Five Healthy Habits for Retirees to Consider | Revere Health

In just under 20 years, older adults (age 65 and over) are projected to outnumber children in the United States. This has the potential to make a big impact on infrastructure, natural resources and healthcare spending.

As we age, our risk of disease and disability increases—and so do our healthcare costs. The average couple retiring today at age 65, for example, will need $280,000 to cover healthcare expenses through retirement. One way to combat rising healthcare costs in retirement is to practice healthy habits.

1. Visit your doctor for an annual wellness visit

Medicare (available to those over age 65 or those receiving Social Security Disability insurance) covers an annual wellness visit at no cost to you. During the visit, your doctor will:

  • Review your current medications
  • Review your personal and family medical history
  • Complete routine measurements (e.g., blood pressure, BMI, height, etc.)
  • Discuss preventive care needs and screening schedules
  • Review your functional ability and safety (e.g., identify your risk of falling at home or screen for depression)

These visits are a great opportunity to identify potential concerns, create a disease prevention strategy and discuss your health plan. Taking care of these things now helps you prevent and manage conditions that can be costly to treat in the future.

senior doctor tablet prescription water

2. Take your medications as directed

More than half of all Americans age 65 and older take five or more medications. With at least five different dosage instructions, it can be difficult for some adults to remember to take them all correctly.

Nonadherence to medication (not taking medicine as directed) is estimated to cost between $100 and $300 billion annually. Poor medication adherence leads to poor health outcomes, and people with poor health tend to need more healthcare services. That means higher costs.

Common obstacles to taking your medication as directed include:

    • Forgetfulness or a change in routine that results in failure to take medication: Set up personal systems that help you remember to take your medication (such as alarms or pill boxes).
    • High cost of medication: If the cost of your medication is a concern, talk to your doctor about generic alternatives or other cost-saving opportunities.
    • High number of prescriptions: Typically, the more medications you take, the harder it is to take them all correctly. If this is the case for you, conduct a medication review with your doctor or pharmacist to identify medications that could be reduced, consolidated or eliminated.
    • Unpleasant side effects: If you experience unpleasant side effects, talk to your doctor about your concerns before you stop taking your medication. Abruptly stopping your medications can result in serious medical problems. Your doctor can help you find other medications with minimal side effects.

3. Get preventive screenings

There are a number of preventive screenings that can prevent costly (and potentially fatal) diseases in their earlier stages while they are easiest and least expensive to treat.

If you are over age 65, talk to your doctor about whether you need these preventive care measures and how frequently you need them:

  • Influenza, pneumococcal, hepatitis B and shingles vaccines
  • Colonoscopy
  • Mammograms
  • Prostate exams
  • Cholesterol screenings
  • Regular eye exams
  • Osteoporosis screenings
  • Diabetes screening

Your doctor may recommend other screenings and tests based on your personal and family health history.

4. Eat well

Elderly people are more vulnerable to malnutrition, an epidemic that creates a 300% increase in healthcare costs. Appetite, a slowing metabolism, health conditions, medications and other factors can contribute to malnourishment, which is why nutrition is increasingly important as we age.

Poor nutrition can affect your body in several ways, including:

  • Weakening your muscles
  • Straining your posture
  • Decreasing strength
  • Increasing your risk of falls
  • Increasing the time it takes your body to health
  • Weakening your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection
  • Accelerating vision loss in people with glaucoma, cataracts and/or macular degeneration
  • Impairing kidney and other organ functions

If you are struggling to eat well, consult your doctor. He or she may suggest nutritional supplements or provide other ideas to help you get all the nutrients you need.

5. Stay active

Exercise provides both physical and mental benefits for people of all ages, but staying active is especially important as we get older.

Exercise improves strength and mobility: Inactivity can lead to atrophied muscles, difficulty breathing, poor blood flow and several other medical problems. Walking for just a few minutes a day can improve your strength and reduce your risk of falls.   

Exercise improves your mood: Exercise releases mood-boosting endorphins, but exercise can also improve your mood when you use it as a social activity. Water aerobics, walking groups, low-impact fitness classes and other activities give people the chance to connect with others and reduce feelings of loneliness. Social exercise also provides accountability and motivation to stay active.

Find out if your local recreation center has any group fitness classes for older adults or invite a group of friends to start walking together. Your doctor may also be able to recommend at-home exercises.

The staff at the Wellness Institute offers a variety of services including exercise and nutrition education. Our providers can help you increase productivity, improve general health and manage chronic conditions. We have a registered dietitian, physician and health education specialist on staff.

Sources:

“An Advocate’s Guide to the Annual Wellness Visit Benefit in Medicare.” Families USA. http://familiesusa.org/sites/default/files/product_documents/Advocate-Guide-Medicare-Wellness-Visit.pdf

“Adherence and Healthcare Costs.” National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3934668/

“Elder and caregiver solutions to improve medication adherence.” Oxford Academic. https://academic.oup.com/her/article/30/2/323/702743

“Screenings and Preventive Services for Older Adults.” National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3142556/

“10 Ways Malnutrition can Impact Your Health—and 6 Steps to Prevent It.” National Council on Aging. https://www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/chronic-disease/nutrition-chronic-conditions/why-malnutrition-matters/10-ways-malnutrition-impact-your-health-6-steps-prevention/

“The Importance of Keeping Your Aging Senior Active.” UMH. https://www.umh.org/assisted-independent-living-blog/bid/337684/the-importance-of-keeping-your-aging-senior-active

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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