The average life expectancy of a baby born in the U.S. today is 80 years. However, this prediction assumes prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of birth stay the same throughout a person’s life.1
In reality, patterns of mortality improve over time thanks to discoveries and innovations in nutrition and medical science. If you extrapolate the data to represent the same pace of mortality improvement in the future, people up to age 30 today can reasonably expect to live to an average age of 100.2
However, just as important as how long you live is how well you live. Below are some ideas on steps you can take to help ensure you enjoy your retirement years.
One way to prepare for an active retirement is to engage in work-life balance early in life. Many people work long hours and don’t take enough vacation time. Over time, this can lead to mental and physical exhaustion. If we don’t take care of ourselves when we’re younger, we have less chance of enjoying a higher quality of life when we’re older.
Or, consider your perspective – are you pursuing your own happiness or trying to find meaning in life? Studies have demonstrated that the pursuit of happiness may not be as good for our well-being as the pursuit of a more meaningful life. In other words, being directed and motivated by valued life goals, which often can take more effort and cause more stress, may be more rewarding. To illustrate, consider the rewards of raising children versus embarking on a series of exotic vacations. Researchers have found that, over the long term, people who pursued more meaning and purpose were more deeply satisfied than those chasing temporary happiness.3
Another study even found a correlation between greater engagement in day-to-day life with a higher degree of financial success, possibly because this type of person tends to place a high value on pursuing long-term goals.4
Exercise is also key. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 32 percent of older adults do not engage in any physical exercise. Understandably, people who don’t prioritize exercise when they’re younger are not likely do so in retirement, so it’s important to make it a habit early on.5
It’s also important to choose activities you can continue as you age. Classes growing in popularity among the over-50 set include dance, strength training, gentle yoga, “gentle stretch,” “Pilates fusion,” ballet barre and tai chi. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, programs for older adults are among the top 20 fitness trends for 2017.6
Retirees may be familiar with the SilverSneakers program, celebrating its 25th anniversary. The program is free for adults over age 65 who are covered by Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and many other plans.7
In addition to things you should do to enrich a 100-year life, there are things that would make it less enjoyable. One of those things is dementia. While there are many risk factors for dementia, including age, alcohol use, smoking, diabetes, hypertension and genetics, a recent study discovered a few other common triggers that can increase the risk of cognitive decline:8
- Taking anticholinergic drugs, which includes over-the-counter sleep aids, sedating allergy meds (e.g., Benadryl), sedating pain meds (e.g., Tylenol PM) and prescription meds such as some antidepressants and urinary incontinence treatments. The study also found that once people stop taking these meds, their risk dropped back to normal levels.
- Lack of vitamin D
- Heartburn medications with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec and Prevacid (complete list here)
1 Peter Vanham. World Economic Forum. Sept. 15, 2016. “You’ll Probably Live to Be 100. Here’s How You Need To Prepare For It.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/09/you-ll-probably-live-to-be-100-here-s-how-you-need-to-prepare-for-it/. Accessed March 3, 2017.
3 Emily Esfahani Smith and Jennifer Aaker. New York Magazine. Dec. 30, 2016. “In 2017, Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness.” http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/12/in-2017-pursue-meaning-instead-of-happiness.html. Accessed March 3, 2017.
4 Drake Baer. New York Magazine. Jan. 4, 2017. “Living with Purpose Yields a Longer Life and Higher Income.” http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/01/living-with-purpose-yields-a-longer-life-and-higher-income.html. Accessed March 3, 2017.
5 Lynn Langway. Next Avenue. Jan. 30, 2017. “Boomers Took Fitness and Made It Their Own.” http://www.nextavenue.org/boomers-fitness-trends/. Accessed March 3, 2017.
8 Beth Levine. Next Avenue. May 25, 2016. “3 Surprising Things That Raise Your Dementia Risk.” http://www.nextavenue.org/3-surprising-things-raise-dementia-risk/. Accessed March 3, 2017.
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