Is 60 the New 40?

If you're plugging along in the prime of your life, you may be surprised to learn that blowing out 50 candles on your birthday cake qualifies you for Senior Center membership in many communities. But do you feel old enough to be a “senior”?

When exactly does one become old? When one has grandchildren? When one needs reading glasses? When one retires from work?

“There is no answer for how old is old,” says Cyndie Bender, director of University Hospitals Center for Lifelong Health/Post Acute Services. “I know some pretty vital 90-year-olds, and I know some 40-year-olds who can barely get out of bed in the morning. It's all about healthy living habits.”

Older Adults Now More Involved

In general, she says, people who are approaching their retirement years today are more active in managing their health and finances than their parents and grandparents were during the same stage of their lives.

“I feel like people of my father's generation were more passive participants in their health care,” Ms. Bender says. “Today, healthcare is more complicated and people are paying more attention to health risks, disease processes and educating themselves about insurance and financial planning. I think doctors are better at supporting their patients to learn how to manage their health better, instead of just telling them what to do. As a result, I think people today generally have the opportunity to enjoy a longer retirement than our parents did.”

Here are five tips to help baby boomers optimize their lives as they reach and surpass the age of 60:

Get connected. The world is embracing the latest communications technologies and so should you, suggests Bender.

“People want to stay in touch with their grandchildren and today, social media like Facebook is the way to do it,” she says. “Your computer and iPhone are connections to the outside world, whether you live in your home or in an assisted living community.”

Another reason to connect is because many organizations, like UH’s Age Well, Be Well Club, communicate events and announcements to the vast majority of its members electronically, rather than on paper.

 

Plan your future. Compared to the previous generation, fewer people today expect to live on Social Security after retirement.

“Most people understand that Social Security may not be here in its present form when they retire, so they are planning and saving more, even if they get a late start," Bender says. “You have to know where you want to be and how you want to live and plan toward that goal. Some people want to work longer, and they should if they want to. Some people want to retire at 65 or 67. It's your choice, and it's never too late to start planning.”

 

Exercise your body and brain. “Staying active is a good way to enjoy your life, and to stay healthy,” Bender says. “Seek ways to continue to learn. Gardening offers two benefits: fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables and fun exercise. Read. My dad visited the library most days. Find a hobby and a class at your local college – they're often free. Stay connected to family and friends.”

Bender notes that the UH Center for Lifelong Health is partnering with Cuyahoga Community College to offer educational opportunities for people over the age of 55.

 

Monitor your health. Today's technology makes it easier than ever to keep track of doctor appointments, lab results and other important health information.

“People in their 30s, 40s and even their 50s are used to getting information online,” she says. “People in their 60s and older can also benefit from easy access to their medical records.

Check our quarterly calendar and locate a 'Get Connected' class if you’re interested in learning more about Internet safety.”

 

Brush and floss. Increasingly, research is connecting oral health with overall physical wellness.

 

  1. “The same bacteria that causes gum disease has been linked to heart disease, sepsis and other health problems,” Bender says. “Be sure to take care of your teeth and mouth.”

Cyndie Bender is director of the Center for Lifelong Health in the department of post-acute relations at University Hospitals.

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