The secret to living to 90 and beyondLifestyle
If you're hoping to live a long time, the news is hopeful. The U.S. population has been graying for some time as baby boomers get older, and beginning in 2030, they will all be over age 65. By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans 65 and older will make up about 22 percent of the total U.S. population — a demographic transition expected to peak by 2034 when the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under 18 for the first time in U.S. history.
It gets even better. By 2060, the number of Americans 65 years and over is projected to increase by 69 percent to 94.7 million, the number who are 85 and older is expected to nearly triple and the number of centenarians could rise to nearly 600,000. According to current figures, 97,000 centenarians already live in the United States and there's an increasing likelihood that more people will live past 100 years this century. The number of supercentenarians (age 110 and beyond) is already growing and some of the newest research projects a 99 percent probability that at least one person will live beyond122 years by the year 2100.
The truth is, living into your 10th decade may come with some challenges. For example, retirement savings will need to last longer, and health care costs may take a bigger bite out of your nest egg than you planned for. So how do you live longer but still maintain a high quality of life? It turns out aging well is more than being blessed with good genes.
Studies show that daily habits also play a big role. "At least 70 percent, if not more, of how you physically age is determined by your lifestyle choices," says Roger Landry, M.D., M.P.H. — a preventive medicine physician in Cape Cod, Mass — in an interview with Athene. Landry is also the author of Live Long, Die Short and the president of Masterpiece Living, a multi-specialty group that promotes successful aging.
No matter your current age, it's never too early or late to incorporate these six healthy habits into your life:
- Move more
Experts are raising alarms about society's sedentary ways, even calling sitting "the new smoking" — and for good reason. "You either use it or lose it, and a major component of using it is movement," says Landry. Although going to the gym is terrific, that doesn't make up for sitting during the rest of the day. That's why it may help to set a goal to walk more throughout the day until you're eventually logging 7,000 to 10,000 steps. Buy a pedometer or activity tracker to help you track your steps, get your baseline and then progress slowly up to that 10,000 mark. If walking isn't your speed, take up another physical activity like biking or tennis that can help you stay active now, potentially prolong life and lead you to a better retirement.
- Stay socially connected
"All of the research points to social connections as a critical part of helping us age well," says Landry. Why? Without being involved in a social circle, either because of death or lifestyle changes, you become isolated, and that may lead to a higher risk of depression and lower quality of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control, social isolation affects many older Americans, putting them at risk for dementia and other serious health conditions. The good news is socializing can help combat these risks, which may help you live longer. Social media and video chatting platforms like Facebook and FaceTime can help bring people together, but face-to-face contact is best when it's possible. So, reach out to reconnect with old friends and look for ways to make new ones.
- Have a purpose
Without purpose, people can wither and may contribute to a decline in cognitive function. How you define purpose is your call, but whatever it is — a hobby, your role in your family or volunteer work — it should motivate you. Finding your sense of purpose can be good for you, especially after you stop working. For example, volunteering just two hours a week, is shown to help improve mental and physical health. So retire better and happier by finding what gives you a reason to get up every day.
- Learn something new
Brain function is vital to quality of life, which is why you need to keep learning new things as you age. Learning creates new brain pathways, which improves brain health and may help decrease the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. For instance, pick up a new skill or sign up for a language class. And to aid your brain in learning new skills, experts suggest taking short breaks as you're learning because research shows that our brains compress and consolidate memories during these breaks.
- Manage stress
When Landry spent several years living in Europe, he was surprised to find that although some Europeans were engaging in unhealthy behaviors, like smoking and eating fatty foods, they were relatively healthy and had a higher quality of life than Americans who were engaged in the same behaviors. The missing factor? Stress. "Stress is toxic to the body, especially when combined with unhealthy lifestyle habits, and it could shorten your life," says Landry. Of course, living totally stress-free is impossible, but getting chronic stress under control is a must, especially as you prepare for a fulfilling retirement.
Find activities that help you let go of your worries. Meditation or doing something creative, for instance, may help distract you from stress, give you mental space to assess the situation and build confidence to overcome challenges. And while learning new things helps protect the brain from the effects of aging, it also releases dopamine, the "feel-good" chemical, which helps you cope with stress, gives you more energy and boosts your immune system.
- Fuel your body well
Forget trendy diets and go back to the basics. "What our ancestors ate way back when is a good indicator of what our bodies need," Landry says. That's why he recommends following a Mediterranean style of eating. That means loading your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and only a small amount of red meat. Studies have found following a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, which also incorporates social contact, plenty of rest and physical activity, can help protect against death from heart disease and cancer while improving brain health and increasing longevity.
Your retirement is as unique as you are, and your retirement strategy should account for more than just dollars and cents. It's also about what finding what makes you happy and taking the steps you can take now to stay healthy and stress-free so you can retire to your best life.
Not sure what brings you the most happiness? Take this quiz to help discover your retirement personality. Then work with your financial professional to discover financial solutions that, in combination with these six healthy habits, can help you have the money to support the life you want — for as long as you need it.
This information is brought to you by Athene — where unconventional thinking brings innovative annuity solutions to help make your retirement dreams a reality.