Writing a letter to your future self is way more useful than giving advice to your teenage self, don’t you think?
Everyone seems to want to look back and pour their current wisdom out in the form of a letter to their past self. Does that accomplish anything at all? I’m kind of a forward-thinking person, so it felt logical to be specific about what I want my future self to know, sort of a time capsule of knowledge gleaned from watching (and caring for) my aging parents during the last decade. So here goes:
Spend time with your daughter
The goal is to enjoy her company while she still enjoys yours and is not in caregiver mode. Difficult times may lie ahead for the two of you as you age. If you are healthy, treat her like a queen during this decade and if you’re lucky, she will do the same for you in the next.
Stay in touch with family and old friends
Reach out to people you haven’t heard from in years — cousins, hometown pals, former neighbors, and hold tight to the ones you are in contact with. You need a community around you to survive what is ahead of you. You can avoid dark lonely days in your 80’s by strengthening your relationships in your 70's.
Make new friends, lots of them
People are going to die. They will become disabled or you will simply lose touch. Add as many new people to your list of friends as you can so that there are still plenty around.
Lift up others in friendship now, because shouldering their burdens makes you stronger for your own future.
Love thy neighbors
All of them. Now is the time to consider moving physically closer to the people you love. Do it now before it becomes a burden your daughter will have to bear for you. Look for a neighborhood where you can be of service to others, creating those bonds of friendship you can enjoy in your next decade. Consider senior apartments, senior RV parks, or at least somewhere that has an active senior social group you can participate in.
Whatever comes along, ask for help in learning it. Technology is your key to communicating with all those family members and friends you want to surround yourself with as you age. Take classes, keeping your brain sharp as you learn.
Help someone else
Whatever your situation, putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own shifts your focus and your thoughts from your own situation to theirs. It’s a distinction that can be life-altering.
Accept help when you need it
There will most likely be times when you have to rely on someone else. Deal with it. Accept help graciously and thankfully. This goes for things like driving, home health care, physical therapy, meal preparation, or spending time in the hospital. If it happens, accept that there is a reason that you needed assistance.
Don’t be paranoid
Those kind people offering you help are not all out to get you and lock you up in a prison cell. Trust that they have good intentions.
Don’t be a sucker
It’s important to distinguish between those who offer help out of love for you and those who actually might be out to scam you in some way. Keep your wits as sharp as possible and don’t hesitate to ask someone else’s opinion before you make major life decisions, especially where money is involved.
Find a good doctor
You’ve probably got a lot of time with doctors ahead of you. If you don’t already have a good (young) doctor yet, get one now. It is critical that they know you before any mental or physical decline gets too severe if they are to recognize changes as they happen and help you hold them off as long as possible.
Downsize and simplify
Start shedding all that crap that someone else will have to sift through should you depart this earth suddenly.
Get your paperwork in order
Hopefully, you didn’t wait until 70 to do a good job at this, make sure all of your shit can be easily located. A file box is better for the critical stuff than a file cabinet. Your daughter needs to be able to pick up everything and take it home with her for managing, not spend hours at your empty place digging through your four-drawer file cabinet — save that for old statements that she can simply dispose of, and make sure she knows the plan.
Every damn day. Find something worth dancing about. Listen to music that moves you. Wrap your arms around someone you care about or take them by the hand and just dance.
Take care of your feet and knees
Kind of hard to dance if your feet aren’t up to it.
Eat like your life depends on it
These are the years when your body will slip out of building mode and into maintenance mode, then quickly into falling apart mode if you aren’t careful. You need a diet that works with your heart, not against it. You need micronutrients as you’ve never needed them before and you need fuel for all that dancing.
Take care of your teeth
See previous. If they are failing you already, get new ones. Few things can bring you down faster than the inability to eat what you love. Don’t forget the sadness of watching your dad lose his ability to eat whatever he wanted. Use his words as your battle cry: “I want to eat one more steak before I die.”
Have everything fixed
Bad knees? Fix them now; it’s harder later. Leaky roof? Don’t wait until it creates a disaster. Just keep telling yourself that time is no longer on your side. Fix your cataracts; fix the car; fix the drippy sink in the guest bathroom.
Please tell me you haven’t forgotten your love of travel. Go somewhere with friends. Go visit those cousins you tracked down. Go build new memories. There will be years ahead when you can’t.
Save as much money as you can
This one seems like the opposite of the above advice, but after you have everything situated the way you want, you really need to budget what is left carefully. You just might live longer than you think — especially with all that dancing.