We spend our working lives preparing for retirement, establishing savings accounts and IRAs, but not much time making sure we have our health in retirement. Often in all the planning before we retire, we neglect to anticipate changes in mental and physical wellness that can turn a happy, active retirement into a sedentary one.
As you transition into your senior years, with a little attention you can maintain and even improve your mental and physical wellness. Aging is a process that requires specialists to help navigate your unique health demands and goals. When building your team of experts for your individual needs as you age and retire, consider three key areas: general health, cognitive health and musculoskeletal health.
General health in retirement
Primary care physicians (PCPs) are always the frontline if you notice any concerning symptoms or changes in your health when you retire and as you get older. PCPs help prevent, manage and treat health conditions through medications, routine screenings, targeted assessments and specialist referrals. As an older adult, you’ll find it valuable to build a relationship with a geriatric doctor—a PCP who specializes in the health of seniors. Go to healthinaging.org to help you find a doctor near you who is a member of the American Geriatrics Society.
Some neurological changes are part of the normal process of getting older, while others are brought on by disease or injuries. Do you find your voice harder for people to hear or your speech patterns difficult? Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can help you relearn to speak if aging has reduced the elasticity of your vocal cords, making it challenging to talk in the way that you’re used to. SLPs also can be integral in recovering speech after a stroke or addressing problems swallowing following events like bouts of pneumonia or changes to the teeth, gums or mouth.
Other specialists, such as nutritionists, can help create a tailored plan to keep your mind in top shape and boost your health in retirement. Research indicates that certain micronutrients can have a protective effect on the brain’s neurons and reduce the risk of common elderly diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is a common cause of joint pain in seniors. Studies show that as little as eight weeks of physical therapy can effectively treat osteoarthritis of the knee to alleviate pain, improve physical function and boost health-related quality of life when you retire. Subjects in one study maintained their improvements for at least two months after stopping the treatment.
Osteoporosis and sarcopenia also plague older adults. The natural loss of muscle mass as we age, sarcopenia increases the risk of falls, fractures and mobility disorders that make it hard to age in place, according to recent studies. With both diseases, a physical therapist can design strength and resistance training programs as well as at-home exercise routines to promote muscle and bone strength.
Just as important are the steps you can take toward prevention and early detection of health problems. Dr. Donovan of Heather Lane Physical Therapy uses the European Working Group’s scientifically based algorithm to look at grip strength, walking patterns and other signs indicative of the development of sarcopenia. Dr. Donovan also looks for bone loss symptoms to identify and treat osteopenia and osteoporosis.
A physical therapist can test and track your musculoskeletal health and progress so that you have the strength, energy and endurance to do all the things you dreamed of doing when you retire. Call Heather Lane Physical Therapy at 720-507-3962 or book your free 10-minute phone consultation online to make sure you transition into your retirement years with ease.