By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

The way we anticipate our aging depends on our expectations. Recent studies have discovered that most Americans are living healthy, active lives well into old age. The same is true of Canadians.

The “Journal of the American Geriatrics Society” reported a study led by Duke University that found elderly people to be healthy overall. Eighty to 90 percent of those surveyed, aged 65 to 75, were healthy according to every measure used. Two thirds of respondents aged 85 and older were living independent daily lives. Measures that were used in the study included independent living, vision, hearing, thinking, mood, social involvement and spirituality.

The study shows that Americans generally are living long, healthy lives until they become ill for a short period of illness before their death. This is exactly what so many people hope for. How often we hear people say, “I want to live a long, healthy and active life until my time comes. Then I want to go quickly.” Healthy lifestyles and available health care are making this wish come true.

Although half of the study’s participants were living with at least one chronic health condition, they continued to report fair to good health and the ability to live and manage on their own. Doctor Truls Ostbye, the lead study author, said “We hear a lot about disease and disability among the elderly, but the quality of life in older individuals is actually, by most measures used, high up to the oldest of age.”

Consequently, preparing financially for a long life makes sense. If most of that life is likely to be healthy and active, then we can plan accordingly. Spending several decades in good health without full-time work and no child-raising responsibilities is no longer rare.

Assume you will be able to live any way you want until well into your eighties or beyond. Then set aside a block of time and fantasize about where you would want to live; what activities you would like to continue, discontinue or explore; and what you would like to change about yourself or your life. Write it all down in bullet points.

If some items on your wish list are different from what’s in your current life, try them on for size now if at all possible. If you want to explore more international destinations, plan a trip within the next year to somewhere on your dream list. If you see yourself taking up photography later, get a camera and sign up for a class now. If you look forward to more leisure time with special people, make that happen soon.

Now that we’re living longer and stronger, why not remove artificial barriers between later life and life in this moment? Live now the way you’d like to live later, and later continue to enjoy what enlivens you today.

Sandy Cohen & Roger Cormier (email: [email protected]; fr