Do you feel prepared for elderhood?
While people don’t refer to it as “the golden years” as much anymore, life’s later chapter can be a wonderful one, with slower days, richer memories, and more free time and reflection. Aging well takes preparation outside of just saving for retirement and, for many of us, that can be a blind spot.
The Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research (CADER) describes the healthcare industry in the U.S. as a “technological and bureaucratic maze that, for many older adults, is difficult, if not impossible, to navigate without the support of professionals who know the system and how to use it”. Working in geriatric care management, our team knows firsthand the challenges of aging within a system with minimal built-in community support for the elderly. One of the most difficult things about aging can be the loss of independence that can come with it, and the loss of sense of identity and autonomy that follow.
Maintaining independence as one ages requires conscious effort and thoughtful planning. In this guide, we'll explore a range of strategies and insights to empower adults of all ages—particularly retirees—to ensure they are able to stay independent for longer in later life and not need to rely heavily on those around them.
Prioritize Physical and Mental Well-being
Chronic pain, acute health problems, and mobility issues in older age can all mean relying on formal or informal care. While some health issues come with the territory as we get older, it’s important to truly prioritize staving off some of the more preventable problems. Engaging in regular exercise and eating whole, diverse, nutrient-dense foods, can help minimize physical limitations and boost overall well-being. Similarly, engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as reading, puzzles, or learning a new skill keeps the mind sharp and agile.
Embrace Technology as a Tool
Today's technology landscape offers a plethora of tools that can enhance independence. Technology bridges gaps and empowers individuals to manage their lives efficiently, from wearable fitness trackers that monitor health metrics to apps that provide grocery delivery and virtual doctor visits.
Stay Connected to a Social Network
Human connections are vital to maintaining a sense of purpose and independence. In younger years, make an effort to maintain your relationships with people you love. Retirees can join local clubs, take classes, or participate in volunteer work to stay engaged with their community. In the digital age, social media and video conferencing platforms enable retirees to connect with family and friends across distances.
Choose the right health plan
Geriatric care experts know – more Americans need to invest in long-term insurance. Many people assume that their private health plan or Medicare/Medicaid will cover their health-related expenses as they age but these systems do not cover long-term care that includes in-home caregivers or a nursing home/assisted living facility stay.
Plan Financially for the Long Haul
Financial independence is a cornerstone of overall independence. Careful financial planning and investment during working years can yield a stable income stream during retirement. Engage with financial advisors to ensure your retirement fund is well-structured to support your desired lifestyle.
Consider Downsizing and Simplifying
As the years go by, decluttering and downsizing can offer freedom from the burden of excessive possessions. A smaller, more organized living space requires less maintenance and allows retirees to focus on experiences rather than belongings.
Access Healthcare and Support Services
Maintaining independence involves acknowledging the need for assistance when required. Accessing healthcare services, regular check-ups, and creating a support network of caregivers ensures that any health concerns are addressed promptly.
Set Personal Goals and Dreams
… and prioritize achieving them at any age. It’s important not to put your own wants and needs on hold regardless of age as you can find yourself relying on others for validation and a fuller life in elderhood. The retirement years can be the perfect time to pursue long-lost passions and bucket-list adventures. Setting personal goals and chasing dreams can infuse life with purpose and excitement.
Cultivate Resilience and Adaptability
Change is a constant companion in life; embracing it with resilience and adaptability is key to maintaining independence. Learning to navigate challenges and uncertainties fosters a sense of self-reliance and empowerment. In younger years, it’s crucial to continue to learn important life skills, like driving, changing a tire, shopping, cooking, and cleaning, regardless of role or gender.
Create a Lasting Legacy
As individuals age, thoughts of the legacy they leave behind often come to the forefront. Whether through creating memoirs, passing down traditions, or engaging in philanthropic activities, leaving a positive mark on the world can provide a profound sense of purpose and independence.
Senior Steps is a geriatric care management company that works with seniors and their families to provide guidance and assistance with medical, legal, and financial advocacy and planning, and help with activities of daily living. If you would like to speak with us about the services we offer to seniors and caregivers, please visit seniorsteps.org/book-online or message us through any of our social media platforms to book a FREE consultation call or a 2-hour virtual assessment.