In my nearly thirty years of helping folks manage the retirement transition, I've seen how prudent financial planning and attentive self-care can make your golden years one of the most fulfilling chapters of your life.
But even for folks living their dream retirement scenarios, getting older can, literally, be a pain. Aches linger longer than they used to. Trips to the doctor start to take up more and more of your time. The list of things you can't do catches up with the list of things you can do. As ailments pile up, health concerns start to dominate both your thoughts and your conversations with friends and family.
And that's not healthy for anyone. Negativity has a way of compounding. All that excess worry churning around in your mind can lead to anxiety and even depression. And loved ones might not be as enthusiastic about spending time with you if they think every get-together is going to become a pity party.
Here are some ways to keep your thoughts and your conversations in tip-top shape.
1. Set limits.
Now I'm not suggesting that seniors should bottle up all their health care concerns. Everyone needs to vent from time to time. And as you age, it's important that the people who are closest to you know what's going on with your health so that they can give you the support that you need.
Just don't test the limits of that support every time the phone rings or someone pops over for a visit. If you need to let off some steam or if there's an important development in your health care that you need to share, allow yourself ten or fifteen minutes. Then, move on to a happier topic. If you can't set that mental timer on your own, be receptive when the person you're talking to tries to nudge the conversation in a different, more positive direction.
Also, try to be selective about how much you're sharing and with whom. Seniors who can't stop talking about their health problems sometimes make younger friends and family or casual acquaintances uncomfortable. Save the really tough talks for your spouse, adult children, siblings, and other seniors you're close to.
2. Ask questions.
Most people love to talk about themselves, the good and the bad. An easy way to turn a monologue about your health concerns into a real conversation is to ask the person you're talking to about their life. How's work going? How are their kids and grandkids? What have they been doing for fun?
Sometimes seniors get so wrapped up in worrying about who is going to take care of them that they forget how much they still have to give to other people. Strong relationships go both ways. You might not be able to drive your grandkids to soccer or help a friend move into a new house. But your lifetime of experience and compassion can be even more valuable to friends and family in need. And when people feel like you're genuinely interested in them, they'll be more likely to return the favor.
3. Try some new activities.
It can be just as hard to hang up your tennis racket as it was to clock out of work for the last time. But just because there are some things you can't do anymore, that doesn't mean you can't do anything.
As you age out of certain sports and activities, explore some less strenuous options. If running is too hard on your joints, try cycling or swimming. If sports are off the table, you might enjoy yoga or low-impact cardio workouts. You might not be able to play 18 holes anymore, but your golf buddies still need to eat. Set up some weekly dinners, or scratch that competitive itch in the rec room with cards, pool, or ping-pong. Take an online class. Focus your creativity and passion on a crafting project. Work your way through all those cookbooks stacked in your kitchen.
Trying new things won't just get you out of your head, it will put your mind and body to work. You'll gain new skills, have new experiences, and feel more positive about all the potential for fun and fulfillment that still lies ahead. Those are the kinds of things that friends and families will love hearing about.
4. Get the help you need.
I want to circle back to an important point: there's a huge difference between not dwelling on mental and physical health concerns and ignoring serious problems. Hiding a medical condition from your family because you're worried you might lose your car keys or have to spend some time in the hospital could turn a treatable condition into a critical one. Worse, you could end up harming yourself or another person.
Likewise, if your worries are causing you real emotional distress, talk to your caregivers and health care providers about the resources available to you. Medicare offers free mental health screenings. Your local senior center might have support groups where you can talk through your feelings with other seniors who understand what you're going through. If you're open and honest with your loved ones, they'll be there for you when you need them the most.
And if there are any changes to your health care needs that could impact your financial planning, contact my team at Keen Wealth and let’s talk through your options.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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