Why It Matters:
  • U.S. life expectancy will continue to increase during the 21st century.
  • Advanced age is one of the single greatest risk factors for developing chronic health conditions, which can be expensive.
  • Healthy habits today improve the chances for achieving a long, enjoyable retirement.

Don’t you love hearing statistics that report we are all living longer than previous generations? Back in 1900 the average life expectancy was about 47 years, but that was up to nearly 79 by 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That’s a 68% jump!

But here’s the sneaky part they fail to mention: Those additional years are always added to the end — you won’t be able to repeat your 20s or 30s. (Just imagine what fun you’d have if you could!)

Anyway, those newfound years might extend our lives into the 80s or even the 90s and beyond. We call that longevity. But be careful, longevity is not the same as aging.

Whereas longevity is chronological, aging is completely biological. Marking a 90th birthday tells us everything about a person’s longevity but nothing about their aging. Did they celebrate confined to a wheelchair, or did they play golf? Get the idea?

Believing longevity and aging are the same is as off the mark as a client thinking fixed and variable annuities are the same.

So what is aging?

Aging is a natural phenomenon marked by progressive decline in the body’s functioning that leads to increased risk of disease and mortality, researchers say. Sound too clinical? Think of it as a reflection of all of the changes that occur over the course of your life. That interesting concept suggests aging begins at birth. Known factors that contribute to lifelong aging include genetics, environmental influences, and individual behavioral traits. Time and longevity, on the other hand, do not cause aging.

During my years as a daily clinician, I used to play a mental game with myself when meeting a new patient. I silently guessed the person’s age before viewing the medical records. What mistakes I made! There were some folks I suspected were clearly over 70 only to discover they were 54. Just as often the reverse was true, like the day I learned a seemingly pre-Medicare brunette was actually 78! How could I be so wrong?

Some folks age prematurely, and others seem to defy the typical aging process. Remember, aging is independent of the calendar, and many of the environmental and behavioral factors that contribute to aging and accelerate aging are modifiable. Healthy or unhealthy, the choices clients make today (i.e. nutrition, exercise, body weight, sleep, substance abuse, etc.) influence the onset, speed, and intensity of aging.

Unconvinced? Your parents and grandparents seemed to handle old age pretty well. But wait! As beneficiaries of extended longevity, the window of opportunity for developing chronic health conditions also expands. And as you might suspect, the most common risk factor for developing the leading chronic health conditions is aging, researchers report. Making matters still worse, individual health costs can increase exponentially as the number of chronic health problems add up: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), digestive problems, etc. Things can quickly become complicated.

Build wealth, build health

Following the path to Wealth + Health requires a personal commitment to making smart decisions regarding financial and physical wellness today in order to enjoy the best life possible in the years ahead.

According to AARP, a daily routine that includes good nutrition, physical activity, attention to current health issues, and adequate rest will generate both immediate and long-term benefits. By taking better care of ourselves today we can:

  • Have more energy.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Sleep better.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.
  • Set a good example for others.

Maintaining a healthy weight, eliminating tobacco, and moderating alcohol intake can further boost longevity while preserving a vibrant quality of life.

I miss my good friends Bill and Jean, an elderly couple who have both passed after completing rich and rewarding lives together. Bill made it to 95 and Jean 92. As a couple, they were savers and wise investors. They loved to travel and found just as much pleasure making travel preparations. China was one of their favorite destinations during their late 80s. Neither of them were complainers. Bill played golf nearly every day after retiring … even at 90. A boxing enthusiast, he was always curious and wanted to be out and about. Both read all of The Wall Street Journal every day. Jean enjoyed gardening and family genealogy. She taught herself how to operate a desktop computer, using it mostly for email and the card games. They favored a Mediterranean diet, including a glass of red wine with dinner. They kept their brains and bodies active throughout retirement while maintaining a joyful philosophy rich in gratitude. Not every couple lives like that. I knew they never considered themselves “old;” it was more like “highly experienced!”

Because Bill and Jean surrounded themselves in a healthful environment, engaged in regular physical and intellectual activities, and opted to make lots and lots of smart choices along the way, this wonderful retired couple enjoyed what we all seek to achieve from extended longevity: added years of quality living.

Dr. Bill Lloyd is a board-certified surgeon and pathologist. He joined Transamerica earlier this year as its first health director. Bill and his wife, Mary, (also a physician), live in Sacramento, California.

Things to Consider:
  • Adults worry they will outlive their financial assets during retirement; poor health further heightens these concerns.
  • Thoughtfully discussing your clients’ health issues will strengthen the relationship.
  • Decisions regarding senior health care and long term care planning are part of creating a solid retirement.

Transamerica does not provide you with personalized medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment (collectively “Advice”), and you should not rely on any it for such. You should consult your own doctor for personalized Advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON OR ACCESSED THROUGH THIS WEBSITE.