Awesome topic: we're 52 and 61 and have been planning for future for a while. We've incorporated use of many strategies cited above.
We had the (now-recognized) GIFT OF INJURIES over the past 2 yrs (rotator cuff shoulder injury, torn ACL, and herniated discs in lower back).
This gave us a chance to see how our plans for remaining sustainable as we age might work. Here's what we did/learned:
• We shifted our eating patterns toward perennials and didn't bother with an annual garden (instead of tomatoes, we made BBQ sauce, salsa and such with lycopene berries (autumnberry), nanking cherries, elderberries, hawthorn, and plums). Instead of peppers, we made hot sauce with perennial arugula/rocket. We were grateful for salads gleaned from trees coppiced to keep harvests at chest level.
• We foraged on our own property: We expanded our knowledge of wild edibles and found many of our vegetables needs could be satisfied with "weeds" growing right outside the door. It's been a year of eating dock, salsify, nettles, purslane, lambsquarters, dead nettle, arrowleaf balsamroot, mallows, and milkweed. We now collect seed of these "former weeds" and broadcast wherever there's been disturbed soil on our site.
• We attached a berry-rake to a long handle to reach to harvest items without bending or straining shoulders upward.
• Traded pick-yer-own fruit (our 1-acre food forest has 75+ varieties of fruits, berries, nuts) for raw milk, meat, fish (trout), bones for broth, cheese, and other goods from local artisans. (reduced our expenses further)
• We didn't prune or thin fruits one year. The next we offered a "pruning class," put tools in the students hands and walked them through what to do.
• We grazed (walking around and eating what we could reach) more than harvesting and preparing full sit-down meals. Wow: that frees up a lot of time, and nothing is fresher than food you eat before it needs to travel to the house.
• Rather than canning (too much standing!), we dried fruits in the solar dehydrator.
• We were thankful for our many high berms (hugels) and terraces. The "retaining walls" for our terraces incorporate benches, so we can sit and harvest.
• We've been offering 2 internship spots each season (Apr-Nov) and get enthusiastic able-bodied young persons to assist us in exchange for a share of produce/fruit/eggs and mentoring. Having INTERNS was invaluable!
• We offered tours of our site and got more of the community involved in what we are doing. This summer, we're offering classes. Great way to give the gift of skills and gain the assistance of many hands (and backs!)
• We saw the immense value in systems we had set up for low input, limited mobility or STUN. Things like poultry watering nipples off a 5 gallon bucket filled via rainwater harvest from the coop roof, trestle feeder, light-sensor coop door, eggs box at chest level...these really pay off.
• Our home has a city-permitted attached apartment we can rent out to students (local ag university within 2 mi). Extra income is wonderful (highly recommend others consider this!) We considered that it might be an option to offer this apartment in exchange for assistance when we need it (e.g., a caretaker).
• We asked for help (probably the hardest thing to do!!) and were stunned by all the support we received.
• We traded nutrition/herbal consults for heavy lifting!
• We slowed down and discovered how much nature provided for us...without our drive to always be GSD (doing stuff!!!). This was so eye opening. We accepted the gifts that came instead of exerting effort to obtain others. Yes, when life gives you milkweed, you make garlic roasted milkweed spring shoots, curried milkweed bud brocollinis, greek stuffed milkweed pods...
It's been an incredible eye-opening year. I agree with Mae West: "getting old is not for sissies!" We provided our own health care [my career is in integrative medicine (nutrition, herbalism, lifestyle medicine]. We're happy to report: INJURIES HEALED! and we are back to our active selves and blessed to have had a chance gain some eye-opening perspective.
BTW: superior nutrition and activity CAN slow the aging process. Modern diets are deficient in the nutrients needed to maintain and repair joints and prevent cancer/heart disease/autoimmune disorders. replacing many of these can get at the root causes of many symptoms of premature aging. Key among these: GAGS (glycosaminoglycans) and related glyoproteins like glucosamine essential to joint/cartilage repair. vitamin K2 (from animal fat, bone marrow, natto), not K1 from plant foods which has other roles. vitamin D3, probiotics and dietary constituents which quench excess inflammation (key trigger for many chronic diseases).
Our main discovery: all the work we have done over the years to set up good systems and nurture and create a community of support was essential. While our physical abilities were temporarily impaired, we leveraged our knowledge, wisdom and expertise. We welcomed interns and young people (without land of their own) to come, learn, share in the harvests and be mentored. We'll keep nourishing community support and hope that can carry us forward when the time comes for our bodies to slow down.