Planning for the second half of life

Looking back, how many times have you planned for a life event? There are so many big milestones and phases of life that we look forward to. You've probably planned for college and graduation, your career, your wedding day and your marriage, the purchase of a home and home ownership, the birth of a child and child raising, the wedding of a child, a few vacations, and your retirement. Much thought had to go into each of these events. Pieces were put together so that the end result was exactly how you wanted it and pictured it to be.

People don't often look forward to the last half of their retirement or their death. The truth is that this phase of life can be rich and even rewarding, as well, if you have a good plan.

There are some key factors to consider when planning for a rich and rewarding last half of retirement. As in the major life events listed above, the planning stage can be difficult, but it's worth it. Think of your life in the following categories: health, home & finances, and purpose.

Have you thought yet about what you'd do when in your retirement years and your health takes a turn for the worse? In working with seniors for a number of years this is one of the hardest topics to broach. It can happen gradually or suddenly but, knowing what you would like to have happen in the case you cannot take care of yourself and putting the pieces in place in advance can avert a crisis, provide a sense of control and give you piece of mind even years before you actually need the help.

Who do you want around you as you get older or if you become ill? And what would you like them to do? Do you have loved ones, friends or family that will visit or help with things? Otherwise, who would you want to provide care if it was needed? Options include a private caregiver, one from a home health agency, or staff at an assisted-living or nursing facility. There are a few medical-related questions to think about, like having a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate agreement) and an advanced directive.

Share your plan with your physician and friends or family so that everyone knows what your wishes are. The people who care about you can make sure they are followed. The accessibility of your home is important, too. If you have a large house, how will you manage if you are ill or become unable to care for it as you have? Personal belongings can sometime prevent a move to a more suitable home.

Downsizing when you are physically and mentally able to do the work can be an enjoyable experience. You keep only what is most important. Think of it as the ultimate collection of the things you've owned in your lifetime.

Perhaps most importantly, develop a big list of activities or projects that you can enjoy (and people with whom you can enjoy them) despite limitations (sight, hearing or mobility) that may arise. Then, dive in.

Having a hearty and engaging to-do list each day will keep you active and engaged. Thinking through these points and putting a plan in place will allow you to enjoy life into your 80s, 90s and maybe 100s.

Kylee Ryan is the wellness coordinator at Equinox Village, a retirement community in Manchester Center.


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