Coping with change is difficult, no matter how old you are. The particular challenge for adults over 50 is the sheer number of changes and transitions that start to occur—including children moving away, the loss of parents, friends, and other loved ones, changes to or the end of your career, declining health, and even loss of independence. It’s natural to feel those losses. But if that sense of loss is balanced with positive ingredients, you have a formula for staying healthy as you age.
Healthy aging means continually reinventing yourself as you pass through landmark ages such as 60, 70, 80 and beyond. It means finding new things you enjoy, learning to adapt to change, staying physically and socially active, and feeling connected to your community and loved ones. Unfortunately, for many, aging brings anxiety and fear instead. How will I take care of myself late in life? What if I lose my spouse? What is going to happen to my mind? However, many of these fears stem from myths about aging that are exaggerated by the media or simply untrue. The truth is that you are stronger and more resilient than you may think.
Here’s a couple of tips that may help you enjoy this phase of your life:
One of the greatest challenges of aging is how your support network changes. Staying connected isn’t always easy as you grow older—even for those who have always had an active social life. Career changes, retirement, illness, death, 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.
It’s important to find ways to reach out and connect to others, regardless of whether or not you live with a spouse or partner. 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. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you get out of the house (if possible) and socialize:
- Connect regularly with friends and family. Spend time with people you enjoy and who make you feel upbeat. It may be a neighbour who you like to exercise with, a lunch date with an old friend, or shopping with your children. Even if you are not close by, call or email frequently to keep relationships fresh.
- Make an effort to make new friends. As you lose people in your circle, it is vital to make new connections so your circle doesn’t dwindle. 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. Whatever your living or work situation, you shouldn’t be alone day after 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.
- Volunteer. Giving back to the community is a wonderful way to strengthen social bonds and meet others, and the meaning and purpose you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life. Volunteering is a natural way to 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 meaning and joy
A key ingredient in the recipe for healthy aging over 50 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.
Staying healthy over 50 means finding activities that you enjoy. 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.
If you’re not sure where to get started, try some of the following suggestions:
- Pick up a long-neglected hobby or try a new hobby
- Play with your grandkids, nieces, nephews, or a favorite pet
- Learn something new (an instrument, a foreign language, a new game)
- Get involved in your community (volunteer or attend a local event)
- Take a class or join a club
- Travel somewhere new or go on a weekend trip to a place you’ve never visited
- Spend time in nature (take a scenic hike, go fishing or camping, enjoy a ski trip)
- Enjoy the arts (visit a museum, go to a concert or a play)
- Write your memoirs or a play about your life experiences
The possibilities are endless. The important thing is to find activities that are both meaningful and enjoyable for you.
Disclaimer – Information current as at 19 November 2015 – This information is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your particular financial needs, circumstances and objectives. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, it is not guaranteed. You should obtain professional advice before acting on the information contained in this publication. You should read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before making a decision about a product.
This article originally appeared on www.matrixplan.com.au.