Let’s face it: everyone grows old. However, not everyone grows old well, which is a pity, as your golden years could potentially be the best years of your life, free of work and stress.
This phase of your life deserves a carefree you, where money, children, and life in general shouldn’t weigh you down, and you’re in good condition to enjoy what you’ve worked hard for to get there. If you want this kind of life in the future, here are 10 lifehacks you can do to enjoy blissful golden years ahead.
1. Learn something new every day
As you age, the brain and mental function changes along with it. Although mental decline is common, it is one of the most feared effects of ageing. Through research, doctors found that activities which require the use of your brain stimulate new connection between nerve cells, thus helping with their regeneration to ensure constant neurological function.
Stimulate your brain by learning a new language, reading, playing games, or even doing the all-time favourite – solving word puzzles. Not only does doing so delay memory-loss illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, but it also fosters executive function which is a set of mental processes needed to perform activities such as planning, organising and remembering details.
The brain loves new experiences and sensations so don’t be afraid to break your routine. In fact, make it a habit to try something new for mental stimulation. Little steps would suffice, like taking a different route for your morning walks. The rush that you get from trying something new is your brain feeling the excitement. Doing so will cultivate curiosity, creativity and an open mind which are additional traits linked to longevity.
2. Get insured for your peace of mind
After all those decades of working, your lifetime savings becomes as precious as your health. And with ageing comes potential health complications. So protect yourself and your retirement savings to enjoy peace of mind in the future by getting insured.
In Singapore, we have the MediShield scheme which provides basic medical coverage for hospitalisation and surgery expenses, as well as the ElderShield scheme which provides a monthly cash payout in the event of disability. On top of these, you can also consider Medisave-approved Integrated Shield plans and Eldershield Supplements from private insurers such as Aviva. Integrated Shield plans give you higher insurance coverage that can cover treatment at private hospitals or stays in A/B1 wards in restructured hospitals. Meanwhile, ElderShield Supplements like Aviva’s MyCare or MyCare Plus increases the payout amount and duration from the basic ElderShield scheme.
In the case of ageing, whether or not you are healthy, having protection is better than none, and this will ensure a more worry-free life in the future.
3. Keep your hands off the salt shaker
As adults get older, the sense of taste fades, leading to a desire for more salt on food to enhance flavour. Salt has detrimental effects on health, such as causing a rise in blood pressure which could lead to cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
According to World Action on Salt & Health (WASH), reducing salt intake by 6g per day is estimated to reduce stroke by 24 per cent and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) by 18 per cent. A recent meta analysis has predicted that a reduction in salt from 10g to 5g would reduce overall cardiovascular disease CVD by 17 per cent preventing 3 million CVD deaths (250,000 of which are from stroke ) worldwide. Studies have shown that even those with normal blood pressure would benefit from reducing salt in their diet.
Therefore, it is prudent to keep blood pressure under control through a low-salt diet. It’s very simple; you just have to leave that salt shaker where it belongs – the food shelves.
4. Start planning ahead
To ensure that you have enough savings to enjoy your golden years, careful planning now could mean less things to worry about when you grow old.
To understand how much money you need to retire, you need to first establish the kind of lifestyle you want to lead during your retirement. For example, would you like to own a car or are you content with public transport? Would you be wanting to spend your retirement traveling the world or are you more of a homebody?
You can always make use of online calculators that can estimate the amount of monthly income needed to sustain your desired lifestyle. Try it now with Aviva’s visually engaging and helpful retirement calculator.
5. Go for regular check-ups
Take charge of your health by going for regular check-ups.
While you may seem healthy on the outside, there are some diseases or illnesses that show no symptoms during the early stages, and by the time the symptoms do show up it may be too late.
Early detection through regular health screenings, followed by treatment, can result in better outcomes and also lowers the risk of serious complications in the future.
By going for the right health services, you are taking steps that increase your chances of a longer, healthier life.
6. Get physical
The thought of exercising may not be appealing to everyone, especially if you prefer to live a sedentary lifestyle, or you have some physical constraints that prevent you from doing so.
However, exercise does not need to be too hard-core or physically demanding to make a difference. Any form of physical activity is encouraged as research have shown that using your bodily muscles lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, fights diabetes, and reduces mental stress; all of which aids the overall function of your brain as well as your heart.
It could be as simple as puttering around the house, gardening, walking your dog, swimming (if you have a pool that you can access easily), or playing golf. You can get physical whilst actually having fun. Contrary to popular belief, physical activities or moderate exercise can improve your health if you are frail or if you’ve been diagnosed with a disease due to age.
7. Go on social media
If you’re not on social media yet, you may want to try to be connected now, because its benefits will extend beyond just finding out what your friend from across the city had for lunch. With Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you’ll be able to keep in touch with friends and stay updated on your loved ones’ lives.
More importantly, however, research shows that those who are more socially connected live longer as this is one of the few ways to ward off depression.
Apart from being a way to be connected, social media is also a great way to find things that entertain you through the links that your friends share. By scrolling through your feed, you can find videos, articles, and photos that you may not see on your own. So you can also stimulate your brain, and keep the endorphin levels up while keeping in touch with your friends.
8. Make it a habit to get a good night’s rest
Research shows that if you sleep less than six hours a night, you are at far greater risk of experiencing heart attack or stroke. The consequence of insufficient sleep is extensive, both physically and emotionally.
A new study of around 15,000 people from China’s Xuzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that sleep issues boost your blood sugar level into an unhealthy range. Doctors from Sweden have also found that poor sleep increases your risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems by 30 to 40 per cent.
On an emotional level, lack of sleep affects your mood, which could make you more prone to anger and feel less calm or at peace.
Research also has shown that lack of sleep shrinks your brain, can make you feel more stressed, and lead to weight gain, among other disturbing effects. Therefore, to ensure good health at any age, kick the poor sleeping habits to the kerb and aim for a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
9. Find a hobby and enjoy it
Stay active and involved. Be it painting, golfing or playing chess, increasing your physical or passive activity means improving the quality of life.
Doing something you enjoy enriches your life and bring you joy. Happiness has been proven to improve the immune system and reduces stress. When your stress level is high, your heart rate goes up, your digestion slows, and blood flow to certain muscles is blocked. If you experience chronic stress, these conditions could lead to actual physical disorders such as obesity, diabetes, ulcers and even cancer.
Happiness is easier to cultivate than you think; one of the many ways of doing so is to have a hobby that you love.
10. Laughter is truly the best medicine
Researchers in Norway have found that people with a sense of humour can expect to live longer than their humourless counterparts. Over the years, several studies have been conducted to find the relation between humour and happiness; and results show that laughing triggers a number of positive physiological responses.
Dr. Lee Berk and fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California studied the effects of laughter on the immune system and their published studies have proven that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers, and produce a general sense of well-being.
Laughing to improve your health has even prompted a physician from India, Dr M. Kataria, to develop Laughter Yoga, a therapeutic intervention that uses humour to relieve the person of their psychological distress.
This feature was sponsored by Aviva Ltd and published on AsiaOne on 8 Oct 2014.
Reproduced with permission.