Getting Healthy Shouldn’t Be Expensive: 3 Ways Seniors Can Boost Their Health On A Budget

*guest post by Jason Lewis

Looking at fitness classes, meal delivery services, and other health-related products, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that a healthy lifestyle is unaffordable. But the truth is, living well doesn’t have to cost a lot. If you want to improve your health but are worried about the expense, try these three strategies for staying healthy on a budget.

Avoid Sticker Shock at the Doctor

Out-of-pocket medical bills are disastrous for your budget. Not only is healthcare expensive, but most of the time you don’t know what a procedure costs until you get the bill.

Original Medicare comes with significant cost-sharing requirements. Without supplemental coverage, Medicare beneficiaries spend an average of $5,374 on out-of-pocket medical costs (not including premiums) every year. Seniors with high medical needs and no supplemental coverage spend more than $7,000 on out-of-pocket costs.

Supplemental coverage reduces out-of-pocket costs so your medical spending is more predictable and easier to budget around. Instead of getting hit with a big bill after a hospital visit, you pay premiums for a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan that reduces your cost-sharing requirements. If you have high medical needs, Medigap is likely the better choice for you. Otherwise, you can see greater savings with a Medicare Advantage plan like those from Humana. Medicare Advantage plans vary by state, so you’ll want to comparison shop and crunch numbers to find the most cost-effective plan for you.

Supplement Your Workout at Home

Staying active saves you thousands in healthcare costs, but if you’re only paying attention to your health while you’re at the gym, you’re not getting the most bang for your buck. Healthy habits at home — especially those focused on your mental health — can exponentially improve the health benefits you see from just working out alone. 

From speeding up physical recovery to making workouts more enjoyable, incorporating self-care into your life boast a slew of benefits. However, many people don’t make it a priority because they erroneously think taking care of themselves means long massages, expensive vacations, or other costly, time-consuming activities. 

Fortunately, that’s not the case. There are plenty of budget-friendly self-care tactics you can incorporate into your daily routine. Whether you have a few minutes or a few hours, daily meditation, a relaxing bath, and an earlier bedtime are just a few examples of how you can prioritize your own well-being without breaking the bank. 

Eat Healthy on a Budget

Are you convinced that eating healthy is too expensive? There’s no question that healthy foods can be costly, but they don’t have to be. If you shop all organic from a high-end grocer and eat out several times a week, a dietary shift could double your grocery bill. But there are plenty of ways to eat well without spending a fortune.

Instead of buying everything organic, stick to the dirty dozen for your organic produce and buy conventional for the rest. You should also eat smaller servings of free-range and grass-fed meat, getting more of your protein from plant sources instead. Rather than buying processed foods that hike up your grocery bill without providing much nutritional value, stick to whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fresh meat and fish. Buying from the bulk section is another great call: When producers don’t have to pay for packaging, those savings are passed along to you. Just pay attention to price, because while most things are cheaper in bulk, some bulk products could be more expensive.

There’s no shortage of products promising better health in exchange for your hard-earned money, but good health doesn’t come from a miracle cure or any other quick-fix solution. If you really want to enjoy your best health, start with the basics: good healthcare, an active lifestyle, and a healthy diet. These simple steps don’t cost a lot and will save you thousands in health problems throughout your senior years.

“Remember “thisisyourbestyear”–taking these steps can help us all.

*This post was written by guest blogger Jason Lewis. Jason is a personal trainer and the primary caretaker of his mom after her surgery. He created StrongWell.org and enjoys curating fitness programs that cater to the needs of people over 65.

No Money Needed For This Gift

I recently read an article somewhere that talks about how some elderly people can go for weeks without talking to another person. Then it hit me, no wonder they are getting taken in by phone scammers. They are lonely and just want to talk with someone. Most of us if we are honest have sometimes looked at the phone, recognized the number and just let it go to voice mail. Most of us have more than enough human contact.

Last year I got an idea, and it stemmed from an idea that my sister told me about. Her church makes Easter Baskets for the sick and shut in at their church. You know the ones that can’t make it to church because they are ill, don’t drive anymore or for any number of reasons. They even made the decorated baskets a contest–the most creative.

Inside of each basket were things that they thought the people would like such as candy, coffee, even the coffeemaker, a pair of slippers and so much more. It seemed that my sister had so much fun gathering the items, and creating her masterpiece. The church would then deliver the baskets to the members.

So I decided that we would do an Angel Tree for Christmas at my church. We would do it for the sick and shut in. It would be the same as a regular Angel Tree, and similar to my sister’s church Easter Baskets with a few exceptions.

After I gathered all the names, phone numbers and addresses it was announced to the church, and to my great surprise the first Sunday all of the names were taken. The instructions to participate in the Angel Tree were:

  • Select a name
  • Call and talk with the person
  • Ask what they would like for Christmas
  • Ask if you could come over–if they said no which some might for several reasons including a) not looking their best b) house not kept the way they want it to be kept c) just don’t want any company.
  • If they didn’t want any visitors, then ask could you call them from time to time
  • If they agreed a visit was okay you were then to go out and purchase the items
  • You were to take the gift to the person, and sit and talk for a while. Even though you were purchasing a gift, you a were the greatest gift.

It was a great success. I was able to go on two visits, one with a friend. We visited a member in a nursing home. We sat and talked with her. The gift she loved, but she asked for a cold glass of orange juice. The gift basket had wonderful things in it that she had said she wanted, but our conversation and that cold glass of orange juice made her day.

My next stop was the name I had chosen. She wanted magazines and chocolate candy. I decided to give her a sugar high with all the chocolate I bought. After inviting me into her home, we talked about family, church, careers and more. She showed me pictures of her in her younger years, and so many family pictures. Some of the pictures were of her dancing–she said she loved to dance. When others would call her, she would tell them about my visit, not about the candy. My presence was better than candy.

Both of these beautiful people are no longer with us, but they have inspired me to do the Angel Tree again, and expand it a little. This time the names will be on a tree along with the Angel Tree wishes of our adopt a school. So we don’t get them mixed up, we will color code them.

This year I’ve added one more requirement to our Angel Tree. Each gift giver is asked to call and/or send a card to their Angel Tree person at least once or more a month. I’m hoping they will continue to visit the person. Gifts are great, but the gift of conversation and maybe a hug is so much more. Maybe when they visit they will take their children and/or grandchildren with them.

Most of us will be paying for Christmas gifts until Easter, but the gift of conversation and human touch cost nothing. Remember “thisisyourbestyear” and make someones holiday merry because all they want for any holiday is just a little time with you.

What Happens To The Spouse Of The Alzheimer’s Patient?

What happens to the spouse of an Alzheimer’s patient as they see the person they married slowly taken away from them? I remember first hearing about Barry Petersen and his wife *Jan, and now Dan Gasby and his wife B. Smith.

I’ve even written about the effects that it can have on the spouse, the toll it takes on them both mentally and physically in our April 28, 2018 post Alzheimer’s Caregivers “Til Death Do Us Part”.

These two spouses clearly have made difficult decisions. Are they wrong or right? Is this something that we talk about with our spouses before hand?

What are your thoughts? What are the spouses to do? Remember “thisisyourbestyear”, and sometimes life is hard. We really can’t say what we would do in a difficult situation until we are faced with it.

*Jan Petersen passed away in 2013 after being cared for by her husband.

Alzheimer’s Caregivers–“Til Death Do Us Part”

It attacks the brain and is the most common type of dementia–this is Alzheimer’s. There is no age requirement when it comes to the early onset of Alzheimer’s. We tend to think of our parents and grandparents when we think of Alzheimer’s, but the youngest person diagnosed with it was only 27.

The stories below are some of the examples of what it means when one states in their wedding vow: “til death do us part”. Each one of these has taken a different approach.

Mike and Carol’s journey was one that Mike was determined to make with her at home. Over the course of 10 years, and his health failing both mentally and physically he had to make a decision. A decision that was the best for both of them. Mike made the decision that even with 24 hour a day caregivers Carol needed more. He made the decision to put her into a facility.

As some caregivers think back over time, they realize there may have been signs they may have missed. As Barry Petersen talks about his wife, he tells how she changed years earlier before she was diagnosed.

All of the caregivers vowed to always take care of their spouse. They came to the realization that taking care of them meant they must face the difficult decision to put their love one into a care facility, not only for their care but the care of themselves.

Take a look at Barry and Jan and their journey with Alzheimer’s. Jan has since passed away.

Dan and B were the “it” couple that I watched on her weekly lifestyle show. From their beautifully decorated home in Sag Harbor to her wonderful restaurant that I visited in Washington, DC. They seemed to be living the dream until….. As of the writing of this article, B. Smith still remains at her home in Sag Harbor with Dan.

One important take away from all three of these cases is that couples should talk about their wishes if they become afflicted by this disease. The caregiver should have instructions that will make his/her decision on care much easier, and with less guilt.

As we mature, we do seem to forget more which does not mean that we have Alzheimer’s. The chart below is a simple way to explains the difference.

alzheimer anddementia

Alzheimer’s came to my family with my paternal grandmother. It was something that seemed to strike out of nowhere, and life-altering decisions had to be made immediately. My grandfather had died years earlier, but I know that he would have been like the spouses above, he would take care of his wife as she had always taken care of him. Even though in the later years of his life he was in failing health, he would be determined–“til death do us part”. Some conversations are hard to have, but a necessity as life continues.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Taking care of someone does not mean doing it all alone there are resources.

Try these sites and others for information on being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Support Programs and Information

National Institute on Aging

AARP Help and Support for Alzheimer’s Caregivers