By: Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho
Surprise surprise. Those over 70 rank health as a major criteria of happiness, while young people, (those under 35), barely rank this part of their life contributing to their happiness.
How can you stay healthy? Of course there are the obvious items: eat well, exercise and spend time with friends. If you are retired or live alone, there are a few more items to add to the list to maintain your health.
- If you live alone, do you check in with someone every day? If you should fall, or have an accident at home, who will know? My father-in-law thought it was silly to talk to someone every day. A once a week visit with family was enough. He fell down on Tuesday and thankfully the cleaning lady came on Thursday. He ended up in intensive care for a month and then a nursing home for 6 months before he was able to return home. What can you do? Call or e-mail someone every day, or have them call you. If you don’t answer the phone, at least some one will know they need to come to the house and see if help is needed.
- Another safety feature is wearing an alert. An alert is a button you wear around your neck or wrist. If you fall or need help, just push the button. You can choose who will be called: a friend, neighbor, family or a central switchboard.
- Are you still a safe driver? If you limit the places you go, and the time of day you drive you may want to take a test to assure yourself and your family that you really are still a good driver. Lots of people who have driven for 50 years or more say they have never had a ticket and they still have a valid license, so it is no problem for them to keep driving. Just take a test. Your doctor can tell you where. When you pass, you will be delighted that you were right all along. If you fail you will know that the nagging feeling in the back of your mind was right and you need to give up driving for your sake and the sake of others.
- Make your home safe. That means have a professional “care manager” go through the home with you to identify ways to improve your space, such as more lighting, grab bars in the bathroom, a higher toilet, walk-in shower, remove small rugs so you don’t trip, and who knows what else.
- A little exercise is better than none. “Use it or you will lose it” is true. We all dream of great physical strength with no effort, but we also know that is not realistic and won’t happen. Sitting in your chair most of the time does not turn you into a star athlete. So move around. How about dancing to the “oldies but goodies ” songs with an imaginary partner. That would be a good start that’s fun.
Ms. Sharon is right …. Health adds to your happiness as you age. But health is not automatic. You need to do your part. If you need help, ask your friends, family or doctor. They can get you started.
 The Optimism Bias, Tali Sharon, 2011