A few weeks ago, I was talking with a woman close to my age. She had moved to another part of the country, and I asked her if she had made new friends. She laughed and said she had met some women with children about her own kids’ ages, but those women all were so much younger than she.
“It was then I realized I was getting older,” she said, suddenly turning serious. “Until then, I just didn’t see myself as being old.”
Those of us of a certain age (and we know who we are) have more than likely experienced that aha moment, whether we wanted to or not. One minute we’re the new kid on the block – the youngest most energetic one in the room. There’s no stopping us.
But in what seems a blink of the eye, we look around and discover we’ve become a part of the “mature” crowd. The bones creak a little more, the pounds get harder to keep off, bedtime comes a little earlier.
How did that happen?!
Aging is what has happened. And, we can’t keep those years from adding up. But, we can work to ensure the years ahead are positive and productive.
I asked Dena Sheppard-Madden, a family medicine physician with Banner Health in Colorado, for guidelines women age 50 and older should consider to stay healthy and happy.
“First, it’s important to realize that as we grow older, our bodies are going to show more signs of wear and tear,” she said. “No matter how much we’ve taken care of ourselves, the accumulated minor insults to our bodies add up. It’s, of course, extremely important to do all you can to live a healthy lifestyle, but the reality is we cannot control aging and genetics.”
So, what’s an age 50+ gal to do?
For starters, maintain a close relationship with your primary care provider. Don’t have one? Start today by finding a provider who can help you monitor your health, manage any diseases you have now or might have in the future, and identify ways you can take control of your well-being.
Dr. Sheppard-Madden stresses how important it is for women to see their provider not only when we’re feeling under the weather but at least yearly for a thorough health and wellness check. “Risk factors for some diseases,” she says, “increase simply with age. That’s why it’s important to see a provider to discuss what screenings and tests should be included on your health/wellness checklist and identify opportunities to improve your health by making some lifestyle modifications.”
It is recommended, she explains, for the average woman to have the following screening tests:
- Mammogram every two years, age 50 to 75
- Pap Smears every three to five years, to age 65
- Colonoscopy every 10 years, age 50 to 80
- Bone Density screening at age 65
- Tetanus every 10 years
- Pneumonia at age 65
- Shingles after age 60
- Flu shot every fall
(Some illnesses change the age at which these are recommended. For instance, the pneumonia shot is given earlier if you have lung disease)
Of course, we’ve all come from different family trees, lived different types of lifestyles, and been exposed to different things in our lives. So, one health plan of action doesn’t fit all. That’s why it’s important to find a healthcare provider you trust who will work with you on your individual health and wellness needs. Ensuring you have a healthcare provider who knows of your unique health issues as well your family health history will help your provider better help you.
If that’s not enough to encourage you to make that appointment, consider this: According to an article published in the Aug. 8-10 edition of USA WEEKEND, Fidelity Investments estimates a couple who retires this year may need an average of $220,000 for healthcare needs during retirement. Keeping ourselves healthy now might help take a bite out of those medical costs in the future.
We may be of a certain age but that doesn’t mean we can’t take on those new challenges and enjoy exciting new opportunities. We just need to make sure we’re taking good care of ourselves along the way. A trusted primary care provider can help us do just that.