Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Getting Better Not Older


              Are you getting better or just older. Well if you're like me it depends on the day. Eric Pfeiffer in his book Winning Strategies for Successful  Aging says we can get better as we get older but we must have goals and strategies to get better as we age.

                     Author's thesis: Pfeiffer says that " in this book you will learn that you probably have years and years to live after you reach 65, in which to enjoy yourself and to accomplish things you have had to postpone until now". The question is will you use those years wisely. Pfeiffer carries out his thesis  in a way that will be familiar to those of us retired teachers who have ever written a curriculum guide, he has a goal in each chapter that will help us to age gracefully and then he lists strategies to reach that goal. Pfeiffer divides this into pragmatic goals, health goals and what he refers to as spiritual goals.

          Pragmatic goals. The author writes that one important goal is to choose your ideal place to live . Pfeiffer's strategies include determining whether we want to age in place( stay in our present home), move to another state or  country, or move to a retirement community. The author suggests that if we choose to age in place we should start now think about how to make the house "age proof" by ,for example, putting grab bars in the bathroom.  The choice to move somewhere else may come from a sense of adventure , a desire to escape the climate where one now lives, or to be near children ( or away from them). This blogger's views are that the author is correct that anyone planning to move to a new state or country should first spend some time in that state or country. I have spent the large part of the last three years in a foreign country ( the Philippines) and while there is much to be said for the experience of living abroad, there is also a need to  learn to be very adaptable. As for a retirement community, I would have to grab a gun and mask and rob a couple of stores  to afford them.

           A second pragmatic goal covered by the author is "do you have the money to allow you to age gracefully"? The author suggests the retiree should divide his money into lifetime money and non-lifetime money. Examples of  lifetime income include social security and pensions. Of course in the case of retired Texas teachers most of us have either little or no social security , and so our guaranteed lifetime income is our TRS pension. Examples of non-lifetime income are defined contributions plans such as 403B. Pfeiffer suggests turning the non-guaranteed income into lifetime income by putting at least some of the 403B type of  investment into an immediate annuity that guarantees a lifetime income. Further strategies recommended include keeping taxes low and finding a financial adviser. My only disappointment with Mr. Pfieffer 's recommendations was his failure to mention index funds which cover the entire market, such as Vanguards Total Stock Market Index . I would also suggest visiting a website called Bogleheads www.bogleheads.org. This site provides a forum where a bunch of very intelligent guys and gals answer your questions about investment for free. Why pay for advice? No I have no financial connection to Vanguard except I wish that site would have been around when I was young and I might actually have some money myself.

 Health. Good health is a prerequisite for successful aging. That's how Pfeiffer begins the first of three chapters on health. He writes that our first strategy must be to take charge of our own health by knowing our vital numbers such as cholesterol , blood pressure and blood sugar and keeping them under control. A second strategy is to learn about a healthy diet and follow that diet. In addition he gives the advice we have all heard that we need to get up off the couch and get on the move. He suggests we need to get some exercise every day and recommends walking and a pedometer so we will know the number of steps. Though I am a committed jogger, I think he is right that walking may be the best exercise as we age .

The chapter on brain health is particularly interesting and useful. Pfeiffer is a genuine pioneer  in the field of the brain and aging. His strategies for maintaining brain age as we age is to exercise our brains. His examples of exercising our brains include learning a new language, learning a new dance step( I think I'll skip that as I have always been a threat to the health of the feet of any lady kind enough to dance with me), learn the art of tai chi and read, read, read. He also discusses Alzheimer's and has in the book The Seven Warning Signs of Alzheimer's  which he himself created. The warning signs are listed on page 121 of  Successful Aging.

Relationships.  Dr.Pfeiffer instructs us to make our relationships a high priority. Numerous studies have shown our relationships play an essential role in successful aging. The author writes that if we are married that is the most important relationship and we need to work on that relationship. His strategies for successful relationships include belonging to a church , volunteer work or joining a group. 

sex: OK now that I have your attention, Dr Pfeiffer assures us that we can engage in sex into our 70's 80's or even 90's. I guess this is indeed  good news about aging but I still think the news that coffee and chocolate is good for us is even better news. He also has a section on sex in nursing homes which put images in my mind I could have done without. 

Maintaining our independence: I suspect one of the greatest fears we have of aging is we will become dependent on others and lose our sense of  independence. Dr. Pfeiffer's strategies for keeping out independence is don't take unnecessary chances such as climbing on the roof or ladders. I felt some degree of trepidation after reading this as I had just got off the roof . Another strategy is to foolproof your home.

I hope I have given you some idea of the flavor of this book so you will want to take a bigger taste. I do believe the strategies mentioned in this book  will help us age successfully. 

                   Your Turn

 Thanks for reading. I would love to have your opinions. What are your goal and strategies for successful aging.? What are your thoughts on living to 100? Just scroll down to the bottom and click on comments.