Financial independence is everyone’s goal as they approach retirement. But if you’re financially secure, is that enough to ensure you can enjoy your golden years?

Unfortunately, no.

Many of us who are 60+ see ourselves getting older in good health; we envision being active – traveling and socializing with our family and friends. And we see ourselves living on our own terms – doing things “our way.”

Ask anyone and they will say, “Of course I want to stay in my own home forever!” No one would willingly say, “Oh, I plan on entering a nursing home of some sort when I turn 68.”

But sadly, very few of us consider what action we have to consciously take to ensure the vision for our golden years actually matches reality. Here are a few healthy aging essentials to help you stay independent in retirement.

Exercise and Physical Activity

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Use it or lose it!” Well, after 60, you actually have to “use it” more to stay ahead of the decline we so often associate with getting older.

Honestly ask yourself how much you sit versus how much you are active in a typical day. Keep a journal for a few days and track your activity. You might be surprised.

Physical activities get your body moving. Consider what you physically do each day such as gardening, walking the dog, housework, shopping and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. And, by the way, watching TV does not count!

Exercise on the other hand is specifically planned, structured and repetitive, such as yoga, weight training, tai chi, swimming, aerobics, or walking 7,000 – 10,000 steps a day. What exercise do you engage in every day?

If you truly want to stay independent in your golden years you have to make a conscious decision and plan to keep moving to reap the benefits. Keeping in mind the old familiar slogan of, “Just do it!” will help you…

Prevent or delay diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and dementia…

  • Avoid becoming a fall risk
  • Manage stress
  • Improve your sleep
  • Release endorphins, the happy hormones!

No matter how you analyze it, increasing your physical activity will improve your quality of life.

A Healthy Diet

Good nutrition is key to aging well. Vitamins and minerals keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other body parts strong for the long haul. A healthy diet supports your goal of living longer, helps sharpen your mind, and simply makes you feel better.

A diet of toast and tea is simply not enough if you want to:

  • Maintain clear thinking
  • Resist illness and disease
  • Have higher energy levels
  • Recuperate faster from illnesses and injuries
  • Fuel your muscles and support your bones

Preparing healthy meals or going out for a bite is also a good excuse to include a friend. Make eating fun and you can increase your socialization at the same time!

Ensuring Your Home Will be Both Safe and Comfortable

We know that the vast majority of older adults want to remain in their own home as long as possible. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the 3,000 square foot home with 3 levels that you had when you raised your children!

As you reach retirement age it’s time to do some planning to make sure your home will be able to accommodate your needs as you get older. This may include downsizing to a smaller home, apartment, or condo. It may mean moving to a one-floor bungalow plan. Or it may mean ensuring that you can at least access everything you need on one floor if necessary.

There are many qualified licensed contractors who can help you assess your current living arrangements with a view to your long-term needs. Some questions to consider:

Is your home on a bus route?

Is it close to your family, friends, and the shops and services you might like to access?

Could you renovate to put a bedroom, washroom, and the washer and dryer on the main floor?

Is the outside maintenance manageable?

Can steps be replaced with a ramp?

If necessary, could you maneuver with a wheelchair?

Can the shower or tub be adapted to be more accessible?

Will your home need a lot of maintenance in the future? Will it become a money pit?

Thinking about your home when you’re healthy and active will be much easier than after an illness sets in or a crisis occurs.

Downsizing and purging can also be a great mental health booster!

Independence is More Than Financial

Our visions of the future may vary but chances are pretty darn good we all want to maintain our independence as long as possible. Independence – if we are safe and comfortable – can boost our mental health and our outlook on life. But independence requires some planning.

Stay active and maintain your strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility – keys to staying strong and healthy. Nourish both your body and your soul with nutritious food that provides the fuel you need to live on your terms. Begin to make a plan to ensure the home you choose to live in will be one that can provide safety and comfort for years to come. If you do all of these things, you will maximize your chances of experiencing healthy aging and achieving independence in retirement.

What does independence mean to you? What steps are you taking to experience healthy aging and get the most from retirement? Please join the conversation.

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