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How to Retain Independence as We Age

two seniors clink their wine glasses while sitting on their couch

One of the biggest fears people say they have about growing older is losing their independence, either due to illness, physical limitations, or simply an aging body that doesn’t perform as well as it used to. Freedom to live our lives the way we choose is part of the American dream.

To ensure that we’re able to continue living our lives how we choose as we age, it helps to start planning early! If you haven’t started a Healthy Aging Plan yet, make today your starting point. Here are some tips to ensure you’re able to stay independent as you age:

Start exercising

If you don’t already have a regular exercise routine, start one. Exercise is one of the most important ways to maintain a healthy body as we age. As we mentioned in a previous post, even when started late in life, exercise can lower your risk for chronic disease, physical disability and memory loss. And this doesn’t mean you have to become married to the gym. Even moderate exercise – such as walking for 30 minutes three times a week – may reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 60 percent.

Eat healthfully

“You are what you eat” according the old adage, and it may have more truth that anyone realized. Numerous studies have shown that eating well – which includes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like avocados and olive oil and healthy proteins found in wild salmon, eggs, and nuts – can not only lower your risk for disease, they can actually prolong your life. You should also avoid foods that can cause problems such as trans fats, highly processed foods, and sugar found in easy-to-grab frozen meals, prepackaged foods, cereals, and more. Red meat and alcohol should be consumed in moderation.

Keep an active social life

People who are socially active tend to get sick less and have healthier minds. As we mentioned in this post, socializing is critical for maintaining both psychological and mental health as we age. Whether it’s meeting friends for coffee, volunteering, getting a pet or chatting online, connecting with others goes a long way in creating a healthful and enjoyable life as we age.

Save your money

Living longer means we’re likely to need more money in retirement than previous generations. A 2014 study conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute showed that about 36% of workers have less than $1,000 in savings and investments, not counting their home and pensions. Start saving early and if you’re already at or near retirement age, talk to a financial planner about how you can maximize your savings.

Make your wishes known

One of the scariest things in life is the thought of losing our ability to make decisions about our well-being, due to an accident or illness. You can preserve your independence in these situations by creating an Advance Directive or “living will.” This document lets your loved ones and healthcare providers know what kind of medical treatment you would want – and what measures you don’t want taken – in the event you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. You may also appoint someone you trust as a Medical Power of Attorney for you. This person is legal authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Keep a positive attitude

Many of us simply assume that disease, senility and chronic health conditions are just a part of getting older. But this doesn’t have to be the case. By following the tips above and keeping a positive attitude about life, your chances of having a “healthspan” that equals your lifespan are greatly improved.

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