Most people in developed countries today enjoy a far higher standard of living than anyone from centuries past. We have access to a wealth of information at our fingertips and can communicate with other people anywhere in the world. Advances in medicine have greatly improved our life expectancy. Accessible transportation allows us to travel and enjoy different experiences.
Overall, there are many things we can all look forward to when we retire. But when you can expect to live longer, there are more years during which you’ll have to navigate the challenges of being a senior. Many of today’s elders are already dealing with those issues. Their experiences can offer us valuable insight into the difficulties encountered as we age.
In turn, we can help make immediate improvements in the way we care for our elders while laying down better plans for our long-term future. Here’s a closer look at some of these lessons.
Improving social connections
In his book The World Until Yesterday, author Jared Diamond studies traditional societies and points out how their practices can help modern societies to improve in critical areas. And when it comes to elder care, the contrast is stark.
Traditional families live close together throughout their lives. This social support network also includes friends. In the modern American lifestyle, people age separately. They might live in retirement homes. Visits from children or the friends of youth tend to be uncommon.
A lot of that has to do with the high value we place on freedom and mobility. We are unafraid to move across the country in search of a better life. We can work our way up the career and social ladders, but it’s up to us to do the hard work.
Elderly care is expensive, but it’s also a challenge that millennials are embracing. This can portend well for the future. But this burden shouldn’t be shouldered only by your kids and grandkids. You can choose to retire in a place where there’s a supportive community. A mix of fellow retirees and younger generations will offer a wealth of social interactions and support similar to what elders enjoy in traditional societies.
Help with aging in place
As we age, our bodies begin to decline. Our lifestyles slowly change. We might spend more time on the first floor of a two-story home, move more slowly, and need brighter lights around the house. Regular maintenance activities such as air vent cleaning will help to keep your home livable, but eventually, further home improvements might be necessary.
This can be a consistent problem for seniors. After you retire, your financial resources are more limited. While you might want to spend on some well-earned indulgences, you’ll also need to balance those expenses. The increasing cost of healthcare, higher risk of medical issues, and an uncertain economy can further complicate this challenge of financial management.
Aging in place can be the ideal solution. It eliminates the added cost of relocating for your final chapter. You get to make small changes to make your home more senior-friendly, adding features such as handrails or motion-sensitive lights.
However, you need help when deciding to age in place. Costs you sink into your property now need to go towards long-term solutions. The community will also play a factor. Seek input from, and build relationships with the locals who are likely to be your support group should you decide to make your current home your last one.
Giving back more value
The pandemic has affected us all to some extent. But our seniors might be the group to have suffered the most. One big takeaway from this event is that the relationship between our elderly and the younger generations isn’t creating as much value as it could.
Both sides have to do more in this regard. The young cannot ignore the challenges of the old or turn their backs on them in a crisis. Eventually, it will be our turn to stand in that position and face the problems of the elderly.
Likewise, seniors might not find it feasible or advisable to lead carefree lives in their golden years. The elders are a source of valuable wisdom in traditional societies. Even in the information age, older people can teach lessons and nuances of skills that can’t be gleaned from the internet.
Young and old can both step up and help to bridge that connection. Through this partnership, our elders can continue to give back more value, even without continuing to work. In turn, communities and younger generations will more easily perceive the importance of caring for seniors. It will be a challenge but also a clear path forward.