Let’s face it, aging is a time of transition. We transition physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. We each hope that as the transition proceeds, we “age well” and are ready to face whatever circumstance comes our way.
However, aging well can mean different things to different people. Most of us interpret it as taking care of ourselves physically by eating a healthy diet, exercising, regular health screenings and doing what it takes to remain disease-free and out of the doctor’s office or hospital. This is certainly one way of preparing for growing older.
But aging well can also mean having a well-thought out plan for those unexpected future events or circumstances that cannot be predicted with certainty. In other words, those bumps in the road steering you completely off course of your life plan. Like the saying goes, ‘you hope for the best but prepare for the worst.’ That may sound very pessimistic but if the worst ever happens, you’ll be so much better prepared and very thankful you did just that.
Here are some smart strategies to have in place making your transition into old age much smoother and less stressful not only for you but those who love you too:
- Equip your home to grow old with you
Begin to look at your home from an elderly person’s viewpoint. How easy is it to get into the bathtub or what happens if you can no longer climb stairs to get to your bedroom? Equipping your home long-term by making it more safe and user-friendly for old age can greatly reduce the chance of potential hazards resulting in injuries or worse. Do an annual safety review making necessary updates to stairs, baths, and the kitchen to make your home a safe environment.
- Have a plan for emergencies
If an emergency comes up, would you know what to do? As people grow older and grown children may live far away, it is wise to have a system for who you will call in an emergency, someone who checks on you daily, or what to do if you fall and can’t reach the phone. Some suggestions might be to wear at all times a device around your neck to push a button that automatically dials an emergency number or installing a personal alarm system in your home to alert you to any intruders.
- Reduce the risk of falls
One of the biggest threats to elderly people is the risk of falling. A fall can lead to fractures or a head injury resulting in disability or even death. Now is the time to practice exercises that can improve balance and strength lessening the likelihood of a fall.
- Buy long-term care insurance
Maybe you’ll never need it but a wise investment to consider is purchasing a long-term care insurance policy. This type of policy will reimburse policyholders a daily amount for services to assist them with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, or eating. There is usually a range of care options and benefits allowing you to select the services you need. Most of these policies can be used either to hire in-home nursing care helping an elderly person to remain in their own home or they can be applied to help pay for an assisted living or long-term care facility.
- Plan ahead for help you may need
Growing older often means you may not be able to do all the necessary chores you once were able to. Mowing the lawn, meal preparation, housecleaning, transportation, home repair, or help with keeping up with bill payments and financial documents. Think and look ahead as to services offered in your community assisting elderly people with these tasks so they don’t get neglected.
- Establish advance care directives
This is a very important part of planning for the golden years that should be done decades before you reach them. Have a living will or trust, choose a durable power of attorney for health care, or have a health care proxy who is aware of and will respect the type of medical care you would want if you become demented or too sick to voice your own wishes and decisions.
- Stay connected
You got to have friends and one thing’s for sure, whether you’re a “people person” or not, loneliness is no way to live. Isolation, feeling left out, no one to call or talk to, is harmful to your health. Research has found loneliness leads to higher levels of the release of stress hormones causing inflammation linked to diabetes and arthritis, among a multitude of other health conditions. There are dozens of ways to make and keep connections with others: social media, volunteer, reach out to friends from the past, attend religious services, join a club that interests you, take a community college class, or join a gym. Staying connected is your link to staying healthy in the coming years.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.