It’s the prime of your life. You’ve worked hard. You’ve paid your dues. You’ve raised your children and cared for your home. Now it’s your turn to be taken care of and be an advocate for your own health.
You have the confidence, the experience, the resources, and the right to live your life on your own terms. You’re in your 60s and whether you’re retired, nearing retirement, or never even planning to retire, you’re ready to make these years your best years.
However, that’s not always easy, especially in a society that seems to prize youth above all things. Ageism touches almost every aspect of society, from the media to employment to love and relationships. It is perhaps most common, and most dangerous, though, in the healthcare system. So how do you advocate for your own health and well being when you’re a woman over 60?
Recognize that Ageism Exists
No matter how great you look, how young you feel, or how healthy you are, if you are a woman over 60, you are at risk of experiencing ageism in your medical care. Ageism in the healthcare system can impact everything from how you are diagnosed and treated, to who takes care of you.
Ageism in medical care usually manifests in a number of different ways. The care provider may assume, for example, that the patient over 60 will be entering a state of physical decline, and that fatigue, memory loss, and pain are simply a normal part of the aging process, as opposed to symptoms of more serious disease. This can lead to misdiagnosis or the delayed detection of life-threatening illnesses, which, according to current estimates, claims as many as 80,000 lives in the United States each year.
Research also suggests, for example, that nurses are at high risk for ageist discrimination when it comes to hiring, promotion, and workplace relations. This means that in the coming years when you go to your local clinic, hospital, or therapy center, you’re likely going to see and be cared for by fewer and fewer women who look like you or have similar life experiences. This makes self-advocacy all the more important.
Pain Isn’t Part of the Process
When you reach a certain age, the bones are going to creak and the joints are going to stiffen. It’s all a part of the plan, right? Well, not necessarily. While there’s no question living a long and active life means getting some wear and tear and having a few aches and pains now and again, chronic, intense, and life-altering pain is definitely not a normal part of the aging process, and there are things you can do about it.
There are pain management specialists on every coast, from Los Angeles to Virginia Beach and virtually everywhere in between, who can help you address your pain and continue to embrace your go-getter lifestyle — often without narcotics, surgery, or other aggressive interventions.
Take on the Health Tech
We live in the golden age of medical technology, and that means it’s now easier than ever to be an advocate for your own health. The advent of telehealth allows you to communicate with your health providers no matter where in the world you may be.
Likewise, wearable health technologies enable you to track your vitals, instantly receive your results, and even transmit your data to your doctor, all with the press of a button or swipe of a screen.
These wearable devices provide round-the-clock monitoring of everything from your blood pressure to your glucose to your heart rhythm. You can even track the quality of your sleep and your diet. This means that you can integrate robust and consistent healthcare much more seamlessly into your lifestyle.
Even if you are contending with a chronic health condition like heart disease, arthritis, or cancer that requires daily medication, telehealth and wearable tech may make it easier to maintain consistent contact with your healthcare team that you need, while still doing the things you want, such as finally taking that world tour you’ve always dreamed of.
The Takeaway: Building the Best You
Being your own health advocate over the age of 60 is not just about building the best healthcare team and making sure you’re getting the care you need and deserve from them — it’s also about being proactive in maintaining your own health.
This may not come as easily as it did when you were 20 — your health and fitness needs will undoubtedly be different, perhaps more extensive, but getting to live these prime years in health and happiness will make it all worthwhile.
So, as you work the medical system to get the care you need, also ensure you are giving yourself that same quality of care. Be sure to get adequate sleep and ample exercise. Make time for friends and family. Focus on nutrition and hydration and try to curb some of the wild-child behaviors you might have indulged in during your reckless youth.
Maintaining your health, your beauty, and your vibrancy over age 60 may take some effort. But, in the end, this is your time, after all. You’ve earned it, and you are worth it!