My 104-year-old friend Ardis MacGregor died last week in her Washington, D.C.-area condominium, surrounded by family, friends and a caregiver who has offered devoted service for the past eight years.
I've been blogging about retirement for four years and once in awhile, I have mentioned Mrs. MacGregor as a good example of someone who grew old gracefully. She got a kick out of that.
I'm 62 and at an age when most people are thinking seriously about hanging up their work boots if they haven't already done so. Mrs. MacGregor offers a good reason to rethink that retirement planning mindset because she lived 42 years beyond that milestone.
Mrs. MacGregor was smart, and she did a few basic things during her life that helped make her later years comfortable. They are things any of us could do to improve our prospects.
Get ready for a long life. Mrs. MacGregor and her late husband Gordon ran a business and saved and invested the proceeds so they would have security in their later years. After her husband died nearly 40 years ago, she managed her own money, although her banker son offered advice. The last few years, she hired around-the-clock, live-in caregivers -- a very expensive proposition which she paid for without assistance from family or the government. It helped that she was happily frugal, and it didn't hurt that her husband left her two oil wells.
Have a purpose. At 75, Mrs. MacGregor took up competitive ballroom dancing. Her trophy case was packed with awards for waltz, rumba and tango. Even at her 100th birthday party, while she was no longer competitive, she could still cut a rug with her son and grandson.
Make health care a priority. Up until a few months ago, Mrs. MacGregor was still riding her exercise bike daily. She nurtured her relationships with physicians and spent the extra money required for a boutique health insurance plan that allowed her easy access to top doctors, including an option she used often to email her doctor -- and expect a rapid response -- whenever she had a concern or question.
Keep family close. In the weeks before she died, Mrs. MacGregor was busy writing her memoirs, preparing an illustrated family history for the fourth generation of MacGregors, who may not remember their great grandmother, but who will undoubtedly appreciate her legacy.