November 18, 2022

An Able-Bodied Retirement

When you imagine your retirement, what are you doing? Maybe you’re walking with a partner, playing with your grandkids, golfing, gardening, or traveling. Whatever that image is for you, it usually involves the capacity to be independent and physically able to do the activities you enjoy doing. The reality is that on average, Americans live 66 years in full health. So right at retirement age is when most Americans begin to decline in health. The good news is that we know a lot about how to maximize our healthy life years.

  • Eat a healthy diet – lots of fruits/veggies, low saturated fat/no trans, low added sugar
  • Exercise regularly- 300 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity, strengthening exercises 2 times per week, regular stretching
  • Sleep 7-9 hours per night
  • Limit alcohol – 1 drink/day for women, 2 drinks/day for men
  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain social relationships

These are public health messages that most of us are familiar with, but do we follow them? According to the Centers for Disease Control, less than 20% of American adults 55 years and older meet both the aerobic activity and muscle strengthening guidelines, only 10% of Americans eat the recommended number of fruits and vegetables, and 1 in 3 Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. If we want to live long, healthy lives, why aren’t we changing our behavior?

Change is hard. It’s normal to feel like there is a part of yourself that wants to change and a part of yourself that doesn’t want to change. Each of us has unique life circumstances, social determinants, values, priorities, and customs that contribute to our patterns of behavior. Each of us has to do the work to gain insights into our patterns of behavior, discover what motivates us, and integrate these changes into our daily lives. If you, like most of us, have struggled to do this on your own, know that there are studied and proven therapeutic techniques for behavior change and nurses specially trained to support you in achieving your desired goals.

By Stacia Potempa, MSN, BSN, RN, NC-BC
HealthyLifetime™ Board Certified Nurse Coach
University of Michigan, School of Nursing HealthyLifetime™ Clinical Services Manager

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