In the past 30 years, the number of people living to be 90 and above has tripled, and will quadruple by 2050. By that time, some of our numbers will already have appeared on Willard Scott’s list. Willard himself will be 116 by then, likely still going strong from the looks of him.
The good news in all this? According to the 2008 census, only 23%of those older than 90 live in nursing homes (yay!), while some 40% of them live alone. I call that good news, because I think most of us would prefer to live independently–forever, if possible. But considering that the median income for the over-90s is $14,760, and that 80% of people living outside a nursing home have at least one disability, living a long life likely will be more like a roll in a briar patch than a walk in the park. Unless, that is, science alleviates some of the physical issues associated with being the oldest of the old. (Highly likely, it appears.) Regardless, I doubt that we’ll end up as fit as Martina Navratilova or as
gorgeous as Helen Mirren. (How does she manage to look like that, anyway?)
But even Martina and Helen will have to make concessions to the indignities of failing bodies, though they’ll likely be able to hire round-the-clock staffs to see to their needs and purchase homes with every possible convenience. Most of us won’t have these choices, so I suggest we all get busy planning.
So here are some of the best ideas I’ve read to help make our old-old years more palatable:
-Move to a single story home in an affordable neighborhood with young families–they’ll help look out for us, and we can hire the teenagers to do yard work and errands. Being close to younger, caring relatives isn’t a bad plan, either.
-Put as much money as possible into our 401Ks–a decent income will help us afford in-home services or a better-quality facility.
-Live in an area with public transportation or affordable taxi service for that dreaded day when we can no longer drive.
-Exercise, exercise, exercise, and eat healthily. Seriously, old age is not for sissies, and we’ll all be best served by long-term training to keep muscles and bones strong, joints moving, and blood pressure low.
-Stop smoking, right this minute. An oxygen tank is not the kind of fashion accessory you want to be sporting, nor is an open heart surgery scar, which spoils your cleavage. (Of course we’ll have cleavage–we been working out, and we can afford miracle bras.)
-Explore–or better still, create–new ways of living. I, for one, would like to be part of a new movement–small houses or apartments with a central communal living area for meals and round-the-clock assistance. It could be like the current high-end retirement communities but without the high up-front cost, and controlled by the residents, not a corporation. Alternatively, I might look into forming a commune. Remember those? We may have pooh-poohed them in the past, but a multi-generational one might be just the ticket.
Let me know what plans you have for your old-old age. Maybe we’ll end up in that commune together, sharing our nightly glass of wine and giving our personal trainer hell. I’d like that, wouldn’t you?