Taking care of our health at any age is an investment in the future, and there’s no time when that statement is truer than in the retirement or pre-retirement years. Here are five preventative measures you can take now to help keep you – and your wallet – healthy as you age.
Regular Medical Check-Ups – One of the best ways to save money as you approach retirement to stay on top of regular medical checkups and screenings. Many health conditions have early warning signs or can be prevented by going to your annual check-ups. Do you know the warning signs of stroke or heart attack, for example? Do you know there are different warning signs for men and for women? Find out what your blood pressure is, get your cholesterol checked, and learn what a healthy BMI (body mass index) is for your age and weight.
Follow your doctor’s recommendations for regular screenings, scans, and tests based upon your health, family history, and ethnicity. Talk to your doctor about getting the flu vaccine. Routine exams and screenings are usually inexpensive and covered by insurance, and you’ll find they will save you in health care costs in the long run.
Lifestyle Changes – Baby boomers are used to being active and in the forefront of things their whole lives. Slowing down has never been part of the equation. It doesn’t have to be. What does need to happen as you age, though, is a concerted effort to focus on a healthy lifestyle. There are plenty of low-cost and no-cost options.
Do you smoke? It’s never too late to quit. The benefits of quitting smoking begin as soon as you have your last cigarette. After a year of not smoking, your risk for heart disease is lowered by 50 percent compared to when you were smoking. Here’s another way to look at it: a smoker is twice as likely as to have any type of heart disease than a non-smoker. Need more convincing? That money you used to spend on cigarettes will stay in your wallet when you quit and can be used to purchase healthy food and other items that will lengthen your active life.
How about exercise? It’s time to find a fitness plan that works for you and, most importantly, one that you can maintain. You don’t need an expensive gym membership either. Talk with your doctor before starting any new regimen, but you have plenty of low-cost options: walking, swimming, dancing, aerobics, biking, you name it. There are no membership fees to enjoy the great outdoors. You’ll see and feel results in just a few weeks of 30-minute exercise five times a week.
Healthy Diet – Along with staying flexible with an exercise program, re-evaluating your eating and drinking habits can be a way to keep health costs down as you age. It’s not about not having any fun anymore; it’s about using moderation with alcohol and unnecessary calories. You’ll be amazed at how much money you end up saving when you nix processed foods and drink less often and how much extra energy you will have each day as a result. To better control what you’re eating and save a few dollars here and there, why not save eating out for special occasions and, instead, have friends over for scrumptious potluck dinners?
In addition to having a slower metabolism, our digestive system slows down as we age. Getting enough fiber, which is found in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, is more important than ever. Look for lean sources of protein for this important body-maintenance nutrient daily. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women in their 60s should get about 46 grams of protein per day while men need about 56 grams. We are more susceptible to dehydration as we age, so be sure to take a water bottle with you if you are going to be out and about, as they can be quite pricey to buy. You never know; staying hydrated – especially in the hot months – is a lot more affordable than an ambulance and hospital bill.
Emergency Preparedness – As we age, we are more likely to fall and to sustain a serious injury like a broken bone when we do. Take stock of your home’s safety level. Check for adequate lighting inside and outside. Are there any loose rugs you could trip on? What about stairway rails or bathroom rails? Evaluate your home with a keen eye for anything that could be a potential hazard now or in the near future. By being willing to spend a little on safety measures, you can potentially circumvent having to spend thousands on installing lifts and ramps for wheelchairs.
An investment in your safety – particularly if you live alone – might include the research of an emergency alert device like Verizon‘s for a phone that you already own, or a medical alert system like Fall Alert, for inside the home. These devices can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that help will be on the way when you need it most. Because a broken bone or wound typically worsens the longer it goes unaddressed, getting prompt care will save you money in the long run and could even save your life.
Attitude Adjustment – One of the undeniable ways to stay healthy is by keeping an active, positive mind. There is so much about our brains that we do not know, but we do know that there is a connection between what we put in it and what we get out of it. Don’t let your mind stagnate. Forget that old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It’s just not true.
Studies by the Center for Disease Control have found that active seniors stay healthier longer. In addition to staving off certain medical conditions and their resulting expenses, active seniors report increased feelings of connection with others and more positive emotional well-being than more sedentary seniors.
There are many ways to stay active after retiring without spending much money. Here are a few ideas to get you started thinking and, excitingly enough, they’re all incredibly affordable:
· Volunteer for your favorite charity or non-profit organization.
· Enroll in a continuing education class in a subject you have always wanted to learn such as art, music, or writing. Check with your local community college about low-costs tuition options for seniors.
· Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby that doesn’t require the purchase of much equipment such as gardening, playing bridge, or a foreign language.
· Join a book clubMost importantly, realize that, with a little planning and preparation, your retirement years can be a new and exciting chapter of your life, and, with a little bit of planning, your financial state won’t have to limit your enjoyment.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/aging/
National Institutes of Health (NIH) http://health.nih.gov/search_results.aspx?terms=Aging+(General+Health)
Article written by Tricia Drevets