There’s a saying: “The trouble is, you think you have the time.” People may understand their lives are limited, but they often don’t internalize how much time they actually have left. This mindset can delay goal setting and long-term preparation, which increases the chances of later problems — for instance, with finances, housing, or health.
“People don’t like to talk about their mortality because they don’t want to see themselves as ‘old,'” says Joan Gillis, a geriatric clinical social worker and senior clinical team manager with Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. “But embracing this reality can help people grasp a sense of urgency, so they get the most from their remaining years.”
Part of this disconnect about mortality is people’s guilt to invest in themselves. This is especially hard for male baby boomers who have now reached their 60s and 70s, according to Gillis.
“Self-care was not necessarily taught to this group growing up and then they spent years so focused on work and raising a family, so they don’t know how to care for themselves,” she says. “But older men need to change their outwardly driven mindset and look more inward, and realize that it’s not selfish to focus on themselves now.”
People have their own specific goals and interests they want to pursue as they age, but there are some areas that everyone should address. They cover three categories: health, wealth, and home. “These can help men not only improve their current life, but also keep a mindful eye on their future, no matter how long it may last,” says Gillis.
|Stay engaged: Keep a daily scheduleStaying busy sometimes is a challenge in your later years. One way to fight idleness is to keep a daily schedule of activities, says Joan Gillis, a geriatric clinical social worker with Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. Break it down into individual tasks with specific times. For example, schedule slots for when you shower, eat your meals, go for a walk, read, or attend to any particular chore or errand. “When you finish a task, cross it off,” says Gillis. “This kind of structure and routine ensures you always stay engaged with your life.”|
Keep up medical appointments. Maintain regular medical checkups, such as an annual physical with your primary care doctor, and twice-a-year dentist visits. See your eye doctor to update your eyeglass prescription and get screened for cataracts and eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration. Also get your hearing checked at least every two years.
Consider hiring a trainer. Certified trainers who specialize in older adults can create individualized workouts, identify physical areas that need improvement, teach proper technique, and offer motivation.
“This kind of investment can improve mobility, strength, and endurance, so you can stay active and maintain independent living longer,” says Gillis. Many gyms offer affordable personal training packages, or pay-as-you-go options. Some sessions can even be offered remotely through Zoom.
Review your finances. Consult a personal financial planner to review your current money situation and create a budget and strategy for down-the-road goals and expenses, especially medical costs. Also, designate a professional, family member, or close friend to help manage your finances if needed.
Finalize health care decisions. Get your health care paperwork in order. Designate a health care power of attorney who can speak on your behalf regarding health care decisions if you cannot do so. You also want to document your wishes about advanced life support. Find a Health Decisions Worksheet to help finalize your goals and a Health Care Power of Attorney form online at www.health.harvard.edu/ADforms.
Choose a backup living situation. Most older adults hope to live independently as long as possible. But don’t wait until your situation suddenly changes to explore backup living plans. For example, if moving in with your family is an option, discuss how the arrangement would work and how quickly it could be implemented if something happens.
You can also explore alternative living arrangements, like shared housing with other seniors, a senior living community, or an assisted living facility. Visit multiple places, ask for recommendations, and research costs, amenities, and on-site support services.
Create a support system. Build a tight-knit circle of friends and family to help maintain social outreach and regular communication. “Also use this opportunity to establish lost contacts with friends and family or resolve past differences,” says Gillis.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” – Luke 12:25
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22
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