As of 2019, the average life expectancy in the United States was 76 years for men and 81 years for women. Since most Americans live well into retirement age now, it’s crucial to sustain healthy routines and habits which maximize these “golden years” to their fullest. This requires both physical and mental wellness initiatives, so you can feel positive, energized, balanced, sharp, mobile and independent for as long as possible.
There are many areas of health to prioritize as you grow older—nutrition and fitness, social connections, and treatment for medical issues being the most obvious. But how can you start taking proactive measures now to plan ahead for a healthy retirement down the road? Below are four simple and actionable ways to maintain a lifestyle of wellness, no matter how aged you are—in numerical years, that is.
Find Enjoyable, Consistent and Diverse Ways to Be Active
An estimated 80% of people in the United States do not move their bodies enough, reports the Journal of the American Medical Association. But older adults need both aerobic and resistance exercises for bone density, muscle strength, coordination and joint mobility. It can be hard to exercise when you find it boring or repetitive, but the trick is to diversify the workouts and create a regimen that is actually fun.
“Choose different exercises that you enjoy—whether that’s walking, swimming, cycling or even dancing. Don’t be afraid to try new exercises, so you will remain engaged and on-track with your health goals. In our community, we have a robust activity calendar that we revisit each month to add new options for our residents. To keep moving, you need a number of activities to choose from,” points out Annette Field, the Executive Director of Vineyard Johns Creek a new assisted living and memory care community.
Invest in Relationships for a Vibrant, Connected Social Life
No matter how old you are, as a human being, you’re wired for connections with other people, but with retirement often comes other transitions such as moving to a new area or spending more time at home. Not to mention, you don’t interact with coworkers or attend office functions anymore. This might cause social isolation over time which the American Journal of Epidemiology warns can lead to depression, inadequate sleep, cognitive decline, heart disease, cancer and a risk of premature death.
Loneliness is a serious health concern, but you can avoid it through intentional time and energy spent with your friends, neighbors or relatives. The easiest way to create a social network is to participate in the local community—this introduces you to people who share your hobbies, values and interests. Relationships can form out of volunteering at an animal shelter, joining a book, tennis or pottery club, taking a class at the library, and starting a community garden. Just be creative and step outside your comfort zone.
Consult a Nutrition Expert on Building a Smarter Meal Plan
“As you get older, your body needs fewer calories, but you need just as many nutrients, so you want to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods” that contain vitamins and minerals without caloric excess, notes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Additives, solid fats, sodium and refined sugars can contribute to diabetes, heart disease or cancer as the metabolism slows, the HHS continues, so limit these ingredients and replace them with natural, whole foods instead.
In order to protect against bone or muscle weakness and sustain a healthy weight, you should consume foods rich in fiber, calcium, protein and vitamins such as whole grains, fortified milk, eggs, lean meats, seafood, beans, raw nuts or seeds, fruits and vegetables. In order to construct a meal plan that meets your specific health and lifestyle needs, enlist the expertise of a licensed nutritionist or dietician.
Make Sure You Have the Right Health Insurance Coverage
The number of Medicare beneficiaries is projected to reach 64 million in 2020, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute, and as a retiree, you just might be enrolled in Medicare yourself. It’s important to ensure a Medicare plan meets both your healthcare and financial needs, so examine your current premiums, deductibles and coverage, then contrast these with other options in the marketplace to find the right insurance for you.
There are four main tiers of Medicare—Parts A, B, C and D—each with their own costs and benefits. You might require all of them or just the standard Parts A and B, so to help you with that decision, here is a rundown from HealthMarkets:
- Part A: In most cases, this basic policy does not charge a premium if you are at least 65 years old (or under 65 but meet certain requirements). If you are not eligible for a waived premium though, Part A can cost as much as $458 per month. The average deductible for each benefit period is $1408 for 2020, and the plan covers hospital, skilled nursing facility, at-home care and hospice services.
- Part B: The monthly premium for this plan is $144.60 for standard beneficiaries and about $130 for social security recipients. The annual deductible for 2020 is $198, and it covers doctor visits, physical therapy and medical equipment.
- Part C: Also known as Medicare Advantage, this policy costs $23 in premiums each month (in addition to a Part B premium). This plan is obtained through a private insurer and combines Parts A and B with extra benefits such as hearing, vision and dental coverage. Not all Part C policies come with a deductible, but if the plan covers prescription drugs, you will have to meet a deductible for that.
- Part D: For a stand-alone plan, the monthly Part D premium is $30, but this will vary based on the coverage you choose. The annual deductibles vary too, but they cannot exceed $435. There is also an assistance program called Extra Help that waives the deductible (or in some cases, partially waives it) for those on a limited income. Part D is also privatized, and it and covers prescription drug costs.
Of course these are just a few of the many ways you can start preparing for retirement, no matter what age you are. Preparation in advance will ensure your retirement years are nothing short of amazing – as they should be!
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