Once boomers reach a certain age, they may want to make resolutions in addition to taming the bulge.
From securing long-term care insurance to becoming a more informed health consumer, there are many ways boomers can resolve to make positive changes in the year ahead. The trick is making sure the change starts - and ends - from within.
"It's a positive thing that people want to create New Year's resolutions," said Dr. Mikol Davis, psychologist in San Rafael, Calif., who specializes in aging issues. "However, there are certain resolutions that don't create a better quality of life, but rather the illusion of it when focused on material things."
When mulling a resolution, consider how you want to age. Also think about how you'll fulfill your good intentions, and how to share time and resources.
Not sure you can stick with your resolution? Enlist a family member, spouse or best friend for motivation. The resolution is more likely to stick if someone is providing support. For boomers in the midst of drafting their New Year's resolutions, here are eight suggestions:
- Find "me time": Discover a new activity, exercise, learn a new
skill, or re-visit a passion that fell to the wayside due to competing work
and family demands. Boomers, especially those caring for aging parents,
deserve a break, said Beverly Mahone, author of "Whatever! A Baby
Boomer’s Journey into Middle Age." Make a date with yourself to go
for a walk, head out for a run, take a drive or garden.
Holistic healing centers also can be great places to explore personal growth
through approaches that cleanse, nourish and balance the body. "You've
got to be a little selfish and find some me time," Mahone said.
"It could be a hobby, or going to the spa once a week, or hanging out
with a best girlfriend. It's whatever it takes to release the built-up
- Create a retirement plan. Looking at 401(k) statements once a
quarter is only one piece of a retirement plan. It's also important to think
clearly about the big picture and have a strategy in place. Asking
questions like, "What do you want your retirement future to
look like?" and "Will you have sufficient financial resources to
achieve that goal?" are only the beginning. If you're living on
$100,000 annually now, and want to live on that each year in retirement,
it's important to determine whether you have saved enough to do that
given inflation, Social Security and expected retirement assets, said
Barbara Bachelder, a certified financial planner in Sausalito, Calif. If
you're not on track, you have choices to think about: working longer,
spending less or saving more. Talk to a financial planner, or at the very
least make use of online calculators to ballpark your financial picture.
"Once you have a plan, you'll have an idea if you can afford the
Mercedes, versus the car that costs $20,000 less."
- Heir on the side of caution. If you have heirs and want to maintain
your estate for them, make sure your will is in place and think about
setting up a trust for the assets. Planning ahead could alleviate numerous
headaches for loved ones when the time comes.
- Look into long-term care insurance. When it comes to buying long-term
care insurance, many boomers drag their feet. Some think Medicare
will cover expenses later. They're wrong. That means the time to look into
policies is during your 50s and early 60s, well before certain pre-existing
conditions begin to surface with age that could make it difficult to attain
coverage later in life, said Suzanne Schneider, a long-term care insurance
agent in Fairfax, Calif.
- Give your body a tune-up. Many boomers caring for aging parents are
witnessing firsthand the effects that diseases like Alzheimer's have on
aging bodies. So why not do something now to forestall memory loss?
fitness workouts are being touted as a way to slow some
natural effects of aging and delay the onset of memory-loss disorders,
including Alzheimer’s disease. While you're at it, get your eyes
checked. A lot of boomers tend to ignore routine checkups until
it's too late.
- Become a better health advocate. As boomers age, their medicine
cabinets may become more full with prescriptions to soothe various aches and
pains. Before doing anything, resolve to become an educated health consumer
and learn more about the pills or recommended
surgery. Tools like the Internet - which are meant to inform, not
prescribe - can be a great starting point for background information on
everything from the prescription drug and its maker to alternatives you can
discuss with doctors. Ilena
Rosenthal, a women's health advocate, cautioned boomers not to be
swayed by advertising, and to be mindful of subsequent perks some physicians
receive to tout products. "Learning to follow the money behind the
massive number of medical messages we receive daily may well lead us to
realize that modern medicine has little to do with health and everything to
do with business," Rosenthal said.
- Focus on nutrition. A good multivitamin can help bridge some
nutrition gaps formed by aging. Vitamins and dietary supplements can be
viewed as a "toolkit for people who want to get back on track"
after years of doing things - like drinking
coffee - that deplete the system, said Heather Barry,
merchandising assistant for wellness at Elephant
Pharm in San Rafael, Calif. She suggested a whole food multivitamin
that when taken in divided doses throughout the day is much easier on the
stomach than a high-potency multivitamin. Barry also suggested boomers
consider essential fatty acid supplements that support vision and brain
health, as well as calcium and magnesium. As always, boomers should talk to
their doctors before taking a supplement.
- Think politically. 2008 is an election year, making it a great time to become more politically active and part of the solution, suggested Laurel Kennedy, president of Age Lessons, a boomer think tank. There's a wide range of candidates, so consider supporting one that reflects values you embrace and encapsulates what you hope to realize as you age.
Whether you make a resolution on this list or usher in change with one of your own, have a strategy in place to ensure your good intentions don't erode come February. For example, it's one thing to say you're going to create a retirement plan. But it's another to talk to your friends or spouse about that plan, research investments online and set up a meeting with a financial professional. Also think about personal habits or patterns that could derail your plan.
"A plan of change must look at ways in which you might sabotage even your best interests," Dr. Davis said.
Resolutions don't have to be huge life-changing events. Sometimes just living in the present can be enough to break free and feel more healthy, Dr. Davis said.
"I'm a strong believer in not looking back on life and feeling any degree of remorse."