16 Health Mistakes People Make After 50 That Put Their Wallet and Well-Being at Risk

Are these costly health mistakes sabotaging your retirement plans?
Updated Nov. 27, 2023
happy senior woman in home kitchen

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No one can stop aging. That’s life. But you'll age much more quickly if you fight time instead of accepting it. And worrying, whether it’s about financial woes or everyday stress, won’t help your health.

You can make plenty of minor adjustments to slow aging and retire comfortably in your golden years.

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Not planning for your future

Rafa Fernandez/Adobe senior couple reviewing bills together

Americans are working longer than ever. More than a third of the U.S. plan to work as long as possible with no fixed quitting date on the horizon. 

And 65% of Americans plan to work past age 65, according to a Pew Charitable Trust survey. Many people need to keep working because they haven’t saved enough for retirement.

Talk to a financial advisor regardless of how much or how little you have saved. They’ve seen it all, even people starting to save in their 50s. 

It’s never too late or too early to climb out of debt and plan for retirement. Knowing you can retire comfortably will take a lot of stress away.

Vanity over safety

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe senior couple spending time in park

You may not want to strap on old-people gear, like bifocal lenses or hearing aids, but no one cares. Really. And not being able to hear or see properly? That will age you and make your life much less enjoyable.

Not giving failing senses a helping hand may even be downright dangerous when it comes to any personal physical movement.

Ignoring home hazards

amazing studio/Adobe senior patient holding toilet security handle

You may not want a bathtub grab bar or shower anti-slip stickers on the shower floor because they make you feel old. We get it. But breaking your hip will age you and may leave you needing a cane, walker, or permanent assisted living.

No one thinks that they are going to be a statistic. But every year, more than 300,000 older Americans suffer a hip break, and many cannot live on their own.

Paying $9 for shower floor grips is much cheaper and easier than dealing with hip replacement. And frankly, they’re a good idea at any age.

Don't let home repairs drain your bank account

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Not strength training

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe senior couple working out at gym

It’s not just for bodybuilders. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Americans of all ages should do strength training, especially those 50 and older. 

Strength training can help older Americans grow stronger as they grow older so they can maintain strength, bone density, balance, and coordination.

Not only will this reduce your risk of falling, but it will ensure you can live independently for a long time.

It’s 5 o’clock everywhere

Lumos sp/Adobe senior couple celebrating with toasting wine

We’ve all heard the suggestion that a daily glass of wine is healthy, but many Americans don’t stop at one. 

Alcohol consumption among older adults is rising, and a large percentage of older adults engage in binge drinking, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

As you age, you should decrease your drinking. Getting older lowers your body’s tolerance for alcohol, and drinking puts you at increased risk for falls, car accidents, and health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure. 

In addition, alcohol may produce harmful interactions with prescription and OTC meds.

Not enough fiber

Halfpoint/Adobe couple unpacking fruits at counter top

Adults in their 50s don’t get enough fiber. This is common among most Americans but has greater effects as you age. 

Structural changes to the large intestine make older adults more prone to constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, and unhealthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Fiber-rich foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fruit can keep you fighting fit. So eat your veggies.

Lack of sleep

sebra/Adobe senior man not able to sleep

You spent your twenties in a state of sleeplessness, fueled by 64-ounce Mountain Dews from the 7-Eleven down the road. It was bad then, and it’s worse now.

Older adults sleep lighter, making sleep deprivation more common. This may lead to depression, memory loss, and diminished mental capacity.

And it has physical impacts, too. Insufficient sleep weakens physical endurance and muscle strength, inhibits organ function, decreases insulin production, and weakens your immune system.

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night, eliminating meals, snacks, and screen time well before bedtime.

Inflammatory foods

Tamani Chithambo/peopleimages.com/Adobe senior couple cutting vegetables in kitchen

Junk food isn’t just bad for your waistline. Inflammatory junk foods like pastries, fried foods, cookies, and chips (alas, most people’s four favorite food groups) are also bad news for your brain.

Inflammatory foods can speed up brain aging, increasing your risk for dementia. Studies have also shown the correlation between depression and anxiety and inflammatory foods. Ditch these bad-news foods. Your brain and your psyche will thank you.

Too much alone time

Monkey Business/Adobe senior man suffering from depression

A cozy night in is great, but not if that night turns into weeks and months. Catching up with friends and family can go a long way toward relieving loneliness. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has even declared social isolation a major public health risk.

Lack of socialization can increase your risk for dementia and other mental and physical health conditions, like depression, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Keep in touch with your connections and schedule regular outings. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. Join a community group. Take up a new hobby. Look up old childhood acquaintances. Do whatever it takes to avoid isolation.

Sitting too much

Syda Productions/Adobe happy senior woman relaxing on couch

It turns out that sitting all day in a chair can damage your body and shorten your life. Medical research shows it puts you at increased risk for heart attacks, obesity, diabetes, cancer, early death, and a host of other health issues. 

Why? The seated position alters blood flow to your legs, impacting sugar regulation and the normal function of blood vessels.

So, take a stand. If you must sit for your job, get up and move around every 30 minutes. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to move.

Too many meds

pikselstock/Adobe senior man reading prescription medicine label

Overdoing it on meds is harmful at any age, especially for adults over 50. Adults in this age group are more likely to be using five or more drugs at a time, called polypharmacy. 

This increases the risk of damaging side effects, including impaired mobility and cognitive function, accidental overdose, and mixing up or forgetting doses of meds.

Talk to your doctor about your medications (prescribed and OTC) to see if it’s the best mix for you. Sometimes, less is more, and doctors can help you find the balance.

Not wearing sunglasses

Adam Radosavljevic/Adobe senior man standing confidently in street

Sunglasses aren’t just for the beach. Doctors recommend sunglasses all year round to protect our eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays. They are advised for everyone over six months, especially older adults.

As we grow older, our eyelids and skin get thinner, which allows UV rays to penetrate more deeply. Sunglasses can preserve your skin and eye health. 

They also reduce eye strain and glare, protect against dust and debris, prevent wrinkles, and lower the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, skin cancer, and ocular cancer.


rawpixel.com/Adobe athletic man wiping sweat from forehead

As we age, we physically can’t do what we used to do. There’s a reason for the backhanded insult that someone is in good shape "for their age."

A fit 60-year-old can be in better shape than a sedentary 20-year-old. But a 20-year-old, with training, has much further extremes. So, it's easy does it.

Exercise is good, but overdoing it can cause stress fractures, injuries, kidney damage, heart problems, and cardiac arrest. Talk to your doctor about a sensible exercise and recovery regime.

Foregoing annual eye exams

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe senior lady getting her eyesight checked

Macular degeneration in adults over 50 is a leading cause of vision impairment and blindness. There are often no symptoms in its early stages, which is why the American Optometric Association recommends a yearly eye exam for everyone over age 60.

Beyond screening for macular degeneration, doctors look for cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. Early detection can keep your eyes healthy and maintain your ability to drive and function independently.

Accepting sub-par medical care

serperm73/Adobe male patient consulting female doctor

Ageism, unfortunately, is a reality that patients over 50 face. Often, health care providers write off their concerns as just being “normal” with age. They may be dismissive and unsympathetic and provide less education on treating these conditions.

Your health concerns should always be adequately addressed. If your doctor isn’t attentive, switch. If you’re over age 50, a geriatrician may be appropriate. 

Many patients balk at seeing an “old-person doctor.” Still, Americans who see a geriatrician sooner rather than later are less likely to be overprescribed medication or wind up in the hospital.

Johns Hopkins Medicine research shows that older adults in the hospital and receiving geriatrician care on-site have better recovery outcomes. They are more likely to return directly home instead of going to a rehab center or a nursing home.

Trading your I.Q. for a cigarette

Sondem/Adobe bearded man using lighter for smoking

You’ve heard the anti-smoking lecture a million times. And maybe you don’t indulge too much. But smoking any amount is bad at any age, and it can be a particular beast for older adults.

Smoking exacerbates health conditions common among the 50-plus crowd, like diabetes, osteoporosis, respiratory diseases, vision loss, memory, and even intelligence.

Studies show that smoking may make you dumb. In a national study of adults over 60, cigarette smokers performed poorer than non-smokers on cognitive tests. The more you smoke, the lower your ability to mentally function.

Bottom line

InputUX/Adobe senior people meditating at studio

You may not want to be 50-plus, facing a fresh, new crop of medical woes. But running away from the health inevitables instead of getting ahead of them will only make your future more unhealthy, painful, and expensive.

Getting and staying physically and mentally fit now can save you money in the long run and help you avoid wasting money

And you’d probably rather spend your 80s and your money trotting the globe instead of going into debt at a rehab center as you recover from a preventable bathtub slip.

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Author Details

Stacy Garrels Stacy enjoys writing about fintech, consumer deals, the side hustle economy, and random tomfoolery. She's personally tried more than 100 different gigs, including being an Uber driver for one afternoon.

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