September is Healthy Aging Month! According to the creator of this annual observance, Carolyn Worthington, this period is designed to highlight the positive features of aging, particularly for adults 45 years and older.1
As you age, your mind and body are constantly evolving and adapting to the choices you make, meaning it is never too late to invest in making changes to your lifestyle. In fact, the second half of your life can be the time you feel happiest – and the perfect time to take steps toward improving your health.
Having been celebrated for over 30 years now, Healthy Aging Month has become increasingly relevant as the population of older adults continues to climb worldwide. In fact, here are some figures illustrating just how large this shift in ageing dynamics really is:
- The proportion of the global population over 60 years of age will nearly double from 12% to 22% between 2015 and 2050.2
- The average life expectancy of those born in the U.S. is up from 54 years a century ago to 79 years today.3
- In 2020 the portion of people aged 60 years and higher surpassed children younger than 5 years of age.2
So, why is an aging population relevant to you? Aging not only describes physical changes we undergo as we get older, but is also largely associated with transitions such as retirement and finding a home where you can safely age in place. And with this increase in aging across our society, you’re not alone in wanting to be prepared for this chapter of life!
Redefining Health in Today’s World
Although health in our society still includes a description of physical fitness, the definition of health in today’s world has expanded to encompass other contributors shaping your lifestyle. Now, healthy living is dependent on a range of factors including physical, social, cognitive, and financial well-being. This shift is recognized the complex interdependence these different factors influence your overall lifestyle.
Neglecting one of these components has the potential to negatively impact the others, so it’s important to prioritize a well-rounded lifestyle and put yourself in the best position to optimize your later years. You deserve to reap the benefits of the life you create for yourself, so why not make sure those rewards are as high as possible!
Creating A Healthy Lifestyle
The expansive definition of health may seem intimidating at first, so let’s break it down into smaller pieces to illustrate easy ways you can start making improvements. Incorporating changes can be a step-by-step process based on your individual needs, rather than a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. Here are some different ways you can get started on improving on different areas of your health!
- Physical Health: Simple changes can go a long way towards boosting your health. Avoiding alcohol and nicotine, getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight all have a significant impact on lifespan.3 A long-term study done on a group of individuals exhibiting all these healthy-lifestyle habits showed they each contribute to extending lifespan. The results of the study showed that the combination of these habits led group participants to live nearly 10 years longer than the average American.3
To make improvements to your own physical health, start small – try incorporating a few healthy changes into your daily routine each week. This could mean trying a new veggie-inspired recipe, swapping your drink of choice with a sugar-free seltzer, taking a walk or exercise class with a friend, or reducing your smoking. Of course, you should discuss any lifestyle changes with your doctor to create a plan that works best for you.
Taking care of your body can also include getting more sleep and making sure to stretch and mobilize your muscles throughout the day. The more you can layer these healthy habits to your routine, the greater benefits you’ll see.3 Starting small can get you on the path to implementing an overall healthy lifestyle. So go at your own pace, stay consistent, and get ready to see (and feel!) the results.
- Mental Wellness: Keeping your cognition sharp can have benefits that go beyond the brain. A study on older adults found that learning new skills such as quilting or digital photography improved memory more than activities that were less cognitively demanding.4 Other activities that can keep your mind sharp include creative writing, reading, social interaction, dance, and more. In addition, participating in hobbies and volunteering can make you feel happier, a crucial element of leading a healthy lifestyle. There is no shortage of ways to get your mind going, and incorporating mentally stimulating activities into your daily life can protect your brain from decline down the line.4
- Social Connections: Maintaining strong relationships with friends and family can have positive effects on your mental health. Studies have found associations between feeling isolated and rating yourself with poor health and depression.5 The risk of depression more than doubles for those with the lowest quality social relationships when compared to those with the highest quality relationships.5 And with the number of older adults embracing independent living trending upwards, it is more important than ever to be aware of your social connections. Thankfully, it is never too late to turn things around for yourself. Combatting loneliness can be achieved at any age by reaching out to friends and loved ones you care about in your life. Try suggesting activities you can do together or start attending community events to meet neighbors and new friends around you.
- Lifestyle Habits: Our overall lifestyle is largely dictated by personal choices we make, so it’s vital to have oversight on what’s most important. Opening your mind to new adventures and being adaptable to challenges and changes increases your resilience as you age. Seeking purpose in the activities and relationships you deem significant can make each day valuable. Balancing all of the different elements of health can be made easier with thoughtful planning of how you can maximize your time each day, week, and year. And better yet, the benefits of these habits can be physical! Reducing stress with intentional planning and a positive mindset can reduce the stress you put on your body, leaving you with greater protection against a number of health problems complicated by high stress levels.5
- Financial Stability: Planning for retirement is one of the most important pieces of creating a healthy future for yourself, and there can be many obstacles to reaching financial security at this stage of your life. Problems including insufficient savings, healthcare costs, and lack of financial literacy may threaten to derail your retirement plans. If you’re worried about your financial stability or are interested in increasing your peace of mind in retirement, a reverse mortgage may be a solution. By converting your home’s equity into cash without selling your home, you can improve your financial situation without giving up ownership of your home. Whether you are have unexpected medical bills to pay, need to make updates to your home, or just want to bulk up your “rainy day” fund, it is essential you know the right steps to take to achieve the financial stability you deserve during your golden years.
Benefits of a Holistic Approach
When you invest in improving your overall lifestyle, the payoff can be massive. Not only can you potentially increase your lifespan, but the number of years you can remain active and engaged may increase as well. When you implement habits that are beneficial to your health into your life, you can reduce your risk for a number of diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer.5 Now that is impressive!
Beyond physical benefits, implementation of healthy habits can also lead to numerous other rewards. For one, your improved health can mean fewer doctor visits and a reduced need for more extreme measures of healthcare. This can bring down an incredible cost that many people must confront in retirement.
Looking Toward the Future
The happiest and most rewarding years of your life may still be ahead of you if you prioritize your health! It may be comforting to know that you have some control over how you age. In fact, studies show that genes only account for less than a third of your chances of living to age 85; the majority of the variation in our life expectancy is due to our own choices and habits.3 Focusing on your health will allow you to thrive and accomplish your goals as you age!
When the future is in your hands, the best thing you can do for yourself is prepare for a long, active retirement. Here at Longbridge Financial, we know that aging is an individual process and there is no one-size-fits-all plan. That is why we get to know your individual situation to help you decide if a reverse mortgage can be the solution to obtaining and retaining your financial independence.
Financial security lays the foundation for you to be able to live the healthy lifestyle you deserve, and a reverse mortgage can allow you to fulfill a well-rounded retirement. If you are interested in learning more about using the power of your home to your advantage, contact our team today for a free, no-obligation consultation.