14 Healthy Habits That Can Save Retirees a Ton of Money

Developing these habits in retirement can keep your quality of life high and spending low.
Updated June 7, 2023
An elderly woman talking to a pharmacist

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Many seniors find that health care costs are among their biggest retirement expenses.

Visiting the doctor, picking up prescriptions, and planning for long-term care can all take a heavy toll on both your budget and post-retirement quality of life.

While you can’t predict the future with 100% certainty, implementing a few healthy habits can increase your chances of living a long and healthy life. They might save you a lot of money, too.

Following are 15 habits that can improve your health and hopefully boost your bank account by possibly reducing medical expenses during retirement.

Do you dream of retiring early? Take this quiz to see if it's possible.

Go on daily walks

Azee J/peopleimages.com/Adobe old men on mountain for fitness

Walking regularly is a simple habit with a big payoff. For instance, health experts say that walking just a few hours or miles a week can:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Reduce your breast cancer risk
  • Minimize pain related to arthritis
  • Ward off illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease

Plus, walking to nearby destinations can help you save money on gas and car maintenance.

Sign up for a gym or community center senior discount

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe senior sportspeople exercising at sports hall

Some gyms offer discounts or free passes for seniors. In addition, many local recreation or community centers offer price breaks to seniors, including local YMCAs and YWCAs.

Community centers may also offer senior-specific clubs or programs that can motivate you to stay healthy while socializing.

Schedule annual wellness visits

goodluz/Adobe doctor reassuring an elderly women in clinic

Once you have had Medicare Part B health care coverage for more than 12 months, you’re eligible for a free annual wellness check.

During this visit — which is not the same thing as a yearly physical exam — you fill out a health risk assessment and review the results with your doctor to create a proactive plan to boost your health.

Following your plan and scheduling a yearly wellness visit can keep you ahead of developing health problems. That way, you can maintain your quality of life while minimizing medical expenses for as long as possible.

Buy groceries on senior discount days

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe smiling senior couple holding basket with vegetables

Want to save money on groceries such as healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains? Depending on where you live, some grocery stores might offer senior discounts on select days of the month.

For example, Fred Meyer offers 10% off select items for seniors 55 and older on the first Tuesday of each month.

If you don’t know whether your closest store has a senior discount day, call customer service and ask.

Actively maintain your social life

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe senior couple drinking champagne

Loneliness and social isolation have a direct impact on both your mental and physical health. 

In fact, social isolation can increase your chances of premature death to such a degree that the impact rivals that of smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So consider setting a standing date for lunch with friends, joining a community knitting circle, or signing up for a series of classes at your nearest rec center or community college.

Adopt a dog

220 Selfmade studio/Adobe senior man doing yoga with dog

Getting a pet — especially a creature that needs constant, active attention, like a dog — is a huge responsibility that not every retiree should take on.

But if you’ve had pets in the past, are able to keep up with a pet’s physical needs, and could use a companion, adopting a dog can be a healthy choice.

Walking a dog can keep you active, while having a furry family member at home can stave off lifespan-reducing loneliness.

Learn how to cook

JustLife/Adobe senior man cooking delicious food

If working a demanding job in the past didn’t leave you with much time to cook, retirement is the perfect stage of life to start becoming a pro in the kitchen.

Generally speaking, home-cooked meals are both healthier and cheaper than takeout. Plus, picking up a new hobby in retirement is a great way to keep your mind active.

Prioritize sleep

luengo_ua/Adobe senior family couple sleeping together in bed

When you get too little sleep, short-term memory suffers. You’re also likely to pay less attention to your surroundings, which could result in a fall or accident.

In addition, many recent studies have found a link between poor sleep and dementia risk.

Regardless of how old you are, adults generally need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, according to the National Institute on Aging. So if you aren’t getting that much rest, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your sleep hygiene.

Consider part-time work

Moon Safari/Adobe confident senior businessman working on laptop

Do you miss the daily social interaction you got from your job? Is anxiety related to money issues taking a toll on your physical and emotional health?

A part-time job or another way to earn extra money can give you a built-in opportunity to socialize while padding your retirement fund with a reliable source of cash flow.

Spend time in nature

rh2010/Adobe Senior couple hiking

Spending time outdoors tends to make people happier than staring at a screen all day.

Crucially for seniors, though, walking through the woods or stretching at a local park can also lower stress levels, improve attention, and boost mood.

Grow a garden

Lisa Weatherbee/Adobe woman looks at plants while working in her garden

If you only have the time or energy to pick up one hobby in retirement, consider gardening.

Growing your own garden can save you money on groceries, ensure you can access healthy seasonal foods, and get you outside more often.

Move to a healthier area

Monkey Business/Adobe romantic senior couple sitting on wooden jetty by lake

Where you live can have a big impact on your health. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you live in an area with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation?
  • Does your city offer a lot of resources for seniors to connect?
  • Is the air quality consistently good enough for you to spend time outside?

If your current community comes up short, consider moving to an area where it’s easier to stay healthy as you age.

Keep a gratitude journal

goodluz/Adobe senior man working on laptop at home

Research suggests that focusing on gratitude instead of dwelling on grievances does more than boost your happiness: It’s also correlated with exercising more and visiting the doctor less.

If you’re looking to make gratitude a habit, keep a daily journal where you write about the people and experiences that make you grateful.

Get a national park pass

Renat/Adobe couple sitting on a bench

No matter your age, a trip to a national park is an affordable way to get outside and take a break from everyday life. For seniors, a national park trip can be even cheaper.

Those who are age 62 and older can purchase an annual parks pass that gets them into all parks for just $20 a year. For an even better bargain, snag a lifetime pass at a one-time fee of $80.

If your fixed income makes the $20 annual fee more feasible right now than a lump-sum $80 payment, keep your annual cards and receipts: You can trade in four years’ worth of annual cards to get a lifetime pass in the future at no additional fee.

Bottom line

rawpixel.com/Adobe senior couple in kitchen laughing with man cutting things to cook and women holding glass of champagne

Adding these healthy habits to your retirement regimen isn’t a guarantee you will avoid illness or save money on health care costs. Even the healthiest person can experience a sudden medical emergency or life-threatening accident.

However, these habits boost the odds of living a longer, happier, and healthier life. They also free up room in your retirement budget so you can reduce your levels of financial stress and better enjoy your golden years.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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