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Planning for the Gold in Your Later Years

The 24th Winter Olympic Games began on February 4th.  During the games, both sports fans and even those who don’t routinely watch sporting events often tune in to observe the performances of these elite athletes who have dedicated countless hours to planning and honing their physical fitness, individual skills, and mental toughness. 

Whether in sports, music, medicine, or a host of other fields, natural talent combined with years of intentional and consistent practice are necessary to become the best of the best.  For Olympians, what starts as a wish or a dream (often during childhood) develops into carefully crafted planning to achieve this pinnacle of athletic success.

Fortunately, not all personal goals require the same level of intense planning and preparation as an Olympic gold medal.  Some basic parallels can be drawn, however, between an athlete’s strategy and some common goals of everyday life.

What would you like to accomplish during your lifetime?  What type of legacy would you like to leave behind? Defining specific targets and goals is the first step on your journey.  Once you know what you want to achieve, it is possible to create specific action steps to get there. It is natural if some of the goals you have or actions you take change as you proceed. In our practice of elder law, some common targets or goals clients desire to achieve are: to leave an inheritance for loved ones or important causes, preserve a family home or farm for future generations, and have preparations in place in case of a health emergency.

Before every practice session, performance, or even a business meeting; athletes, musicians, or dedicated professionals spend time preparing or warming-up.  This period of physical and/or mental conditioning improves the individual’s readiness to function in the task ahead and helps reduce the chances of undesirable consequences such as injury or a mistake.  For many goals in life, the warm-up period is a time of reflection and information gathering.  What previous experience do you have in this particular area? What resources are available to help you understand your options?  Who can you trust to provide appropriate guidance for the development of a plan and then support as you undertake each step? Warm up for your “workout” by watching informational videos (, reading articles or books, evaluating business reviews (,1,,,,), obtaining recommendations from friends and family, attending free seminars, and/or calling prospective service providers.

Individuals of any age and caliber who have a goal to improve in a specific sport or skill will benefit from the direction of an effective coach.  Although some level of proficiency in the specific sport or activity is a primary qualification, many additional skills are essential in order to utilize that knowledge for the benefit of another person.  The ability of a coach to communicate clearly, listen thoughtfully, provide motivation during tough times, and demonstrate commitment to and respect for those under their tutelage will create a smoother path to follow.  Choose your primary coach(es) (physician, lawyer, therapist) carefully when your goals will require a personal, long-term working relationship with this individual.

A smart coach will recognize that planning for and the achievement of certain goals may require additional expertise.  In the case of an athlete, this may mean the services of a nutritionist, psychologist, and exercise physiologist.  The specialized knowledge of each of these professionals contribute to the overall wellness of the athlete, thereby helping the athlete to accomplish progressive steps toward the ultimate goal.  Since this is an elder care column; in addition to an attorney, an older adult and his/her family may benefit from the services of an accountant, financial advisor, real estate agent, and others. Much of athletic training is sport specific and detailed.  Guidance with planning for the complexities of aging also requires the knowledge of a variety of ‘specialists.’ Be wary of a single professional who claims to know-it-all.  

A final step toward goal achievement is recovery and re-evaluation. Athletes must allow time for rest and periodic reviews of their strategies so that energy can be regained, inefficient steps eliminated, weak areas tweaked, and progress celebrated. 

The number of medals awarded at the Olympic Games is limited. The need to revise a goal, change the plan for working toward a specific goal, or accept that the goal will not be achieved should not be viewed as a failure.  It is possible that a roadblock which was out of your control forced the change.   Maybe wisdom which was gained during the course of the journey has led to new insights or interests and a change of direction. Perhaps a goal was not realistic to begin with, or the steps to achieve it more difficult than anticipated.  Regardless of the outcome; an awareness of the progress made, the lessons learned, and the people you met along the way can be applied toward planning for new future goals.   

The strategies we use to meet our needs and wants are apt to require change as we age. Taking time to revisit the steps you’ve taken toward your goals, the goals themselves, and the plans in place for the remainder of your quest is essential if you are going to continue moving forward. May you never stop reaching for a ‘gold medal’, and may each journey be filled with more rewards than you could ever imagine.

Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN