How To Rightsize Your Lifestyle As You Age

Photo: getty
woman in kayak

You've probably thought about what you want your life to look like when you're elderly. Have you thought about rightsizing your life as you get older?

Most of us are under the impression that if we are in good health — physically and mentally — that whatever it is we're able to do now, we will always be able to do.

RELATED: What Age Is Considered Middle Aged Vs Old Vs Elderly?

Rightsizing our expectations of aging.

These are my expectations. My grandfather lived by himself up until he passed away at 94 years young. He played golf regularly and even went skiing from time to time. That's how I expect to age.

No one I know ever envisions themselves as old with creaking bones, arthritis, and other medical and mental problems, but it can happen.

Aging is inevitable, and I believe that there are ways to anticipate this inevitability that will make it easier for us and our families. Sometimes, we have to make concessions in our expectations of aging. 

Recently, I read the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. I rarely review books, but this made a huge impression on me.

Aging is inevitable.

Dr. Gawande is a surgeon. He talks openly in his book about healthcare for elderly patients and the fact that, sometimes, doctors seek first to fix the medical problem and then take the quality of life into consideration.

Dr. Gawande seamlessly wove stories of patients into his book, which makes it a pleasurable read in addition to being informative. He frequently referred to different patients and their stories as the book went on.

This book deals with medical issues elderly patients and their families encounter and the long-term care industry. Dr. Gawande talks about how such facilities came to be, as well as how they have evolved over time. It's a fascinating read!

I read this book while visiting my son in Lake Tahoe. He and I had many a long and interesting discussion as I revisited several of the scenarios presented in the book.

These were valuable conversations as I shared my thoughts with him regarding which concessions I would be willing to make to have the quality of life as I age. Of course, as I already mentioned, my expectation is that I will be like my grandfather and be physically and mentally fit into my 90s.

Have you considered your lifestyle as you age?

Have you thought about which concessions you're willing to make? What are your expectations now, and how will you rightsize them as you age?

Understand that as life goes on and things change, the concessions you may be willing to make necessarily may change. Your health may change, causing you to alter your expectations.

As Dr. Gawande indicates in his book, some things are out of your control. Organizing your thoughts and informing your family is one way you can be in charge.

There were some stories in his book where the patient or elderly parent felt one way, and the family members were taken completely by surprise.

RELATED: Keep Calm: 5 Ways To Make Peace With Getting Older

Here are 3 things to consider while you contemplate rightsizing your expectations as you age.

1. Safety first.

Let’s think about safety in terms of aging. As I mentioned, my grandfather was very active throughout his life. He continually exercised. I'm also physically active.

So, think about what you do for exercise. Are you steady on your feet? Do you have good balance?

You can maintain or improve your balance by working with a trainer. If falling is a big concern, are you willing to use a cane or a walker?

I’m a stubborn person and sometimes have difficulty accepting limits. If you are this way, too, think about the complications that may arise if you fall and break a bone or hit your head.

Instead of insisting on walking without a cane or a walker, rightsize your expectations and accept help.

If you have a lot of stairs in your home and get tired easily going up and down, you may want to move into a single-level home or apartment.

One of my clients moved into an apartment last year. The building has a fitness center, a pool, and a concierge who helps with a wide variety of tasks. A place like this may work for you, too.

Begin investigating places you may want to live before it becomes a necessity.

2. What’s important to you?

Think about what you need or want in your life to be happy.

Are you intent on staying in your home? Are you willing to rightsize your expectations as you age by accepting a live-in companion or moving to an independent or assisted-living facility?

3. Independence.

Is your independence important to you? Do you want to go on errands or perhaps to the library on your own? Maybe you want to be in a location that's near the shops and the library, so you can walk to these places.

Is privacy, managing your own schedule, and some alone time important to you?

Answer these questions for yourself, and share your feelings with your children. If it becomes necessary for you to move, they will want you to be safe, but I’m sure they also want you to be happy.

Let them know the things that are important to you, so they can take them into consideration. My son and I talked about these questions as I shared parts of Being Mortal with him.

Do yourself a favor, read this book, and then discuss it, either with your children or your parents. Share your thoughts, even if you think they will change as you age.

Letting your family know your thoughts now gives them a place from which to work. I promise, it will give you peace.

RELATED: Here’s How I Learned To Fall In Love With Aging (One Wrinkle At A Time)

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer, and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.

This article was originally published at DNQ Solutions. Reprinted with permission from the author.