The other night our visiting kids asked us how to prepare for old age. I thought about our younger generation for some answers.
In my opinion, I explained to them, preparing for old age begins when you are young. And many of the kids today have it right. Bucket lists are back in style, and the youth of today put emphasis on doing and being, rather than having.
Prepare for Old Age While Young
Work on your bucket list. Don’t stress about it, but keep it handy and refer to it often. You don’t have to do it all, but if there are things you want to do, do them now while you have time and energy.
When you are in your prime and have choices of things to do or places to go, just go and do them. Make sacrifices in other areas so you can go and do what you want now.
We’re thankful we traveled while we were young. We made some choices then that were beyond our means. But those opportunities provided us with wonderful memories now that we are older.
You’ll cherish these memories as you reach your senior years, when you may not be able to do all those fun things.
Nurture Long-term Relationships
Youth is a time to form relationships that can last a lifetime. But it takes time and energy to nurture these relationships. It’s easy when you are young to get “too busy” and neglect this gift to your future self.
Make time to relax and enjoy during your younger years. Spend more time with friends and family. Build relationships at school or church, bond with others through hobbies, mingle with work friends.
Keep in touch while you are young. Because later in life, calling a friend you have known for 30, 40, even 50 years or more will be truly a priceless gift.
Take Care of Yourself
Several friends have returned from doctors’ appointments with the admonition to change their diets: cut out excess fat, sugar, salt, etc. On top of health issues and other physical life changes, taking away favorite foods can be dispiriting, to say the least.
I notice so many young people eating well and exercising. They are giving themselves a healthy foundation, for which their future selves will thank them.
It’s not as easy to continue eating well and exercising as we get older. I’m always on the lookout for ways to better plan to prepare fresh food with minimal effort. And, after getting the OK from my doctor, I’ve started doing Qi Gong exercises. I find it has the double benefit of relaxation as well as gentle exercise.
Keep Costs in Mind
Whatever career you choose, be sure to include plans for retirement.
We have found that we really need more than social security and our pension to live comfortably in retirement. You hear about living on a “fixed income.” Social Security increases are few and far between. But prices continue to rise, even though your income remains the same.
And younger people today can’t rely on Social Security and pensions as we once did. Save for your future needs, and find low interest credit cards in case you need them. Just try to have them paid off before the “fixed income” part starts.
Depending on how old you are now, health insurance as we know it may be completely different when you reach retirement age. But even with Medicare, there are co-pays and other costs that aren’t covered without supplemental insurance.
Plan to Age in Place Comfortably
Cold or extreme hot weather can take its toll as we get older. Even if you are a snow bunny now, you can’t imagine how brutal the cold feels for some of us as we age. But before you head for a milder climate, check out the surroundings.
Does the area have
- A safe neighborhood
- A lower cost of living
- Transportation services
- Food delivery services
- Housekeeping services
- Access to social services
- Home Health Aides available
- Medical care that accepts Medicare/your insurance
- Hospitals nearby
Does the area fit your lifestyle? Visit during the day and at night. And if it’s a touristy place, think about the extremes of the season vs. the off season. Think about how far it is from your children and if you’d like to be closer to them.
Loneliness is a critical issue for so many older adults. Does the area have access to your contemporaries or peers?
Learn New Things
Try not to pass up the opportunity to learn something new.
As we get older, keeping our minds active is important to keep our minds working well as we age. Learning new things is just one of many ways to keep your mind sharp.
For example, we didn’t learn how to use computers until later in life. At first we thought: We don’t need to learn this. But our kids insisted, and they were right.
We could not have imagined how important cell phones, computers and tablets would become in our later years.
Learning and using these digital gadgets has certainly kept our minds active. The ease of instant contact with loved ones and friends helps stave off loneliness. And we thought shopping online for groceries and home products was just a convenience. But it has become a necessity now that we can’t get out as often as we used to.
Kids today have vast opportunities for learning new skills. When you are young, it’s fun to learn new things, and you may uncover talents you didn’t know you had. And as a bonus, more knowledge can also benefit job hunting.
Many of us will work past age 65, whether by choice or necessity. But once we retire, suddenly having all the time in the world can be disorienting. So make plans to learn all the things you always wanted to, “if only you had the time” to learn them.
Plan to continue learning; it can help keep our time balanced, and let us ease into this new way of life.
Avoid Clutter, But Keep a Few Mementos
I grew up with few extras and never had the urge to accumulate. But I did hold on to mementos: the wedding invitation of a dear friend, a card tucked into a book given to me as a gift, letters from special people in my life.
And I am so glad I held onto them.
I was lucky enough to reconnect with several of those dear friends much later along life’s path. Their delight when they realized I had saved those precious memories was heartwarming.
The appreciation we have for times past becomes precious as we age. So make great memories, hold onto a few dear things, and let the rest go.
Focus on the Positive
Coming to terms with aging isn’t easy, but it isn’t all gloomy either.
Focusing on the good times and practicing gratitude while you are young can get you through some trying times as you age. Acceptance and gratitude can get you out of dark places more quickly than anger and blame.
Forgiveness is every good thing you’ve heard it to be. Learn to forgive yourself and others.
You may also have to accept help when you get older. Cultivate a willingness to let others help you while you are younger. It will make your life easier as you age.
Think About the Future
Often throughout your life you may wish you just had more time to get things done. As we age many of us have less demands on our time. This is the time to do what you want to do.
You could take this time to spend with grand kids, become more involved in your community, or research your family history. Think about the things you’d like to do in your retirement.
Look ahead to taking advantage of having time to choose what you want to do, whenever you want to do it.
For now enjoy yourself, invest in relationships, save some money, pay off your debts, and take care of yourself. Your future self will thank you.