heals and recovers from illness, injury, or surgery at a much slower rate
You have more trouble sleeping
Wrinkles, age spots, and loss of skin elasticity
Shakiness when trying to hold something steady
These are the only things that happen to us as we age, and quite honestly, some of them are nothing more than the aging process doing its ‘thing’. BUT by eating a healthy diet which consists of only (or almost only) fresh, natural, untainted foods, we can slow or even stop many of these things from happening. And by doing so NOW, the chances of being able to continue to age in place LATER are significantly higher than they will be otherwise.
2: Exercise. This is not code for dragging out all your old Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, and Kathy Ireland videos. Please…just don’t. Instead, here is what you should do:
Walk. Walking a minimum of 10,000 steps a day is one of the absolute best things you can do for your body and your mind. Walking is low impact, it increases circulation, it sends oxygen flowing throughout the body, which keeps your blood healthy, your organs functioning more efficiently, and your mind clearer. Walking also gives you time to mediate, visit with your spouse or friends, and enjoy nature. FYI: If the weather is not conducive to walking outdoors, invest in a simple treadmill and walk at your normal pace for an hour a day. You can also break it up into two or three sessions.
Join a gym that offers classes for people over fifty. Not only will this allow you to exercise safely, but you will also get the added benefit of socializing.
Swim. Swimming is an EXCELLENT means of exercise for anyone. It is easy on the muscles and joints, and the buoyancy you experience in the water allows you to experience a wider range of movement and at a higher rate of repetition than you would outside the water. And trust me—a swimsuit body is not what you need to be concerned about.
Low to medium impact sports. Golf, pickle ball, yoga, Pilates, ballet, tap, ballroom dancing, square dancing, ping-pong, yard games (croquet, cornhole, badminton), and riding a bike are all great choices.
NOTE: Do not start anything too strenuous if you have not been exercising up to this point. Start slow and easy to minimize the risk of injury. Also, if you have a health condition, talk to your doctor about what forms of exercise he or she feels is safest and best for you.
NOTE: If you are already involved in an exercise routine or sport that is more strenuous than the ones listed, keep going. Just be sure to listen to your body. A great example of this was Duane. Duane was still hitting and full-on running the bases on the church league softball team each summer well into his sixties. A diagnosis of cancer and the treatments he had to take ended his ball playing, but prior to that, his body was perfectly capable of handling the physical aspects of the game, and he did it well. So, as long as you are capable, go for it!
Keep your mind sharp. Read, do puzzles, play games, and challenge yourself to learn something new. The something new may be a new hobby, or listening to podcasts, reading fun facts, or playing trivia. It doesn’t matter. Just keep your mind working.
Spend time with people of all ages. Grandkids do help you stay young. Teenagers can actually be lots of fun and incredibly helpful when it comes to understanding and using your laptop, tablet, and phone. You can trade them some lessons on those things for pizza and conversation. They will actually enjoy hearing about their parents’ childhood or going through your costume jewelry and other vintage-y stuff that is so popular right now. On the flipside, spending time with people older than you can inspire you to take better care of yourself. You can also learn what to do and what not to do going forward.
Keep working…or volunteering…or both. Some people retire in their fifties. Law enforcement officers, members of the military, and business owners who hand a family business over to the next generation, are among those who tend to retire at a younger age than the norm of sixty-two or sixty-five. Regardless of your age when you retire, you need to continue working in some capacity as long as you possibly can. Why? Because…
Contributing to the workforce or giving of yourself as a volunteer causes you to feel useful—and justifiably so. This realization is significant for several reasons. It prevents you from feeling useless and regarded as expendable. Working or volunteering also keeps your mind sharp and your body moving, which, as you have already learned, is vital to successful aging in place.
Many people also find that supplementing their income is a ‘must’ post-retirement. John, for example, spent thirty years as a law enforcement officer. When he retired at age fifty-five, he determined that the changes in what he would have to pay for healthcare coverage would necessitate working a small part-time job if he and his wife wanted to do some of the things they planned to do. Over the course of six years, the cost of their healthcare increased by a whopping 250%! That translates to a monthly cost to John and his wife of $864. So, working to supplement their income is now not an option. Thankfully, he is in excellent health and has a great-paying part-time job, and his wife, who is a freelancer, can work from anywhere.
This could easily be you. It might already be you. If so, you understand the need to work. Hopefully, you also understand just how important it is for you to take care of yourself so that you can.
If working is not a necessity for you, you might still want to consider doing so. Just in case. Or if money is not a concern, at the very least, volunteer your time, talents, and energy to something you find enjoyable, for a few hours a week.
Think ahead. By downsizing the clutter, aka treasures in your home NOW, you can do it as you see fit instead of leaving it for someone else or being told how to do it LATER. By picking and choosing to have a few things done for you NOW—things like home repairs and heavy-duty housecleaning, you will probably be able to do the things you like to do LATER. By making your house a little safer NOW, you reduce the chances of problems that can occur LATER.
Taking the NOW and LATER approach to aging in place is the smart choice. Will you make it your choice?
Guest post By Darla Nobel
The views expressed by the author may not reflect the views of Age Safe America, LLC. The content here should not be taken as medical, legal or financial advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your own healthcare, legal or financial professional with any questions.