For years, medical communities focused on treating ailments instead of patients. While diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions are essential, doctors are beginning to believe that having an understanding of their patients’ experiences is another essential piece of the healthcare puzzle.

At UC San Diego, medical students are getting a taste of what it’s like to be a senior in their classes. Students were fitted with thick gloves and glasses that obscured their vision. They were then told to sort M&Ms into jars by color. The students were meant to learn just how difficult even menial tasks can be when our bodies age.

The point of the exercise? To make sure the next generation of doctors, which will have a booming senior population to see, consider how medical conditions can change an older person’s daily life, and what treatments will allow them to live a better life. Students are learning to see the person, as well as the condition they’re treating.

“We have to make sure that our students are prepared to take care of the kind of patients that are more and more common, patients with long medical histories and long medication lists,” explained Dr. Zaldy Tan.
How does this medical school practice effect you? It shows a shift in the medical community. Doctors are learning to consider the patient as a whole and not just look at the conditions that need to be treated. As America ages, the medical community will have to adjust to its new senior population.

Seniors should look for doctors who specialize in geriatric medicine and be sure to carefully vet their doctors. If you feel a doctor isn’t responding to your concerns and needs, it’s time to look for a doctor who does.

Retirement doesn’t need to be a time for beach chairs and endless vacations. It can be, but many seniors are finding that they have time to discover their true passions once they bid work adieu. If you’ve always had a hidden hobby, retirement could be time to explore and share your interests with the world.

Robert Wittman made a career investigating art crimes and theft at the FBI. When he retired at 61, Wittman decided to use his decades of historic knowledge to open his own Art Appraisal and Investigation firm. Now, he chases art and history for fun around the world.

You don’t have to continue your career past retirement. You can also find ways to celebrate and explore your hobbies. Join a local crafting circle, offer knitting classes, work with a senior center to impart your technical knowledge to those who may need help. You may even offer up cooking classes, gardening workshops, or carpentry classes at a local community center, helping others to find a hobby they’ll cherish for years.

If you’re not sure what you want to do post-retirement, consider learning. Studies have proven that learning languages, physical skills, and interacting regularly with peers is an excellent way to maintain a health mind as you age. Have you always wanted to explore a subject and never had the time? Many community colleges offer seniors the chance to learn for free. Click here for a look at some resources near you.

Whether you’re looking to spread your knowledge and skills to others, or simply want to keep expanding your knowledge base, retirement offers you an excellent opportunity to spread your wings. Take your free time as a pass to expand your mind and your information base.