Preparing for health needs in later life
- 21 June 2020
- 10 mins
We are all living longer and the aging process can take a toll on our health
Taking even small measures could help you live a fuller life for longer
And financial wealth checks can make sure you’re on track to live the retirement you’d always dreamed of.
Unfortunately, unlike a beautifully crafted malt whisky, humans do not usually improve as the decades roll on. We may be racking up many more years, but our bodies are at peak health and fitness in our youth. The good news is there are many steps you can take to make sure that your later decades are as healthy and enjoyable as possible.
There’s no doubt we’re living longer. Over 30% of women in the UK today will reach their 90s, as will over 20% of men ; so it’s important to think about how we could live better.
The most common diseases of old age include : heart disease and hypertension, (which are the leading causes of death), and cancer. Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia and the difficulty of living with multiple chronic conditions can be major problems in old age. The loss of hearing, sight, and muscle strength can also be significant hurdles to quality of life.
And as we age, the body’s ‘Achilles’ heels’ such as neurons and muscle fibres, which aren’t replaced like other cells, wear out .
Protecting your health
On the upside, there are more treatments for many of these conditions than ever before. There are all kinds of potions and solutions out there on the internet promising you eternal youth. But the sensible evidence-based advice on aging well suggests mainly what you would expect, but with a few tweaks that you might not .
Eating a diet low in processed food, high in wholefoods and those all-important vegetables is a top priority. Then comes daily exercise: a brisk 30-minute walk can be enough to reduce your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Avoid smoking (it’s never too late to stop) and only drink in moderation.
Other important guidelines include staying connected with others and living a life that feels purposeful. Finally, an essential that’s often overlooked – deep and restful sleep. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re not aging well. Coffee, alcohol, medicines, medical conditions, and anxiety can all disrupt your sleep.
It makes sense as you age to check in more regularly with your GP, particularly if you are experiencing problems with any of the things we have talked about. Taking up any offered blood tests, health checks or scans can lead to early intervention, and this can be key to a long and healthy life.
Don’t forget about the dentist
One often underrated way to look after your health is to take extra care of your teeth. Research has linked serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes with gum problems, suggesting that gum infections can trigger inflammation in other organs .
Dentists recommend stepping up oral care as you get older, flossing and brushing twice a day and getting regular dental check-ups. But surveys show over a quarter of those aged 65 and older have not seen a dentist in five years!  Dental repairs, dentures and crowns are expensive, so it makes good financial and health sense to hold onto your teeth for as long as you can. You could investigate dental insurance to help with the cost.
These protection policies have no cash-in value at any time. If you don't pay your premiums on time your cover will stop, your benefits will end, and you'll get nothing back. If the benefit amount has not been paid out by the end of the selected term, the policy will end and you'll get nothing back.
At home for longer
Although we might imagine that most elderly people end up in a care home, the number of people requiring residential care is quite small, currently 15% of the over 85s in the UK . There is an emphasis on caring for people at home, with home adaptions and carers visiting as required. Although live-in help also comes at a cost.
Read more: How would you pay for long-term care?
By thinking ahead now, and installing ground-floor bathrooms and stair lifts for example, or moving to a home that has been designed with older residents in mind, you could carry on living independently for as long as possible.
The hand of fate
Despite your very best efforts and intentions, sometimes genetics or bad luck will win out, and you may not receive the royal 100th birthday card or telegram. So perhaps it makes sense to hope for the best, but plan for the rest.
And don’t forget your financial health checks
What can you do on the financial front to make sure that your later years are comfortable ones? Saving and investing effectively while you’re working with an aim to have enough money to lead a good retirement can be very sensible. Wealth can’t guarantee happiness but it does give you the freedom of choice: and choice in itself can provide contentment at the very least. The value of investments and the income from them can fall as well as rise and are not guaranteed, and you might not get back your initial investment.
And when it’s time to retire, sound financial advice might be a good idea, so you don’t join the high percentage of pensioners who regret their pension decisions (4).
It’s important to make sure you have the right life insurance and travel insurance, too. Especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions. Although you’re likely to be entitled to free NHS treatment, private health insurance could offer faster attention, and access to more health screening tests.
Regular check-ups with a financial adviser can help you make sure your finances are as you would like them to be.
It’s wise to prepare for a long and full retirement, so you can get the most out of every day, however many days you may have.
Any views expressed are our in-house views as at the time of publishing. This content may not be used, copied, quoted, circulated or otherwise disclosed (in whole or in part) without our prior written consent.
 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/lifeexpectancies/bulletins/nationallifetablesunitedkingdom/2015to2017  https://phys.org/news/2016-10-die.html  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5732407/  https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/healthy-aging-secret#1  https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/health-risks-of-gum-disease/  https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-aging-mouth-and-how-to-keep-it-younger  https://www.mha.org.uk/news/policy-influencing/facts-stats/  https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/price-freedom-regret-hundreds-thousands-10484965
Any views expressed are our in-house views as at the time of publishing.
This content may not be used, copied, quoted, circulated or otherwise disclosed (in whole or in part) without our prior written consent.
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In preparing this article we may have used third party sources which we believe to be true and accurate as at the date of writing. However, we can give no assurances or warranty regarding the accuracy, currency or applicability of any of the content in relation to specific situations and particular circumstances.
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