Younger people don’t often think about the problems associated with aging. If they do, it isn’t with any degree of clarity or urgency. But each year brings us a step closer to the day when those problems are ours to face.
Collectively, humans have displayed a similar attitude toward the environment. We put off concerns about sustainability in the past; now, we face the consequences today.
The lessons of our global struggle to sustain the environment can be applied to the individual challenge of aging in place. Here’s why thinking with a sustainability mindset allows you to make the right lifestyle adjustments now.
The case for staying
A recent study showed that nearly two-thirds of adults across the country wish to age in place. That is, they desire to maintain their current living arrangements until the end of their lives. However, only half of that number expressed confidence in their ability to do so.
Aging in place offers some attractive benefits for soon-to-be senior citizens. The first is convenience. Relocating to a new home is never a minor affair. And it only gets tougher as you grow old. You get accustomed to your current location and its amenities; you accumulate possessions and establish social ties.
Those social ties are the second benefit of staying put. Older people tend to rely more heavily on their support network. It’s not just about having someone around who can help you out in case of an emergency. You’ll have a lot of time to spare when you retire. A lack of social interaction can make anyone feel lonely in that situation. Being integrated into the community helps to fill in that gap.
Finally, there’s the simple matter of cost. Selling your home to move elsewhere is hardly a guaranteed profit. You’ll need to make further improvements to a new property to make it suitable for senior living. And when you no longer have a steady income and have to brace for healthcare expenses, that’s a big deal.
Being truly sustainable
When we think of sustainability, we associate it with practices like buying local or responsibly sourced products, recycling, and lowering energy consumption. However, those are merely outward manifestations or behaviors intended to drive sustainability.
MIT Sloan Management Review defines true sustainability as operating within economic, environmental, and social thresholds. Adhering to those standards can be especially tricky for established businesses. They already have an existing model of business practices, so they attempt to reconcile it with only certain aspects of sustainability. They still want to retain scale and profit.
Sometimes, it’s just not possible to operate sustainably with only a few tweaks to become environmentally friendly. Companies need to see the whole context and not just engage in one-upmanship with their competitors in a display of green practices.
With a genuinely sustainable mindset, many businesses would understand that there is no future without protecting the planet. They would recognize the need to scale back operations to avoid resource depletion and minimize pollution and other adverse effects on various stakeholders.
Aging with a sustainable mindset
You can draw parallels from how a business behaves concerning sustainability, to how a person makes lifestyle adjustments as they approach retirement.
People might understand the concept of limits to growth, but when things are going great in the present, it’s easy to imagine that the future will somehow work itself out. You don’t understand that trouble is coming until the dark clouds appear on the horizon.
Make adjustments now to your spending, and you won’t have to sell assets in the future. You can keep your jewelry and home. Your lifestyle will be more modest, but that frugality is what will help you stretch your resources far into the future.
Re-evaluate your job and your career direction. If you’re living from paycheck to paycheck now, how do you plan on improving things? Merely getting by won’t be good enough when you retire. You’re only locking yourself into a future of financial struggle and increasingly unaffordable costs.
Always keep the big picture in mind. You need to plan and take concrete action not just to make ends meet but increase your income to set aside money. It could mean taking your career in another direction, finding another company, or running a side hustle.
Age doesn’t make seniors helpless. But they are powerless to change the mistakes of the past. Start to correct your course while you have time, and you can age in place, enjoying the comfort you already know.