Life after 60 can be challenging and uncertain, but it can also be fulfilling and extremely rewarding. Roles and responsibilities typically shift during this time, leaving you with a fresh canvas ready to be painted however you like.
Life can certainly throw some curveballs – transitioning into retirement can be daunting, coping with children leaving home and friends leaving town can be isolating and health can start to deteriorate. But ageing is not what it used to be.
Views on ageing need a refresh. The old ways of thinking about ageing don’t fit very well with a generation of healthy people who want to continue to grow and experience new things.
Whether you want to travel, work, relax or volunteer, there is no reason that life after 60 shouldn’t be amazing.
If you’re over 60 or approaching the milestone, here are a few ways to ensure your life is as happy, healthy and full as ever.
Find meaning and purpose
We know from multiple studies that purpose and meaning in life bring happiness, especially in older age.
For example, one study of almost 7000 adults aged between 51 and 61 found feeling you have a purpose decreases your chance of premature death.
Our lives are filled with purpose from the day we start school, we need to learn, do well in exams, get a good job, climb the ranks, look after kids and more. Meaning and drive can slow after kids leave home and post-retirement.
You need to find something to get out of bed for every morning. For many people, this meaning comes from relationships, helping others, giving back to the community and even the drive to have fun and make the most out of life.
Maintain a small friendship circle
An active social life not only improves happiness in older age, but it can help stave off dementia too. But research suggests it’s the quality of friends, rather than the quantity, that’s important.
One study found older adults exhibit higher levels of wellbeing when they keep a small circle of close friends as opposed to a long list of acquaintances.
The same study actually found the older adults with fewer close friends reported being happier in comparison to younger individuals with a long list of casual friends.
Build a new friendship circle
Arguably the biggest contributor to positive ageing is fostering and maintaining positive relationships; having a sense of connectedness to people and the community.
So, if the friends you used to keep have moved away or are harder to reach nowadays, spend some time and effort making new connections.
There are various ways to find these connections: join local clubs, volunteer for an organisation, start or continue a hobby, enrol in a course or join a community garden.
Force yourself to do at least one social activity per day. If you’re a bit rusty at socialising, it gets easier every time.
Get out walking
Carving out some time each day for a short walk can provide a host of major health benefits. One study found that walking briskly for just one hour per week can help prevent and mitigate achy and painful joints, stiff muscles, and arthritis. That works out to just nine minutes of walking per day.
“This is less than 10 minutes a day for people to maintain their independence. It’s very doable,” says lead author Professor Dorothy Dunlop. “This minimum threshold may motivate inactive older adults to begin their path toward a physically active lifestyle with a wide range of health benefits promoted by physical activity.”
Understand and accept your body image
One positive that often comes with ageing is the improvement in self-confidence and being comfortable in your body.
With wisdom comes acceptance, but it’s hard to look past how older people are portrayed in the media Older women are often seen as unstylish, unsexy and almost invisible. That, along with the constant anti-ageing ads, can bring you down. On the one hand, there’s no reason you shouldn’t want to get into great shape, wear the clothes you want to wear and look after your skin. On the other, learning to love and embrace the changing perception of beauty after 60 will also bring peace and joy.
Keep a positive outlook
Research reveals that our attitude to life has a great impact on our happiness.
A landmark study involving nuns was able to pinpoint health benefits that come with positive emotion. Researchers found a correlation between a positive outlook and longevity.
Ninety per cent of the most cheerful quarter of nuns were alive at the age of 85, compared to only 34 per cent of the least cheerful quarter. Similarly, 54 per cent of the most cheerful fourth was alive at age 94, versus 11 per cent of the least cheerful fourth.
Give and receive more hugs
Physical touch between humans, or even humans and pets, releases oxytocin – one of the happiness hormones. Yet, ageing often means less physical contact and intimacy.
Hug your friends and family or treat yourself to a massage every now and then – it can be very beneficial to your wellbeing.
Another wonderful way to get oxytocin is through owning a pet.
Pick up a golf club
There’s no time like the present to get into golf. Findings recently presented at an American Stroke Association report golfing may actually lower older adults’ overall risk of death.
The study, which involved more than 6000 older individuals, found regular golfers over the age of 65 had a significantly lower death rate (15.1 per cent) over a 10-year period in comparison to non-golfers (24.6 per cent).
Why is golfing so good? It provides a way for you to get outside, spend time with friends, and get in some physical activity with low injury risk.
Seek support if you need it
Speaking openly about mental health was taboo for a long time. Many older adults who grew up with that taboo can be hesitant to admit they’re struggling.
An Australian study found that more than 40 per cent of older Australians living with a chronic health condition are unlikely to seek mental health support – even if they could really use it.
There seems to be a misconception that depression is a normal part of ageing, but it’s not. And seeking help can not only improve lives, it can save them.
Do you have any other tips you’d like to add? Please share them with our readers in the comments section below.
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