Health & Wellness

What’s it Like to Age?

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Planning for the Future

by Claudette Fleming

You remember the days when aged forty was “old”. Well, for some of us, forty is still “old” but for many more, the milestone represents a significant part of our youthful days. And while, the law of reaping and sowing applies at all ages, there is something about the timeframe between our forties and sixties that determines just how well we fare in ages sixty and beyond.

A healthy reality check is needed; let’s see if you pass the test. If you are over forty years old, have already saved to meet at least 70 percent of your anticipated expenses in your retirement years, have no health problems or concerns, are completely out of debt, have maintained the appropriate weight and body mass for a person of your build, are content in your relationships and feel as though you are enjoying a purposeful life, then this article is not for you. You are clearly extraordinary and represent a beacon of light in our community.

However, if not, then chances are planning for your ageing future needs immediate attention. Here’s where you can start.

Harnessing Physical Ageing

Now is the time! The ability to overcome significant health challenges is a significant factor in how well you age. If you are like me, you have put off that diet and exercise plan for far too long. If you are forty and older it’s time to literally get moving. Since there are physiological changes of varying kinds associated with the ageing process, health experts suggest regular exercise and a healthy diet filled with several servings of colourful fruits and vegetables daily.

It is likely that for most of us, health challenges will come, however you can reduce or totally eliminate your chances of becoming ill and/or the severity of illness by taking care of your body and mind today. Another helpful habit is to work on reducing stress levels and getting plenty of sleep. Hard work should be smart work and being in optimal physical form as you are ageing is one of the smartest things you can do. Make your health investment today and recoup the benefits in many years to come, when you’ll need these benefits the most.

Economic Security

Someone once said that “money may not buy you love but it doesn’t hurt to have a down payment just in case.” Many seniors today are living the consequences of the decisions they made in their younger years, particularly in the area of finances.

While many may have saved for a rainy day there are often more rainy days than sunny ones with life expectancies well into the 80’s. While I am not a financial expert, as a social worker I have seen enough over the years and, that there are a few critical pillars of finances that are useful in old age. These include: personal savings; pensions; investments; exchanges between family members and friends for goods and services; earned income and; additional sources of passive income.

While many people have some ability to at least commence a personal savings plan and a pension plan which is mandatory for every employed person; can ask for help or pool resources with family members; or can rely on income from an apartment; few understand how to make their money work for them. The mindset of the past has been “work hard, save, retire, spend and stretch it to the grave.” The problem with this formula however is that there are often way more retirement years than there is money!

One of the best things that you can do for yourself at any age is to learn how to make your money work for you so that you don’t have to work so hard in your later years for it. The earlier you start making money work for you the better off you will be.

Meaningful Relationships

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness in the UK, almost a fifth of persons (9 million) in the UK admit to feeling lonely. Over a half of people in the UK aged 75 and older live alone and 2/3’s indicate that the television is their main companion. If you are active and full of vitality then chances are you are looking for creative ways to spend some time alone from the children, the job and maybe even your ageing parents.

However, when you begin to transition from these roles and enter retirement, when the kids leave home, or your parents and maybe even your spouse has died, the threat of loneliness suddenly becomes a reality. It is true that the one constant in life is change and we must forever be preparing for it.

Learning how to adapt to change, particularly changing relationships, will be an important part of your ageing success. There can be a temptation in our younger years to take family and friends for granted, but around forty and sometimes younger, significant people in our life start disappearing. Your best couple friends are divorced, your children grow up and relocate, and your spouse prefers to stay at home more. It is often here that you’ll start to realize that relationships are the true currency of the old age economy. And, just like any other investment, you can only get out what you put in, so make sure you never stop investing into your relationships.

Positive Self-Identity

Your 40thbirthday may also be the time that you take a look at your life and wonder where it is going. It may be that there are more years behind you than there are ahead of you and you want to be at peace with the fact that the life you are living has a meaningful purpose. For some this introspection may spark a mid-life crisis and for others an awakening. If at 40 years or older, you look around and you are not happy with who you have become then make up your mind to change. Harbouring regret, frustration and unhappiness can have irreversible consequences on your mental and physical well-being, your finances and your relationships. Owning a positive self-identify means offering the best you, an improved you, designed to create, contribute and participate. A better life awaits at 40 and beyond. I dare you to go for it!

Dr. Claudette Fleming has been the Executive Director at Age Concern Bermuda for 19 years. She has helped to develop the organization’s platform for Successful Ageing. For more information on successful ageing  and Age Concern visit the research pages at www.ageconcern.bm.

This article was originally published in the 2019 edition of the rg Encore Age supplement.

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