Healthy lifestyle choices for aging Boomers

2016-06-09 13:59

Our lifestyle is a major factor in the quality of our retirement. And unfortunately, it isn’t just our post-retirement lifestyle – it is also our lifestyle in our younger years that will impact on that quality. Our high, bad-fat diet at 40 is going to come back and bite us at 60. Our coach-potato, television watching weekends at 50 are going to translate into poor mobility at 65. Our high stress, lack of sleep careers are great preparation for that heart attack at 55.

Not much we can do about our unhealthy past, but there is plenty we can do to create a more healthy present and future. There are 8 kinds of healthy and we need some of each.

Psychologically healthy – by finding relevance, purpose and meaning in retirement. And for most of us, as Bob Dylan sang, “you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. By being there for others we create meaning in our life.

Physically healthy – exercise, diet, sleep and water. The quality of our 80s will to a large degree, depend on the quality we put into our 60s. I hear many people saying they don’t want to live into their 80s and 90s – modern medicine thinks differently – and they probably will. So the healthier we are now, the healthier we will be later.

Mentally healthy – our mental health grows out of our psychological and physical health. If those are poor, unhappiness and depression come knocking and our brain starts to shut down.

Sexually healthy – it’s not just about virility and passion. Over the years our relationship with our intimate partner changes and we need to talk about that. For men it can be very distressing if (and when) they lose their sex drive – for women, menopause and old age can make sex uncomfortable. So perhaps a different kind of intimacy is needed.

Socially healthy – what keeps us healthy and happy as we get older? More than any other single factor it is our relationship with others – with friends, family and our life partner - and in making new friends and being there to help and care for others. Loneliness is the primary factor in premature aging.

Intellectually healthy – “different to our state of mind” – more about keeping the grey matter active. Reading, travelling, studying – staying abreast of events around us.

Financially healthy – no matter what our financial state, we need advice. For many of us our retirement funds are likely to be inadequate for our 25 year retirement. The increasing cost of living, inflation and medical expenses are likely to add up to a shortfall. (In my own case, 25 years ago I was a company executive and my basic salary was R3500 per month. I was well paid. If I had retired then and my retirement fund gave me 100% of my salary, I’d be in trouble now.) The advice that a Financial Adviser is likely to give, is for us to find some activity or hobby that will supplement our retirement draw-down.

Spiritually healthy – as we grow old and our faculties slow down, we have more time to go within – it’s no longer about what we are doing, but who we are being. And it would be great if we came to like who we are – for ourselves and for others.

So, our lifestyle choices as we enter retirement need some attention – and it’s not stuff that we can leave indefinitely. Many of us have learned that the sooner we get our financial health in order, the better off we will be. So we need to give similar attention to our other healths. This isn’t a 5 minute exercise – it needs time – and our intentions in each of those healths will influence our intentions in the others. It’s a journey and it’s into an unknown landscape – hold onto your hat!

Alan Maguire is a Retirement Coach and has developed The Elders Journey to guide people in creating their best possible retirement. He can be contacted at alan@theeldersjourney.com

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