Q: With such a demanding college schedule, I find it difficult to keep up a healthy routine of exercising and eating right. My parents and grandparents led less than healthy lives and are now seeing more problems as they age, so what advice can you give someone like me?
A: There is no question that staying healthy gets tougher the older we get. Back in 2010, Americans 65 and older spend an average of $18,424 on healthcare – three times more than the typical adult of working age, and five times more than what you’d expect from a child. Since then, the underlying facts have remained the same while America’s population has grown older: by 2014, seniors accounted for 15% of the United States’ population, and that number is expected to rise to nearly 21% by 2030.
In other words, senior health is a big concern for America and will only become more important as time goes on. So what can individuals do about it?
For starters, of course, seniors can focus on the same healthy habits that got them this far. While an incredible 54% of millennials eat out three times a week or more, according to one major appliance retailer today’s seniors belong to a more frugal generation that is more likely to use its kitchen appliances and cook meals at home. That’s good news for long-term health, because studies prove that cooking at home correlates to a healthier diet.
Continuing to eat well is one thing, but seniors may have trouble continuing to exercise. High-impact exercises can be tough on old bones, but seniors should look carefully at their low-impact options, because exercise is essential. Studies show that elderly people who exercise typically live five years longer than their idle counterparts.
Of course, maintaining healthy habits is only part of the equation. Seniors are also faced with health challenges that arise from illnesses and injuries. There is only so much that can be done to prevent these things, but there is much that can be done to prepare for them.
In the United States, seniors get healthcare through Medicare, a government-funded program. But Medicare doesn’t cover everything, and seniors can still end up shelling out cash for copays. That is why it makes sense for some seniors to invest in Medicare supplement plans. Also called Medigap plans, these supplement health insurance policies add coverage on top of Medicare, filling “gaps” like Medicare’s lack of coverage for international care while also supplementing things like copays. Not every senior has a Medigap plan, but they are popular: 22% of Medicare recipients add Medigap plans. A total of 12.2 million seniors enrolled in 2015, and that number is on the rise.
Living healthy as a senior is tough. Illnesses and injuries are easier to come by and harder to recover from. Exercising is more difficult. But while the rules of healthy living may get stricter with age, they do not fundamentally change. Seniors should still focus on eating healthy and exercising (low-impact workouts like swimming may be good alternatives to old hobbies that are too tough to do now). And Seniors should also make sure that they have all the health insurance coverage they need to handle a medical emergency.
“It`s not how old you are, it’s how you are old.” – Jules Renard
Written by Suzanne Hite, former publications editor serving the technology services sector.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the opinions of King’s College or WRKC.