Retirement reasons to be thankful: healthy aging

grandparents, grandfather and grandchild
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Recent headlines about retirement have been dismal and scary: Traditional pension plans are becoming extinct, most boomers' retirement savings are inadequate, and we face the threat of high bills for medical and long-term care expenses. Not surprisingly, poll after poll shows Americans' confidence about security in their retirement years is at an all-time low. Is there any good news out there?

You betcha! In spite of all the depressing stories, I'd rather be aging now than in any prior era. In a series of posts this week, let me show you five reasons why we should feel thankful for being "older folks" now as the holiday season approaches.

Thankful Reason #1: We know how to age well

A generation ago, we didn't have the substantial amount of research that now shows us how to live longer lives and increase our "health span" - the period of time during which we're living independently and enjoying life to the fullest extent. This research is summarized in a number of easy-to-read, popular books, including these:

-- The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest, by Dan Buettner

-- Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples, by John Robbins

-- Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development, by George Vaillant

-- Successful Aging, by John Wallis Rowe M.D. and Robert L. Kahn

-- The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain, by Dr. Gene Cohen

Hint: These books might make good Christmas presents for your boomer friends and relatives.

The recommendations from these books will sound familiar to readers of my posts: Eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce the unhealthy fats you consume, keep your weight at a healthy level, get plenty of exercise, develop a robust social life, don't smoke, and don't abuse alcohol or other substances.

How to have a longer and richer retirement

Healthy eating: increase your life expectancy, feed your piggy bank

Taking these actions is easier said than done, I know, but at least now we know what to do to maintain our health. It's up to us to find the motivation to improve our lives!

Stay tuned tomorrow, for the second retirement reason to be thankful.

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure and Fulfilling Long Life and Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck.