Plan to enjoy your golden years as time ticks on

By Observer Features Feb 19, 2024
Happy old people having fun in white room holding balloons

As the clock ticks on, preparing for our later years is often avoided. At best, we may have a makeshift plan.

In 1789, US statesman, Benjamin Franklin, said, “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” As long as you avoid the first, you will get older. We can’t give any advice about avoiding the other unpleasant certainty!

If there are a few grey streaks in your hair, start thinking about what changes you may need to make to your lifestyle, home, and whether you may need to move. Do this long before you have to, so you can plan and prepare for the future.

Nobody wants to think about not being able to look after themselves. But if you think about what changes you might need, it can help you stay independent and live in your own home for longer.

Where will I call home?

The question of where to live looms large as you advance in years. Will the convenience of living in town outweigh the peacefulness of a country home? If children have flown the nest, should you downsize? Would you enjoy living somewhere with support available? The support could increase as your needs do. Think about geography, as well as access to healthcare, transport and social networks.

Moving home is never easy, but it gets even harder as you get older. Think of these things beforehand - before it becomes urgent because of illness, frailty, or inability to drive.

If you would enjoy some kind of supported living, why not visit a few likely places with somebody you trust. Even if you think it’s not for you, declining health may dictate that such a move becomes necessary. It might be wise to investigate the options anyway – you might find it is not what you imagine it to be.

Home Adaptations

If you decide to stay at home, adaptions could make you more comfortable and reduce the risk of falls and accidents.

Many homes, especially older ones, were not constructed with the limitations of older life in mind. Ramps for wheelchair access, stair-lifts or walk-in showers, can change from luxuries to necessities, and help you remain at home comfortably and with dignity.

A well-lit home is a safe home. While this may seem obvious, making sure you have proper lighting in your home is essential.

You’ll be able to move about more easily and obstacles or hazards clearly seen. Consider installing motion-sensor lights that turn on automatically when you enter a room or get out of bed.

Start decluttering  now. According to Age UK, falls are the most common cause of injury-related deaths, for people over the age of 75. Look at your home with a critical eye and get rid of trip hazards and create clear pathways through each room. If you have floors that are slippery, invest in some anti-slip rugs that will give you a more stable footing.

If a lift or stair-lift is possible, could you live downstairs if necessary? Do you have a place where you could put your bed or install a shower and loo? Don’t forget outside. It’s little use making your home liveable in if you can no longer manage the steps into the house.

Bathrooms can be particularly difficult to negotiate as you age. Bathtubs and raised showers could present problems as you get less steady on your feet. Think about installing a level access shower or wet room. Consider installing handrails where they might be needed, such as next to the loo, shower or bath.

Filling the time gap

Retirement can be a golden era of relaxation or a daunting amount of time to fill if you have always worked. Look for activities and hobbies that will fill your time and enrich your mental and emotional well-being. The answers can range from volunteer work to educational activities. Think about what interests and motivates you well before the retirement party. Don’t let your horizons shrink after leaving work – investigate opportunities now. You will need social interaction and mental stimulation to maintain a higher quality of life once you bid goodbye to the daily grind of work. But don’t worry – many retired people say they can’t remember how they ever had time to work!

Getting around

Getting out and about when you can no longer drive may become a challenge. You will need alternative ways of getting to appointments, shops and social events. Think about how you could use public transport to get you where you need to be. But remember that routes and services can change. Try out the public transport options before you need them. This can make the transition easier, and highlight where you need extra help, such as a mobility scooter. Delivery services can be useful for regular purchases such as groceries.

Have a positive attitude

No-one wants to spend their older years isolated and depressed. Your golden years should be filled with new adventures and happiness. Maintaining a positive, lively attitude throughout your life can help you age more peacefully and happily.

Getting older brings on a whole new set of adventures and opportunities. Following the tips above and preparing for old age, before you suddenly realise you are 'old' can help you enjoy the freedom retirement brings.

None of us know what lies ahead. Preparing as best as you can will help you to adjust quicker to any changes you face later in life.

With a few changes, you can help make your home more comfortable, and your lifestyle a little easier to manage. Remember – the only alternative to getting older is much worse!