North Americans are living longer than they used to and more importantly, enjoying their lives longer. We now know that exercise, diet, and a fulfilling life, based on strong relationships and passion, are key to longevity. You’re doing everything right to live life to its fullest for as long as possible.
All that being said, no one is immune from aging. And if you want to age well, there are more things to think about than diet, exercise, relationships, and a zest for life. There are still pressing issues for the future requiring attention. These issues might not seem important, but it’s wise to deal with them now because you might not be as capable when the time comes. I’m talking about what might still be years away, but nonetheless deserve your attention if you plan on maintaining a high quality of life into your later years.
As you get older, certain parts of your home can increase the risk for injury, cause mobility issues, and become far more of a hassle than they used to be. Stairs, bathrooms, kitchens, and yards pose a number of potential problems as people age. After all, some common conditions associated with aging are forgetfulness, mobility problems, and fragility. Walking up the stairs, getting in and out of the tub, reaching for something in a high cupboard, leaving the stove top on, or pruning the hedge might not be cause for concern at the moment, but likely will; it’s never too early to start thinking about it.
Setting up an accommodating living space for your older years involves some tough decisions and creating a budget. Some might not have to do much, while others have more work to do. Installing handles in the bathroom and other areas around the house, purchasing an easy-access tub with a doorway or moving into a single-level home without stairs or a condo without a yard are all things to consider.
Falling is a big concern for people as they age and can cause a number of problems, so reducing the risk is important. Even though you might feel strong and agile now, remember that we’re talking about the future. Falls can lead to fractures, disabilities, and other health problems so reducing the risk is definitely something worth thinking about.
It’s also important to consider daily things like where your meals are going to come from and how you’re going to get quality nutrition. As people age, their appetite often shrinks but they still need to eat to get vitamins and nutrients. Furthermore, often times seniors become less motivated to cook. There are programs available to help aging seniors get nutritious meals, either through in-house preparation or meal delivery services.
Home maintenance and housecleaning are other issues to think about. Staying in a big home where there are lots of potential jobs to do doesn’t particularly make sense for somebody who’s aging. It’s worthwhile now to go around and make a list of potential repairs, set a budget, and get them dealt with. If the repairs are too numerous, it might make sense to move.
Planning for emergencies is essential at any age, even right now. Always have a cell phone with you that has emergency numbers programmed and is easily accessible. It may seem silly, but it helps. I know of a few people who’ve had heart attacks on a golf course and without a cellphone in their pocket, they’d be dead.
Lastly, you want to write down your wishes for the future. This includes drafting a living will, selecting a power of attorney, and writing down which medical procedures you’re willing or unwilling to undertake. It’s important to do this with a clear head because as you age and possibly become sick, you may not be as mentally stable. It’s important that your wishes are carried out, so making those decisions before you might be incapable is crucial.
This seems like a lot and these issues might seem far away, but they are key factors in aging well and being prepared for the future. For some, moving into a community that’s focused on the needs of seniors may be an attractive option, while others want to age independently. Whatever direction you choose, be ready and think ahead.
“Americans living longer, more healthy lives,” Science Daily web site, September 12, 2013; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130912203321.htm, last accessed March 5, 2014.
“Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, September 20, 2013; http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html, last accessed March 5, 2013.