Having a high quality of life means you feel happy and safe. The key components of maintaining quality of life in retirement include reducing the risk of losing touch with friends and family, maintaining access to healthy foods, having access to quality and necessary medical care, and maintaining a sense of fulfillment.
Advanced planning for aging can have a positive impact on the elderly as well as their families. A study called, "Spending, Relationship Quality, and Life Satisfaction in Retirement," revealed that “leisure spending, health status, and spousal and friend relationships have the greatest impact on creating life satisfaction during retirement. Creating a financial plan that outlines your best choices for housing, social engagement and leisure experiences (travel, cultural events, dining) as you age could have lasting benefits on your total well-being in retirement."
Best Choices for Housing in Retirement
Where you choose to live as you age depends on what you can afford and how much independence you want. While some people choose to age in their own home, there are costs and benefits of doing so. As people get into advanced age, living independently, managing money, preparing meals and engaging with other people regularly can become a significant struggle. Depending on the circumstances, you might determine a nursing home is the best place or, if you are only in need of some care, assisted living facilities or continuing care communities can be a good option.
The choice of whether to sell your home or rent it out needs to be made, and, perhaps most importantly, how finances will be structured for your new living arrangements and what impact that will have on your savings and any plans you have to bequeath your estate to family or charities. (For related reading, see: Tips for Renting out Your Home.)
Knowing well in advance the various aging scenarios and possibilities of where to live can have a big impact on your financial plan and how money is saved, spent and invested. Aging creates a number of unpredictable outcomes, so a flexible plan is very valuable.
Some people make the choice to live with their children and spend more time with their children and grandchildren. However, according to the same study mentioned previously, there is no statistical correlation between spending more time with children and improved satisfaction in retirement. That is not to say people do not enjoy being with their children and grandchildren, but it does suggest that doing so daily does not typically contribute to your overall joy.
For some people, living with adult children and their families is an appealing alternative to assisted living or nursing homes and may be decided upon well before advanced aging and the potential health implications that come with it. (For related reading, see: New Retirement Living Option - and Income Source.)
Maintaining Social Engagements
It can become more challenging to spend time with friends and family as you age. This can be associated with diminished health or lack of motivation to get out and be social. It is, however, very important for your life satisfaction that you continue to engage socially, and research suggests that proximity can have an impact on the frequency of that social engagement.
There is a great deal of focus on how money impacts your well-being as you age, but the types of relationships that you have and maintain as you age can directly impact your satisfaction which, in turn, impacts your health and overall well-being. Friends meet our social need for support and companionship beyond that which our families provide.
According to The Nurses’ Health Study done at Harvard Medical School, not having close friends is as detrimental to our health as smoking or obesity. Making friends later in life can be intimidating but incorporating it as one of your retirement goals can be a good start. Getting involved in activities that you enjoy and including others can also help to stir the social pot. Whichever way you stay socially engaged, continue to do so as you age, because your health depends on it. As with friendships, maintaining healthy relationship habits with your spouse can lead to higher life satisfaction. Research confirms that high-quality marital relationships contribute to satisfaction later in life.
While spending money should not be considered a leisure activity or something that brings immense satisfaction on its face, there is evidence to suggest that certain types of spending help to enhance fulfillment and happiness as people age. Leisure spending, specifically on experiences rather than tangible items, had a positive impact on retirees.
When considering life changes as you age, is it important to explore the costs and benefits of those decisions to truly understand the impact they will have on your personal satisfaction. Aging is a part of life, and as is the case in all other life stages, happiness and fulfillment are important, if not critical, to our total well-being. Looking ahead and giving thought to how, where and in what manner you might age can have a lasting impact on you and those you love.
(For related reading, see: Tips and Costs to Consider When Retiring in the U.S.)
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