Image(Editor's Note: Anthony Cirillo is one of HealthWorks Collective's Featured Contributors.  Anthony is Founder of Fast Forward Consulting and an expert in aging and caregiving issues. He is also author of Who Moved My Dentures?, a book that dispels myths about aging.  He fell into a mission for elders after performing for seniors in nursing homes, something he does to this day. His platform is simple - educated aging choices.  Anthony believes that people need to think about aging issues sooner in life and prepare financially, emotionally and physically.)

Many of you may have read my posts that HealthWorks Collective is gracious to share with you. I have a burning platform that I am passionate about and I call it Educated Aging. This is the notion that people need to prepare for aging issues sooner in life in three areas – physical health, financial health and emotional health.

baby boomer health educationAs a country we are far too obsessed over health reform. Health reform has to do with just a slice of the healthcare picture. It is about access to health insurance and physician and hospital care. And now a key mandate of reform has been extended so employers have an additional year—until Jan. 1, 2015—before reporting requirements mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act go into effect.

I say spend less time worrying about the mandate and more time becoming educated around aging issues. And then take action to prepare for aging so you age with a quality of life not in a crisis. People will spend far less if any time in a hospital in their lifetime. They will spend much more time out of care settings and aging in place.

  1. Take charge of your physical health.

    A White Paper by Catalyst Healthcare Research - LIVING IN DENIAL - reveals that most overweight Americans avoid the truth about their health. The majority agrees that obesity is the number one threat to public health. Yet most adults who are overweight or obese – even the well educated – say their health is excellent or good.

    Sixty percent (60%) of those questioned were overweight or obese as measured by their Body Mass Index. Of those considered to be obese or overweight, 11 percent of those who responded to the survey considered themselves to be in “excellent health,” and an additional 61 percent said they were in “good health.” It is perhaps not surprising that the overall prevalence of exercise in this group is relatively low.

    Obese or overweight people don’t fully appreciate that their own health is in danger. As the study concludes - It's Time to Look in the Mirror."

    The American Medical Association wants to classify obesity as a disease so that it can be treated as a medical condition and be reimbursed by insurers. That will make people even less inclined to step up and take responsibility for their health. Most of what ails us is within our control. If you want to avoid a nursing or assisted living facility, consider that how you take care of yourself today will have consequences on how you age.
  2. Save for long term care needs not just for retirement.

    Saving is great especially when you start young. Here’s the problem. No one understands how long term care is financed. And the truth is, it isn’t. Unless you have long term care insurance or consider the Assurance Benefit (using your life insurance as a long-term benefit), you will pay for care out of pocket and that means draining your 401(k) and other sources to pay for care. In essence do all the right things to save in life and you could still die a pauper.

    We need a lot of policy work in this arena but you can help yourself by perhaps diverting some of that retirement savings to long term care needs.
  3. Live a meaningful life.

    I spend thousands of hours in nursing and assisted living performing for residents. And I grow close to many. I contend that some of my friends there have a better quality of life that those on the “outside” and it has to do with how they have lived their life. There are so many lessons we can learn from our elders if we take the time to question and listen. And that will serve us as we age. It is the emotional aging I speak about.

    I wrote about some of these traits my friends possess in a blog about living a meaningful life. Things like having purpose, having a social network, lifelong learning and being grateful.

Educated aging – physical, financial, emotional. Get on the bandwagon!

(baby boomers / shutterstock)