Aging gracefully after retirement is a challenge we all face.

Space Needle in Seattle. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Space Needle in Seattle. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Today, people are living longer than they did 60 years ago. Now we have extra 15 to 20 years. Barring any unfortunate incidence most people will live to 80 years. Women will live longer.

The question is: how to grow older in good health so that we can actually enjoy those extra years? A Consumer Reports survey of 2,066 Americans age 50 and older revealed that we are eager to maintain our quality of life into retirement and far, far beyond.

As we get older our health changes. This happens even if we don’t like it. These changes can be due to normal aging process or age-related diseases. Most of our activities in life depend on our health and how mobile we are. Our retirement goals, such as travel, choice of home, sports and a broad range of other activities depend on our health.

Financial independence is also very important. Have you saved enough to get the help you need in case you are dependent on others?

What kind of health issues we should be worried about in our retirement?

Here is a list of health issues you have to be prepared for as you get older:

Are you capable of driving? If your vision is not good and you have difficulty with concentration then you cannot drive. Make sure you see your eye doctor on a regular basis.

How mobile are you? Arthritis, stroke, feet problems, and other health issues affecting your mobility will create frustration and anger. Joint deterioration can compromise your ability to stay active or climb stairs. Some of these problems come with the aging process. Be active and keep your muscles strong to mitigate the effects of these problems.

Are you able to hear your friends and family talk? Are you able to enjoy listening to music and watch television? Hearing loss can interfere with your relationships and lead to isolation. Don’t be shy to wear a hearing aid. Be proactive. Do not wait till you are completely hard of hearing.

Do you have cognitive deterioration? That means you have difficulty thinking and making decisions that affect your everyday life. This is feared by all. Alzheimer’s in old age makes it difficult to interact socially. You become dependent on others. Maintaining an active social network for yourself and being a lifelong learner are the best ways to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

How can we take a proactive approach to prepare ourselves to make a smooth life transition?

Unfortunately, there is no magic solutions to the problems mentioned earlier. The basic principles are to prepare for what is to come. Be proactive and prepare yourself when you are young and healthy. Understand the importance of exercise, healthy diet and good health habits like no smoking.

If you are living in a big house then think about downsizing. Do it early when you are still in good health and in sound mind. Do not depend on your family to do it when you have lost control of your life. If you want to have choice, control and independence throughout your life, you need to think about these things early.

Not able to drive can cause severe frustration and anxiety. You should plan carefully where to live. Your social life will rely on whether you can get around. People do not realise how so many elements of their retirement plans are dependent on transportation. The problem gets worse if your friends are of the same age and cannot drive.

It all comes down to keeping control of your life and anticipating and planning for lifestyle changes as we age.

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