How to Live Life on Your Own Terms as You Age

Life on Your Own TermsContributors: Virginia Olsen, David Baruch

The theme of Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way” still resonates with people today — living a full life exactly the way he wanted. But things change as you age, and sometimes in ways you don’t expect.

Before retirement, Virginia Olson, resident of Friendship Village of Bloomington, lived a very active life. “I worked 70 hours a week, raised two children,” she says. “My husband and I maintained a large home. I traveled in my work and then as a consultant.” She envisioned a future of travel, missionary trips and dividing her year between living in Minnesota and California.

But then her health changed, and her husband developed cancer. “Our lifestyle became quiet,” she says. Then her husband passed away. “Before his death, there was no planning. He would not discuss where I would live or what I would do.” She found she had only herself to rely on.

Lifestyle Choices That Matter

With the changes that can happen in your physical — and financial — circumstances, is it still possible to live life on your own terms as you get older? Can you plan for the unknown so that you can do things your way?

You may have seen the statistic that 70% of physical aging and approximately 50% of mental aging is determined by the lifestyle choices that you make every day.1 That means you can take steps now to improve your overall well-being, which can help you lead that full life you want, the way you want to.

For Virginia and other Lifespace residents like her, choosing to move to a senior living community has given them the resources and opportunities to stay independent longer and enjoy life right now.

“Each day I participate with others in an outing, small group Bible studies, dinner or volunteering,” says Virginia. “The fitness center at Friendship Village is outstanding. And I know the importance of challenging my mind and being with interesting people.” So she makes sure to take advantage of new opportunities, as well.

David Baruch, resident of Beacon Hill, says “I envisioned a future where I would have more time and opportunities to enjoy activities such as travel, music, photography, volunteer work and time with friends and family.” And he’s been able to do exactly that since moving in. He can also take better care of himself physically. “As a diabetic, I am very conscious of my dietary habits and need to maintain, as I do, regular exercises.” He says the focus on multiple dimensions of wellness at Beacon Hill “plays a vital part in my continuing to live the life that I chose in the past and continue to choose in the present.”

Securing Your Financial Future

While 82% of Americans don’t think they’ll need long-term care,2 the reality is that 70% of people ages 65+ will need some form of long-term care.3 Having a plan in place to help pay for that reality is an important step in making sure you can keep living life on your own terms.

Knowing they have a Life Care agreement has given Virginia and David an added level of confidence about their futures.

Virginia says, “I continue to live a busy, full life with no concern about my health care as I age. I know the upfront cost and the continual, consistent and professional care at every level — from independence to, someday, health care. I’m not searching where to move for each level of living. My costs don’t vary. I’m safe and secure.”

David adds, “I’m left with a good sense of security that I’m able to provide for all my needs presently and in the future, leaving me free to continue to live and be engaged in day-to-day life. And I’m not a burden, financially or otherwise, to my children and grandchildren, leaving them with the peace of mind that I live a contented life.”

Why Now?

“None of us want to face the fact that each day we age,” says Virginia. “We don’t want to face the challenges of aging. But I realized that I alone make my decisions to live well. I had to change my attitude toward senior living. I thought I was too young! It became my choice, my decision, my life plan. No one deciding for me. Friendship Village offers me a beautiful, active, healthy, secure living style for the remainder of my life.”

David is also glad he didn’t wait too long. “My biggest reward has been to be living the lifestyle that meets my current needs and provides for any future eventualities,” he says. He recommends getting started by seeking advice using a variety of resources. “Be open to engaging trusted friends, family, employers and financial professionals. It’s a long-term process starting with much exploration and data gathering.”

What Now?

It’s never too late to make a few changes that will help you live more fully and on your own terms. Start by asking yourself a few questions.

  • What am I doing to take care of my body? Am I eating well and getting some exercise?
  • How am I meeting my social and emotional needs? Do I see friends or family regularly? Am I making any new friends? Do I feel connected to a community where I feel valued and cared about?
  • How am I keeping my mind active? Am I learning anything new, trying new things? Do I get to use my skills and experience to help or teach others?
  • What are my plans for finding and paying for unexpected health issues? Have I talked about my plans or wishes with anyone?

If you’re not satisfied with any of your answers, ask yourself one more question — what am I going to do about that today?

1. MacArthur Foundation Study on Aging.
2. 2017 RICP® Retirement Income Literacy Report
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services