Plan for 100 But Live for Today

What would you do if you were given another 30 years of life? Would you travel more? Take better care of yourself? Go back to school? Spend more time with family? This isn’t a hypothetical scenario: the question is real.

Woman walking alone on a gravel path

We’re living longer than we used to. Today, people in North America live roughly 30 years longer than they did in 1900. Average life expectancy in the United States is 79 and in Canada it’s 81, and these numbers are on the rise.

All of this has the potential to create a seismic change within our life course. Science has told us we have the potential to not just live longer but better.

Boomers and older generations have embraced this message. We’ve changed our expectations of ‘growing old.’ People in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond are doing what was once thought unimaginable, from competing in Iron Man competitions to climbing Mount Everest.

The ‘old’ rules don’t apply any more. However, there is one caveat: to embrace a longer and healthier life, you need to take action now.

Plan for 100, but Live for Today

First, realize that none of us are experts in all areas of our lives. Ask for professional help. Areas to consider: financial planning, career counseling, life coaching and health management. Making the most of these services can build a strong foundation for you to flourish from during your additional years.

Here are a few questions to ask each of these advisers:

Financial Planning

The prevailing question is: do you have enough money saved to live comfortably later in life or in retirement?

Unfortunately, most of us have not planned well in this area. The role of a financial planner is to ensure that we do.

Ask them to present you with a variety of life scenarios. The first expects you to remain healthy and engaged in society, and potentially active in the workforce. Another scenario finds that your health has deteriorated and you need in-home assistance and medical services. A third indicates you need long-term care.

Seek advice on what to plan for, including savings, expenditures, housing and a will. Develop a plan of action and stick to it. Your peace of mind and quality of life depend on it (and your beneficiaries will thank you for being so organized).

Sharpen Your Skills

If you want to continue to work and stay relevant in your job, ask your employer or a career counselor about skills to develop or hone. Or consider changing positions. If you’ve spent years on the factory floor, you may need to move to a position that’s less stressful on your body.

Regardless of whether you work in or out of the home, it’s imperative to keep your mind sharp. (Side note: A lack of work can impact some people’s health, mental state and quality of life. Planning for retirement — emotionally, mentally and financially — can reduce potential negative impact.)

Let a Life Coach in

Even the best athletes and executives rely on a coach. By working with a life coach you can explore what you really want to do with your life, and how to achieve your goal. Half the challenge and fun is getting to the answer.

Be sure to develop a plan that is flexible enough to manage life changes, and take the time to ask questions, as the answers will provide a foundation for you later in life. What do you really want to do? Where? When? And how will you get there?

Put a Healthy Living Plan in Place

It’s simple: spend less time in ill health and more time living life the way you want. Have a nutritionist develop an eating plan that is, yes, healthy.

Ask a fitness trainer to put together a program for you. Review both of these programs periodically to keep you on track. Get medical advice when you need it, but don’t be afraid to question recommendations.

Famously, Mickey Mantle wished he had done a better job, saying, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Don’t let Mickey’s words ring true for you.

I can hear you now: all of this costs money. It does.

So does ill health, the loss of your job, poor financial planning and a life misdirected. By making changes now, you’ll be able to maximize your additional years and turn them into something to look forward to. So, again, what would you do with an additional 30 years of life? The answer is now in your hands.

About the writer

Colin Milner

Colin is CEO of the International Council on Active Aging and a leading authority on the health and well-being of the older adult. For the past six years, the World Economic Forum has invited him to serve on its Network of Global Agenda Councils, recognizing him as one of "the most innovative and influential minds" in the world on aging-related topics.

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