You’re getting older, I’m getting older, your granddaughter is getting older…
Aging is a fact of life and no amount of hiding or insisting that age is only a number will change this. While it may be true that you are only as old as you feel, eventually even this will slip beyond your control. Luckily, there is a lot you can do to ease the process and ensure quality of life as you enter your golden years.
Many factors influence the experience of aging. With the piling on of years, your skin, bones, heart, and even your brain begin to show signs of wear. As with most things, being proactive is your best line of defense. Don’t wait to feel old to start changing up your self-care routine—making positive changes while you’re in your 40s and 50s can reap huge benefits for many birthdays to come. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for the future:
Bone health is a matter of diet and exercise. Advanced age causes reduced bone density that can lead to such conditions such as osteoporosis. While it is always best to speak to a physician about preventative measures, you can get ahead of the game by ensuring your diet is varied and vitamin-rich. Additionally, engaging in regular, load-bearing exercise, such as light weight lifting or—for the more adventurous—moderate hiking, will do wonders to keep your internal scaffolding strong.
Heart health is also a matter of exercise and diet. Pre-existing conditions aside, a regular exercise routine that raises your heart rate will work wonders for your long-term health. Get out and hike up your local hill or mountain! Or, if trudging through the woods isn’t your thing, join a dance class. Anything that increases your heart rate and causes you to break a sweat is good for your heart!
Aging skin is another concern for those entering their twilight years. At the risk of sounding repetitive, exercise and healthy eating are key. Sun exposure is another vital factor, so the less you worried about your tan when you were young(er), the better. It’s never too late to start applying sunscreen and covering up when getting outdoors, though. When you get out to hike up that local hill, be sure to wear a hat and lather that SPF 50 on all exposed skin.
Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. While maintaining your physical body is an essential part of slowing the clock, taking care of your mind is no less critical. This means staying socially active and intellectually engaged. It always means mitigating anxiety. One of the single largest sources of stress for aging adults is keeping financial affairs in order. You might think I’m kidding, but I bet the mere mention of an estate plan ticked your blood pressure up a notch. Again, a proactive approach is your best medicine.
Be organized. Keep a clear list of the savings or investments you have, the properties you own, and any debts you might carry. Similarly, make records of your household finances. Just as taxes are easier when your documents are in order, so too is planning your estate. Once you’ve done this—and you’re ready to start planning your estate—contact an estate planning attorney and draft a will. Knowing that you have a plan in place should something happen brings immeasurable peace of mind and works wonders in reducing anxiety.
Other steps you will want to take to protect your sanity as you age include organizing a “what if…” meeting with loved ones, settling power of attorney documents, starting a pension (if you haven’t already!), paying off debts or planning to do so, and implementing a budget that allows you the peace of mind of knowing you’ll be able to retire comfortably.
All of this—health, exercise, and financial management—are best addressed in concert with a professional, so you might consider scheduling a doctor’s appointment, researching a dietician, and speaking with an estate planning attorney. But not before you get out and climb that local hill (or take a walk around the local lake, or getting out for a walk with a few of your friends)! After all, stressful decisions are best made when relaxed, and nothing achieves this more readily than exercise and a little bit of fresh air.