Remember when you were finishing up high school or college and an older adult in your life said, “It flies by – enjoy it while you can!” Well, life does fly by, I suppose. But I really believe that you can “enjoy it” far longer than that pearl of wisdom might suggest.
Take, for example, the Third Age.
We refer to the “Third Age” as the time-frame between your retirement and the beginning of that period of challenge often defined by increasing limitations – those brought on by age, including physical, emotional and cognitive constraints. These days that’s roughly between the ages of 65 and 80-plus.
This can be a very special time in someone’s life. Think about it – you aren’t hampered by as many responsibilities, and with good planning (and maybe some good luck, too) you enjoy a comfortable financial situation. With your physical and psychological health in good form, your Third Age is brimming with possibilities for self-fulfillment, engagement and the realization of important, meaningful goals. In these respects, your mentor from your youth was right: Enjoy it … and make the most of it!
But in the Third Age there are additional realities, as well.
As you progress through your Third Age, there is often the onset of issues that can reshape your day-to-day life. People may notice changes in their abilities to process cognitively. Some chronic diseases or conditions may develop – for instance, weight gain could creep up or you might start showing signs of cardiovascular disease. Maybe you see changes in your senses, such as hearing or sight.
In the United States, the population of those enjoying and/or coping with their Third Age is skyrocketing, and has been for some time. This chart offers a sobering summary:
So what, you might ask? Here’s why this is important to you.
Among people turning 65 today, 70 percent will need some sort of long-term care. This might be care within their own homes or at an independent or assisted living community or skilled care facility or memory support program.
And, folks, our nation’s financial, health care and social services systems are simply not prepared for this onslaught.
That’s why it’s critical for those preparing for their Third Age to fully understand the options available now in my field, aging services. And to plan – plan, plan, plan. To this end, in a future installment I’ll review the differences in these strategies for dealing with late-Third Age and beyond.