Successful Aging Requires “Whole Life” Planning
We often equate preparing for old age with achieving the financial security needed to sustain us throughout life. However, a truly successful and fulfilling aging experience requires planning and preparation in all areas of life.
Financial planning is indeed important, but money alone cannot “buy” happiness, good health, meaningful relationships, and purposeful activities. In The Late-Start Investor, John Wasik wrote:
“Instead of absorbing an obsolete view of retirement, you should consider what I call your New Prosperity. This includes a flexible life plan that provides for your financial, vocational, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Unless you look at your future holistically, merely saving up a pile of money will be a meaningless act.”
Invest in Nine Facets of Life
The key to successful aging is acknowledging the impact of choices made today on your life in the future. Therefore, it is important to seek growth and development—throughout adulthood and old age—in each of the following Nine Facets of Life:
1. Intellectual Engagement - Includes activities and educational opportunities that facilitate lifelong learning; stimulate thinking and curiosity; and increase understanding, knowledge, skills, and mental acuity.
2. Purposeful Pursuits - Includes productive activities that are considered to be one’s “work,” whether paid or unpaid, and provide a sense of meaning and contribution.
3. Leisure & Recreation - Includes activities for personal enjoyment and for refreshing the body, mind, and spirit.
4. Healthcare & Physical Fitness - Includes appropriate medical and self-care, good nutrition, and regular exercise.
5. Close Relationships - Includes one’s inner circle of family members, friends, and colleagues.
6. Community & Social Relationships - Includes formal and informal networks, gatherings, associations, and affiliations that provide a sense of belonging and opportunities for social interaction and contribution.
7. Home & Location - Includes type of housing, the ambiance of living space, and geographic location that meets physical needs and nurtures one’s mind and spirit.
8. Inner Growth - Includes commitment to emotional well-being, personal and spiritual growth, and an ever-increasing sense of self-actualization.
9. Financial Well-Being - Includes basic financial knowledge, sound financial practices, and a growing understanding of beliefs and attitudes that influence financial behaviors.
Visualize Your Life in the Future
There is a lot of truth to the old saying, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” In contrast, as you plan for old age, it is important to envision and articulate the various elements you want to include in your “whole life” portfolio.
A good approach is to first picture yourself at different ages and in each of the Nine Facets of Life. In this process, it is especially helpful to think of your future in 5-10 year increments.
Take time to visualize what you would like to have, do, see, feel, and experience in all of these areas. In particular, consider how you will define quality of life and how your aging process will affect every component of your personal well-being.
Draw a picture in your mind of the life you want to have and then continue to build on those images. Whatever you identify and claim for yourself will become the internal compass of your life by consciously and subconsciously guiding all of the big and little decisions you make on a daily basis.
Commit to a Positive Outlook
It is not uncommon for individuals to avoid thinking about growing old because it conjures up feelings of dread and anxiety as well as images of inactivity, sadness, and decline. The truth is, however, that life can remain rich, satisfying, and meaningful throughout one’s life.
Each life stage offers challenges, but incredible rewards as well. This perspective will not only help you to keep a positive outlook but will also guide you in creating an aging experience that is rich and rewarding.