The opposite is true. Middle aged and older adults are just as capable of learning new things and thriving in new environments, plus they have the wisdom that comes with life experience. If you believe in and have confidence in yourself, you are setting up a positive environment for change no matter what your age. As you age, there will be periods of both joy and stress. This ability will help you make the most of the good times and keep your perspective when times are tough.
The longer you live, the more you lose. But as you lose people and things, life becomes even more precious.
Debra W. Guttas, HTP, Life Transition Doula™ & Retreat Host
When you stop taking things for granted, you appreciate and enjoy what you have even more. Acknowledge and express your feelings. You may have a hard time showing emotions, perhaps feeling that such a display is inappropriate and weak. But burying your feelings can lead to anger, resentment, and depression. Find healthy ways to process your feelings, perhaps by talking with a close friend or writing in a journal.
Many things in life are beyond our control. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems. Face your limitations with dignity and a healthy dose of humor. Look for the silver lining. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes. When a challenge seems too big to handle, sweeping it under the carpet often appears the easiest option. Instead, take things one small step at a time. Even a small step can go a long way to boosting your confidence and reminding you that you are not powerless.
Laughter is strong medicine for both the body and the mind. It helps you stay balanced, energetic, joyful, and healthy at any age. A sense of humor helps you get through tough times, look outside yourself, laugh at the absurdities of life, and transcend difficulties. See: Laughter is the Best Medicine. A key ingredient in the recipe for healthy aging is the continuing ability to find meaning and joy in life.
As you age, your life will change and you will gradually lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. For example, your job may change, you may eventually retire from your career, your children may leave home, or other friends and family may move far away. But this is not a time to stop moving forward. Later life can be a time of exciting new adventures if you let it.
Everyone has different ways of experiencing meaning and joy, and the activities you enjoy may change over time. If your career slows down or you retire, or if your children leave home, you may find you have more time to enjoy activities outside of work and immediate family. Either way, taking time to nourish your spirit is never wasted.
Pick up a long-neglected hobby or try a new hobby. Taking a class or joining a club or sports team is a great way to pursue a hobby and expand your social network at the same time. Learn something new , such as an instrument, a foreign language, a new game, or a new sport. Learning new activities not only adds meaning and joy to life, but can also help to maintain your brain health and prevent mental decline.
Get involved in your community. The meaning and purpose you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life. Community work can also be a great way of utilizing and passing on the skills you honed in your career—without the commitment or stress of regular employment. Spend time in nature. Take a scenic hike, go fishing or camping, enjoy a ski trip, or walk a dog in the park.
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Enjoy the arts. Visit a museum, go to a concert or a play, join a book group, or take an art appreciation class. The possibilities are endless. The important thing is to find activities that are both meaningful and enjoyable for you. One of the greatest challenges of aging is maintaining your support network.
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Career changes, retirement, illness, and moves out of the local area can take away close friends and family members. And the older you get, the more people you inevitably lose. In later life, getting around may become difficult for either you or members of your social network. Along with regular exercise, staying social can have the most impact on your health as you age. Having an array of people you can turn to for company and support as you age is a buffer against loneliness, depression, disability, hardship, and loss.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to be with other people. Connect regularly with friends and family. Spend time with people you enjoy and who make you feel upbeat. It may be a neighbor who you like to exercise with, a lunch date with an old friend, shopping with your children, or playing with your grandkids. Even if you are not close by, call or email frequently to keep relationships fresh. Make an effort to make new friends. Make it a point to befriend people who are younger than you. Younger friends can reenergize you and help you see life from a fresh perspective.
Spend time with at least one person every day. Phone or email contact is not a replacement for spending time with other people. Regular face-to-face contact helps you ward off depression and stay positive. Giving back to the community is a wonderful way to strengthen social bonds and meet others interested in similar activities or who share similar values. Even if your mobility becomes limited, you can get involved by volunteering on the phone.
Find support groups in times of change. If you or a loved one is coping with a serious illness or recent loss, it can be very helpful to participate in a support group with others undergoing the same challenges. While not all illness or pain is avoidable, many of the physical challenges associated with aging can be overcome or drastically mitigated by exercising, eating right, and taking care of yourself.
Similarly, many older adults report feeling better than ever because they are making more of an effort to be healthy than they did when they were younger. Exercise helps you maintain your strength and agility, increases vitality, improves sleep, gives your mental health a boost, and can even help diminish chronic pain. Make that your mantra, and get moving.
Michael Martin is the co-founder of South Florida-based Legacy Financial Partners , where he is the director of investments and insurance.
Relationships in Our 50s, 60s and Beyond: How Yours Can Survive and Thrive
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