Staying Functional in 2023 

By: Dr. Michelle Fritsch, PharmD, BCGP – Founder and Owner – Retirement Wellness Strategies 

Did you set resolutions for the year ahead?  Have you considered your plans to enhance your health this year in such a way that you can count on it in years and decades to come? 

What about your function?  What does that even mean?  What comes to mind when you think of maintaining your function? 

I found that patients/clients usually don’t think about their function until they lose it, whether temporarily or permanently.  As we all know, you are out of time for prevention when the function is lost. 

Loss of function comes with injuries being active when out of shape.  It is having a heart attack or stroke related to high blood pressure when you lose your sense of self.  It is rapid mental decline due to depression and overmedication.  It is from decimated relationships that weren’t prepared for the transition. 

So, now is a great time to start planning for function, health, purpose, and all aspects of wellness in the future.  In particular, start now to plan to maintain function in the transition to retirement. This goes ways beyond a gym membership! 

Function beyond your physical function 

Big life transitions, such as retirement, can be a time of functional decline, especially without preventive planning.  What first comes to mind when you think about your ‘function’? 

Here are a few that might not immediately come to mind. 

  • Emotional Function – Do stresses in your life, or on a societal scale, shut you down? 
  • I realize many people think of intimacy function. Before you turn to medication or hormone boosts, did you know it is emotion that is the cause nearly half of the time?  This can be low-self-esteem, worry, stress, relationship difficulties, anxiety, depression, or other emotional concerns. 
  • Spiritual Function – Have you figured out your spiritual beliefs? This one is easily ignored but just as likely to contribute to functional decline. 
  • Mental Function – Are anxiety or depression keeping you from engaging fully? Lost self-identity with the end of a long, successful career is commonly linked with functional decline. 
  • Social Function – Especially during a big life transition, do you know how to make new social connections? 

Just as with physical function decline, all of these sources of functional decline are usually preventable.  Don’t just stumble your way into retirement without some proactive planning. 

Social connections and function 

Did you know that a big aspect of longevity and of maintaining function long term has to do with the depths of your social circle? 

There are many people who upon retirement start to limit their social circle focusing just on primary family.  Certainly, the opportunity to spend more time with primary family is wonderful.  But then, when there’s loss of a spouse or the kids move away or the grandkids grow up and go off to college and head out, some of those daily interactions with family can be limited or even end. 

Then what is your social circle?  One of the best long-term prevention items you can do is to expand the number of people you know. 

***Just like you diversify your wealth, diversify your social calendar. *** 

Have different sorts of clubs and hobbies and activities.  If you’re living in your purpose, that tends to introduce you to all sorts of people that share common passions and has been shown to help you stay functional very long term. 

You want to not just rely on one person to be your source of entertainment and emotional support.  Start now to diversify and grow your social network. 

Isolation is one of the number one causes of rapid health and functional decline.  So, take every step you can to avoid ever being in a situation of isolation. 

Purpose and Function 

Purpose, knowing yours, and living in it is directly tied with staying functional.  Functional involves being fully operational and useful.  Too many people rapidly lose function after they retire. 

  • More social interaction with others who share interests around your purpose means less risk of isolation which is tied to rapidly decreasing function. 
  • More motivation to get up and moving in the morning leading to an overall healthier lifestyle which can preserve function. 
  • More people in your life to notice when you’re off or help when you need help takes the burden off of you alone. You then are more open to helping others.  The emotional connection, the physical activity, and the social support all serve to preserve function. 
  • Those living in purpose are less likely to throw a frozen dinner in the microwave and eat alone on a regular basis. Actually, food intake tends to be more thoughtful and healthier. 
  • Living in purpose means less time sitting in front of the television, so less pain, greater fitness, less obesity are all benefits that help to maintain function. 

I’ve spent the last week watching someone who does not live in purpose go from minimally functional to now critically ill.  Don’t wait until tomorrow or until your function starts to decline to take action.  Prevention and purpose can shape your bright functional future! 

Start your planning today: 

Retirement Wellness Strategies – with your personal one-on-one guide 

Propel Comprehensive Wellness – on your own time with new information each month 

Dr. Michelle Fritsch is an author, nationally renowned speaker, founder of Retirement Wellness Strategies and cofounder of Propel Comprehensive Wellness. You can call her at 410-472- 5078, email her at or visit her website at www. 

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