Many of our more youthful behaviors may have had long term consequences we didn’t consider. We may have worked too many stressful hours, put off saving, ate too much junk food, drank too much, and ignored medical advice. At one time, we may have felt as though we were invincible. But now some of us might be paying the price for the years we may have lived with reckless abandon. If only we could go back in time and tell our younger selves to be a bit more kind to the older version of ourselves.
Know What You Need to Know to Live Your Best Life in the FutureWhile we cannot go back in time, we can get a pretty good glimpse of our future selves by arming ourselves with sufficient information. There is no shortage of available articles and books on how life habits will play out as we age. A few of the books I’ve mentioned in the past include Daniel Levitin’s Successful Aging, Louise Aronson’s Elderhood, George Vaillant’s Aging Well, Marianne T. Oehser’s Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement, and Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones. One book that I’m just finishing by The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective is Our Bodies, Ourselves (a book specifically for aging women). One that I’m just starting to read is Michael Greger’s How Not to Die (a book about the importance of diet). Get the information you need!
Assess Current Habits and Make Appropriate Changes if neededOnce we feel as though we have sufficient knowledge about what to expect as we age and what we can do to increase the likelihood that we’ll age well, we can start making appropriate changes, if needed, that will make our future selves much happier. Just think, it is certainly possible that you will live into your nineties or beyond. With thought and action now, you have a much better chance of increasing the length of your healthy years and life enjoyment. To live your best life in the future, it’s very important to assess what you are currently doing that will pay benefits later. Some habits and actions might be more obvious than others. Often, people 50+ are convinced that if they are financially prepared for aging, then there is nothing else to worry about. Financial preparation is very important, but most people would be shocked if they realized how much money they are really going to need. Health care costs alone could cost close to $300,000 for a couple who retired at sixty-five. However, financial security is just one piece of the aging puzzle. Along with financial planning, estate and legacy planning are important—even if you believe you are too young to worry about it. Do you have an up-to-date Will, a Power of Attorney, and an Advance Directive? If not, don’t assume that you have an endless amount of time to get your house in order. None of us have any guarantees. Taking the time to recognize what is important and how we want to spend the decades ahead is also very important. The old idea of retiring and sailing off to some exotic place for the rest of our lives is no longer all that desirable for many people—even if it were affordable. First, most of us could live for decades beyond traditional work years. Second, without a sense of purpose, people tend to get bored and depressed. If you are within five years of leaving your current career, reconnecting with your own personal values, interests, and areas where you’d like to put more of your energy can be important.
Your Future Health is Your WealthThere are a number of other areas that we would be wise to consider before another decade passes by. Some of these include cultivating positive relationships, pushing ourselves to keep learning, and finding ways to give back to others. But one area that we absolutely cannot ignore is our health. It doesn’t matter how much money you accumulate if you lose your health—our health is a big part of our wealth. The amount of regular exercise we get, the way we eat, how we manage stress, the amount of sleep we get, the attitude we have about aging and life in general—all those behaviors could have a significant impact on the way we experience our future life. If you plant good habits, you’ll probably reap good results. If we don’t cultivate healthy habits now, we’ll pay the price later.