Aging Well Requires Some Planning

Many of us use the New Year as a time to take stock of our lives and devise a plan that will help us reach our goals for the coming year and beyond. One things most people look forward to is a healthful and prosperous retirement. For most of us, to reach that goal requires some effort. Here are some tips to help you reach retirement in good health and financially sound.

Stay (or become) physically active

Physical activity is critical for maintain good health and stave off the negative effects of aging. Even when started later in life, exercise can lower your risk for a host of ailments, including chronic diseases, physical disability and even memory loss. And you don’t have to spend hours thousands of dollars or spend countless hours in the gym to get positive results from exercise. A study conducted at the University of Sydney in Australia suggested that by replacing one hour of sitting each day with walking, we can reduce our chance of early death by 12 to 14 percent. Don’t have an hour to spare? Break it up into smaller increments. Three 20-minute walks work just as well as one hourlong stroll.

Become more conscious of nutrition

We are what we eat. That cliché is actually quite literally true. Nutrients from the foods you eat food provide the foundation of every cell in your body. Give your body the right fuel and it will run better for years to come. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, a poor diet and physical inactivity (see above) are the leading contributors to premature death in the US. Mediterranean-style diets – which places an emphasis on eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and eating moderate amounts of fish while using healthy fats and oils like those found in nuts, olives and avocados – have been particularly successful in helping people age well. The Harvard Health Letter suggests following such a diet can reduce your risk for heart attack, stroke and premature death. Eating well also means avoiding foods such as trans fats, highly processed foods, and sugar, which have shown to be detrimental to good health.

 Stay socially active

Human connection is essential for a healthy life. People who are socially active tend to be healthier in both mind and body. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who were socially active in their 50s and 60s had slower rates of memory decline compared to those who were more isolated. Another study conducted at Brigham Young University found that the social isolation and loneliness is as dangerous to health as obesity. So, give your friends a call and head out to a movie or dinner. Take a morning stroll with your neighbor. If you find it hard to meet people, volunteer. You’ll not only made some great connections, you’ll find a new purpose in life, which can also enhance your well-being.

Save your money

People are living longer than ever before. While that’s a good thing, it means we need more money as we head into retirement that we used to. The ability to live comfortably throughout a retirement that may be several years longer than our parents’ means we need to start saving early. If you’re already at or near retirement age, talk to a financial planner about ways you can still optimize your assets and plan ahead for a fiscally healthy future.

Document your medical wishes

None of want to be in a situation where others are making life-and-death decisions for us. That’s why it pays to plan ahead. An Advance Directive, or “living will,” makes your wishes known to loved ones and healthcare providers by specifying what kind of medical treatment you would want – and what measures you don’t want taken – in the event you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. You should also appoint someone you trust as a Medical Power of Attorney to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Keep a positive attitude

We can’t always control what happens in our life, but we always have control over how we react to adversity. The American Heart Association found that heart disease patients who had positive attitudes exercised more and had a 42 percent less chance of dying. By following the tips above and keeping a positive attitude about life, your life can remain vibrant, active and purposeful, even as you age.