Preparing for old age
The good news is that we’re living longer, but we all want our later years to be healthy, happy and fulfilling. We can improve our chances of this happening and make the transition into older age much easier by finding out more about the challenges that lie ahead and planning for them early.
Some people may see old age as a time of poor physical and mental health and social isolation. They might also think that if they can’t cope at home any longer, they will have to move into a care home. The true picture is that many older people have no or few personal or practical care needs and can live safely at home with a little support from family, friends or neighbours.
Daily living equipment and technology can also help people to manage their everyday tasks and stay independent in their own homes. Take a look at our interactive house to find out what equipment could help.
If it’s just not possible to live at home any longer, older people now have a much greater choice of specialist housing with access to the amount of practical support or personal care that is right for them.
Stay active and healthy
Maintaining a regular exercise routine which includes activities that help with balance and strength (such as yoga) is very important to reduce falls and maintain our flexibility as we get older. Exercise can also raise our self-esteem, increase our energy levels and improve our sleep.
There’s lots of advice available about how to keep active and fit and maintain a healthy diet into old age. Links to some popular websites can be found at the bottom of this page.
Plan ahead for the practical help you may need
If you need help with meal preparation, transportation, cleaning, paying bills and gardening how will it be provided? Talk to your family about the jobs they can support you with, the help you might need to get from elsewhere and what services you may need to pay for.
It’s important to keep challenging ourselves to keep our brain alert and our memory sharp. Choose whatever activity works for you whether that’s volunteering, keeping in touch with family and friends, joining a book club, visiting different places or tackling difficult crossword puzzles.
Catch the bus
Learn to use your local public transport or taxi services so that you adjust more easily when you can no longer drive. Senior railcards (available to people aged 60 plus) and bus passes are a great way to travel cheaply out of peak time and visit new places across the country. Bustime is a helpful site for planning bus journeys.
Assess your home environment
Consider what home modifications will make it easier to get around your house and reduce the risk of falling. Falls are a significant risk to older people, potentially leading to fractures, hospital admission and even death. Start by decluttering your home to remove fall and trip hazards, installing grab bars at key points such as showers, steps between rooms and on any external stairs, and using anti-slip mats.
Look at your housing options
As you grow older your house may no longer be right for you. It may be too big, expensive to heat, need a lot of maintenance, be far away from shops or not on a public transport route. Moving to more suitable accommodation is a big decision but one that could make it much easier to see friends and get to the shops and open up new social opportunities.
The housing options page on our website has more information about the different types of housing with support that are available and what to look out for when you’re moving to a new place.
Plan for the future with a lasting power of attorney
We know that it’s hard to think about someone having to make decisions for us when we get older, but it always helps to plan ahead to make sure that you ensure those who you trust are ready and able to look after your financial, care and property affairs in the event you are unable to do so in the future. It is important that you choose who you wish to represent you whilst you are still able to make decisions for yourself.
You should consider having a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for property and financial affairs and another for health and welfare. An LPA enables someone you choose to support you in a temporary situation, for example, if you’re in hospital and need help with everyday tasks such as paying bills. Also, if in the future you become unable to make your own decisions, an LPA can handle your affairs because you will have already made decisions about who will act in your best interests.
Don’t assume if you’re married or in a civil partnership that your spouse would automatically be able to deal with your bank account and pensions, and make decisions about your healthcare, if you are unable to make your own decisions. This is not the case. Without an Lasting Power of Attorney they won’t have the authority.
Once your LPAs are registered, you will have peace of mind in knowing that they are legally appointed and trusted individuals who can safeguard and protect your interests.
Should an unfortunate event happen later, your spouse, children and relatives do not have to face the complications of a deputyship application nor manage the ongoing legal requirements.
You can apply and set up lasting power of attorney for yourself, you do not need a solicitor to do this for you. Further information is available on the gov.uk website.
Keeping up with technology will make it easier and cheaper to keep in touch with family and friends who live further away. Your local library may offer IT Buddies and IT Training courses as well as free wi-fi and PC access. Organisations such as University of the Third Age (U3A) and colleges or charity organisations may also offer computer and digital technology training.
Look after your best friend
Owning a pet can help improve our wellbeing and reduce feelings of isolation and depression but as we get older or less mobile, it’s natural to worry about what will happen to them if we can’t look after them any longer.
The Cinnamon Trust is a national charity which works in partnership with older and terminally ill people to provide practical support with day to day aspects of owning a pet including providing volunteer walkers and long term care should an owner pass away or move into non-pet friendly accommodation. Their website also has a register of pet friendly care homes.
- Our Staffordshire Connects site has a searchable database of community support in your area and more information on the following topics:
- Activities, clubs and groups
- Leisure centres, venues and gyms
- Befriending and companionship schemes
- University of the Third Age (U3A) has members and groups across the UK who come together to share their learning and develop their interests. It is for people who are retired or semi-retired