We know that good health affects how we think and feel, but have you considered the fact that healthy habits can also add up to money in the bank for senior living?
Sharon Roth Maguire, gerontological nurse practitioner and chief clinical quality officer for BrightStar Care, shares several ways that daily decisions for mental, physical, and cognitive health can have a positive impact on seniors’ wallets, helping them afford better senior living communities.
The Health-Wealth Connection
According to Maguire, a direct correlation exists between health and wealth, in the sense that staying healthy really can save seniors money in the long run. “Keeping physically fit and mentally engaged, eating well-balanced meals, and getting adequate sleep is a recipe for healthy aging and contributes to lower overall healthcare-related costs,” says Maguire.
Making Healthy Choices
To help you capitalize on the health-wealth connection, Maguire outlines several daily habits that can equal money in the bank for later in life:
- Follow a healthy diet. According to Maguire, that means avoiding refined sugars; eating an adequate amount of protein, fiber, fresh fruits, and vegetables; and drinking six to eight glasses of decaffeinated liquids every day.
- Get a good night’s sleep. In order to achieve the peaceful sleep that sometimes eludes us, Maguire recommends creating a comfortable environment by minimizing noise, selecting a cool room temperature, and preparing for bedtime with relaxing music, a good book, or a calming lotion.
- Engage in regular exercise. You don’t have to go to the gym to stay fit. Maguire suggests taking a brisk walk around the block, moving around the house, and avoiding prolonged sitting.
- Stimulate your mind. Maguire recommends staying engaged with a job, hobby, or volunteer work. If your mobility is too limited for that, then you can try reading newspapers and books or doing puzzles.
Avoiding Common Senior Health Pitfalls
Conversely, adults can sabotage their retirement financial planning with poor health habits and attitudes.
“If a person believes they are too old, too frail, or too weak, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy causing them to be less engaged in their care decisions and even in taking care of themselves, which will absolutely influence their finances when it comes to senior care and living options,” says Maguire.
To fight the negative self-fulfilling prophecy that often accompanies aging, Maguire recommends seniors maintain positive relationships and continue engaging in activities that bring them joy.
“When people start focusing too much on ‘internal’ problems and limit themselves and their involvement in family and community, they can set themselves up to feel older than they are,” says Maguire. “The effects of that downward spiral are real and costly.”
Handling Health Problems
When it comes to health problems common to the senior set, such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes, it’s obviously best if you can avoid them altogether. This way, says Maguire, you can reduce or eliminate costs related to medications, hospitalizations, and associated care.
If your doctor has already diagnosed with one of these conditions, however, she says you still have a choice. You can let the disease overwhelm you, or you can choose to take charge by making lifestyle modifications.
“If these modifications aren’t made at an early stage, the condition can worsen and lead to a higher degree of future care needed, not to mention a larger financial obligation,” she says.
In the end, the more steps you can take toward good health, the better your financial situation will be in your golden years.
“Staying healthy is worth the effort and focus that it can sometimes require,” says Maguire. “It can reduce the impact of likely costs related to the care required for chronic conditions, leaving you with more dollars available for many things—including senior care and senior housing—that you may eventually need or want.”