Advances in healthcare and personal wellness have prolonged the life expectancy of our generation beyond all those preceding us. The majority knows that we should plan for retirement and for what should happen when we die. Frighteningly few, however, are prepared for the “longevity bonus” we will experience. We get more years on earth, but we won’t live them the same way we do today.

The years we spend in our 80s and 90s can either be something we look forward to or something we will “endure.” Simply put, the life you experience will be the one you plan for. If you think it will be good, you can plan for it and make it a great time of life. In contrast, if you dread what the future holds and fail to plan, odds are you will not enjoy “elderhood.”

Having just walked my husband through a serious illness and recovery, I know what a gift it will be to live a long life. I pray that I don’t treat being old like anything other than the precious treasure it is. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to enjoy the experience of each stage of life, including the one with wrinkles.

Perhaps as we find a way to embrace this new part of our journey, we will make having a long life a great experience. Selfishly, I am working to improve the pathway before I get there. If everyone involved with the long-term care system puts enough love and effort into it, I know there can be a different outcome. My heart breaks every time I pass a lonely face lined up against the wall in a nursing facility. How did they arrive at this point? We do not have to accept this as our inevitable fate.

If the current system wasn’t so expensive, complicated, and impersonal, we might not have to plan. However, at this point, we are forced to make sure our own situation is well managed in order to succeed. Failing to plan now forces our children or [worse yet] the long-term care system to make decisions for us.

Through planning, we can eliminate many of the fears that surround our shared future. I can help change the way we embrace and experience our old age. Working together, we can create an elderhood that looks like something each of us will happily embrace in our own, unique way.

This is a paraphrased excerpt from Laurie Menzies’s book, “Embracing Elderhood: Planning for the Next Stage of Life.” Click here to read more about how Laurie can help you or someone you love prepare for aging issues.