Some of the realities of the House’s passage of the American Health Care Act include a major cut to Medicaid ($880 billion), which is how many seniors pay for nursing home care -- and allowing insurers to charge older people five times more for coverage than they charge younger, healthier people.
That’s going to put a strain on the retirement budget.
And then there’s the matter of preexisting conditions—and when you think about it, how many of us get to be seniors without having one or more health issues that insurers can class as a preexisting condition?
Not to mention that the AHCA also makes it possible for insurers to offer policies that don’t cover such niceties as hospitalization, medication, emergency care and mental health treatment.
What’s a retiree to do? Pre-AHCA, it was already estimated that a couple would need upwards of a quarter-million dollars just to pay for health care in retirement—and that was under the guaranteed coverage of the Affordable Care Act.
Now, it’s anybody’s guess what the final tally will be, particularly since the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet reviewed this new version of the AHCA to see how it will actually affect Americans. (The old version, you might recall, was projected to throw 24 million people off their insurance; this version will likely do far worse.)
So to reduce or avoid, as much as possible, some of the health care expenses that grow increasingly common as retirees age, here are 5 recommendations of things to try that not only could improve your wellness in retirement but might also make life more pleasant as you age.
Most are strategies that require little or no financial outlay from a retiree's already limited budget, but have beneficial physical and mental effects. All are worthwhile.
Whether it’s from books from the library, free downloadable e-books from such places as Project Gutenberg or free online college courses, reading will do you good during retirement.
You’ll keep your mind active, learn amazing things, vicariously visit fantastic places and protect your brain—and it won’t even cost you anything.
ABC News reports that, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reading and playing such intricate games as chess can help fight the onset of Alzheimer’s disease—which is expected to hit 14 million people by 2050.
While the escapism provided by watching TV could actually be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, that offered between the covers of a book does the opposite—and provides whole new worlds for discovery.
4. Learn to play, or keep playing, a musical instrument.
Another anti-Alzheimer’s disease strategy—and one that can lighten your mood, have beneficial effects on blood pressure and heart rate and offer other physiological benefits—is to learn, or continue to play, a musical instrument.
The Alzheimer’s Australia Foundation reports on a Swedish study called HARMONY that found, among identical twin study participants, that participants who played an instrument in older adulthood had a 64 percent lower likelihood of developing a cognitive impairment or dementia.
In addition, the Huffington Post reports that just listening to music can do everything from boosting the immune system to reducing perception of pain. Maybe you won’t need to take quite as many aspirin after all.
3. Get a pet.
The health benefits of having a pet—lower stress, steadier heart rate, a boost to the immune system are only some—are well documented, hence the presence of therapy dogs in hospitals, courtrooms and senior centers.
The devotion of a living being who loves you for yourself alone just can’t be beat—and if you rescue an older dog or cat, you’ll be doing a kindness for a fellow creature that will do good in and of itself in the benefits it provides.
In addition, having a pet will keep you more active (think walking the dog in the park on a spring afternoon), focused on someone other than yourself, make you laugh (cats playing with feathers and boxes spring to mind, as do dog races to get to the squeaky toy first) and provide you with company, even if now you live alone. And there’s no substitute for the gratitude of a rescued pet.
Gardening gets you out and active, puts you back in touch with nature, and can also provide you with a cheap or free source of organic produce that will do great things for both your health and your bottom line.
And if you know how to preserve or can—skills well worth revisiting in this day of overprocessed foods—you can feed yourself cheaply throughout the year, with the added comfort of knowing exactly what’s in the food you eat: no additives, preservatives, or excess salt or sugar.
Even if you have a very small yard—or no yard at all—you can grow fresh herbs and a number of vegetables in pots, such as patio tomatoes, strawberries, peppers and a range of greens for salads.
If you have a larger yard, there are all sorts of delights you could indulge in, from blueberries and blackberries to apple and pear trees. Increasing the variety of the foods you eat, as well as the amount of fresh foods you’ll have access to as a gardener, will provide you not just with better health but a sense of accomplishment (and a lot of tasty meals).
Volunteering can not only improve your health, it may help you to live longer. That’s according to a report in The Atlantic, which points to a Harvard study evaluating the effects of one’s purpose in life on one’s health.
Other studies, including one published in JAMA Pediatrics, the report says, “researchers concluded, ‘Adolescents who volunteer to help others also benefit themselves, suggesting a novel way to improve health.’”