You’re all set for a big party to celebrate your 60th birthday. But, suppose you get a gift you weren’t expecting on your 60th birthday. My Mom sure did when she ended up in the ER being diagnosed with brain tumors.
What an immediate life change, going from planning parties and trips to arranging brain surgery. All of a sudden she faced uncertainty about her health but also her continued independence and lifestyle. Would she lose sight, hearing, coordination? She had to think about insurance coverage, aftercare, and so many things that hadn’t even been on her radar. It was time to brush off those dusty advance directives. All the financial, insurance and long-term care planning became real.
The Unhealthy Reality of Your 60th Birthday
Even though 60 is hardly old, the reality is that health issues commonly start becoming a problem at this age (or before). We’re living longer, but dealing with more chronic and sometimes debilitating diseases.
90% of Americans aged 55+ are at risk for high blood pressure.
Eighty percent of adults 65 and older have at least one health condition, while 68% have two or more.
Diabetes affects 12.2 million Americans aged 60+, or 23% of the older population.
67% of Americans age 50-64 take a prescription medication daily. 87% of those over age 65 do.
25 million Boomers have virtually no savings or pension. Financial inequity among seniors is worsening.
90% of people 60+ say they want to age in their homes, but very few communities are set up for active aging. In the U.S. most older adults live in communities where there is little public transportation and poor walkability
The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself for Your 60th Birthday
In light of the reality, the best gift you can give yourself for your 60th birthday is to be prepared. Don’t wait for an unhealthy surprise. Take preventative steps. Start caring about your health while you are young and fit. The majority of health issues 60-year-olds are dealing with relate to lifestyle. So, you do have some control. Additionally, you can be better prepared to face health issues, a sudden hospitalization/surgery, or care needs.
I was never so thankful for my Mom’s organization skills. It was stressful enough dealing with the emotions. I can’t imagine having to rush to pull together health records, advance directives, plans, etc. She had resources to tap into for the best doctors and care. Mom even had a “care book”, like her own personal care plan, prepared for us.
Aging Wisely Tips
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Be fastidious about preventative care.
Ask your primary care doctor (and make sure you have one!) which health screenings you should get when. Healthline has a good list for men age 40-64 and women age 40-64. Most conditions can be better addressed and managed early. Sometimes simple lifestyle changes will arrest their progression. Many times when symptoms show up a lot of damage has been done or treatment is less effective.
Start living a healthier lifestyle.
This is easier said than done. But, as we approach 60 it becomes more apparent how lifestyle affects health and even enjoying the day-to-day. Exercise and eating good food might sound boring at age 20 but the person who does those things is likely thriving at age 60.
Start with small changes. Commit to one area at a time you’d like to improve. The National Council on Aging offers this post on the most common chronic conditions and what you can do to prevent them. Check out EasyLiving’s resources: Easy Ways to Live a Long, Active Life, Healthy Aging Lessons from the Blue Zones, and Healthy Aging Roundup. For easy ways to eat well on a budget, our team provides Nutrition Tips to Stay Healthy.
Be proactive, be prepared.
Execute advance directives. Appoint someone who can help with managing your healthcare and talk to them about your preferences. If you were suddenly hospitalized, is your loved one prepared to make decisions for you? Don’t leave them with a legal and logistical nightmare. And, don’t leave them in the dark.
Plan for retirement and aging well in advance. Setting yourself up financially means more than just the freedom to take some nice trips. With solid financial and risk planning, you have more options. If you need help, you’ll be the one who can get that help at home or at the facility you really like. You won’t be forced onto a waiting list at a low-quality nursing home. Understand your insurance...health, supplemental, long-term care, life, etc. Now’s the time to address any gaps.
You should strategize your “care plan”. How would you deal with a chronic/debilitating illness? In addition to the above, it’s helpful to have resources at hand. Know who you’d call. Think about where and how you’d want to receive care. What are your priorities? What little things are important? Define quality of life for yourself.
This might also help you envision changes you’d like to make now. For example, when doing a minor home remodel you might reconfigure the bathroom for better access and safety. It might be a good time to set up an online health record. If you’re taking medications, check into apps and tools to keep you on track. You have more control over your care plan when you aren’t in crisis.
Take more time to plan for aging well than you do to plan your 60th birthday party. The payoff will come in a healthy, happy life for years to come!