Are You Prepared to RetireóHealth Wise?


Of course, some people have to retire for physical or mental health reasons, but unless you are one of these, youíll want to be in good shape physically and mentally.†† If not, your retirement will be far less rewarding, particularly if physical activities were always part of your retirement dream or on your bucket list.


Life has to be ever so much better for those who have enjoyed an active life if they donít require a walker, wheel chair or an oxygen bottle trailing behind when they get older.†† Old age brings some creaking joints and occasional pains, but being in good shape minimizes these.Further, you are more likely to live much longer and see your grandchildren grow up, get married and even get to know your great grand children.


In the winter, my wife and I ski with our children, their husbands, our thirteen grand children and their spouses.We have skied at least five days a week for three months every winter now for the last twenty-one years.Weíve both had a number of ski injuries.This spring, I had my knee replaced by a doctor in Park City, UT, who gave both my wife and me a stern lecture on eating right and exercise, both to reduce our weight somewhat and increase our bone strength.


The doctor told us to eat nothing but dark green vegetables, bright colored fruits and fish.We donít fully comply, but weíre getting much closer to that kind of a diet as time goes by.We feel the benefits.


Neither my wife nor I smokeósomething that pleases my doctor.I learned about the problems with smoking over forty years ago when I lagged far behind my non-smoking friends on a trek up Mount Rainier.Iíd hate to feel the consequences now, almost fifty years later, had I continued filling my lungs with smoke.Itís sad having had to watch a number of my friends pass away with lung cancer too early in life after several years of being confined to a chair with oxygen tubes in their noses.


Eating right and not smoking are important, but not as much as getting regular exercise Iíve learned.The regime my doctor prescribed requires lots of discipline.Itís easy to make excuses why something else is more important than exercise.As Iíve aged, Iíve learned more about the importance of regular physical activities.Now Iím pretty good at riding a stationary bike for thirty minutes a day followed by about forty-five minutes of strength and stretching exercises.


But my discipline pales in comparison to my long-term friend who, at age 84 still does thirty-five minutes early every morning on a treadmill at 3.5 mph going uphill at 5 degrees.He follows that with another forty-five minutes of weights and stretching.What is remarkable is that his longest living ancestor lived only to 69.What galls me is that he can still hit a golf ball much further than I can even though he is seven years my senior.Further, heís a better card player.I still have to learn what other health secret he has been hiding.


As we age, almost always we need more medical attention than younger people.Nevertheless, those that eat better, exercise more and donít smoke have much smaller medical bills that their friends of comparable age.Health care takes big retirement bucks.One retired couple with whom we ski, not yet on Medicare, pays $30,000 a year for health insuranceóand they arenít sickly.Medicare helps a lot, but it does virtually nothing to cover eye, dental and hearing problems.Nevertheless, these three vulnerabilities increase with age.A visit to the dentist office can easily cost over $1,000 for a dental problem and hearing aids can cost up to $6,000 a pair.Needless to say, it pays to take very good care of eyes, teeth and ears throughout your life.


My dad didnít fare too well in the eye, ears and teeth departments, but he was in remarkable health otherwise. He got cancer of the lip from smoking when in his forties, so that stopped his smoking.He ate well, watched his weight, exercised every day and golfed regularly till he was age 95.Remarkably, he got his driverís license renewed at age 95 (after three attempts because of bad eyesight).He died at age 96, very much alert and a competitive bridge player.


Over the almost two decades I have helped people with retirement planning, Iíve seen many retirement plans gone astray from poor health and the resulting financial difficulties. ††I feel that the best retirement advice I can give anyone is to eat right, exercise vigorously and regularly, do some mentally challenging things and donít smoke.Itís a great help to being financially prepared.


Henry K. Hebeler