Make the Most of Your Age
Want to get more of that younger mindset? These tips will help you truly embrace your age and make everything that is to come more satisfying.
- Try something new. You needn’t take on a huge task or challenge—just embrace novelty. “Do something you haven’t done before or that’s not routine,” says Ian M. McDonough, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Alabama. Working with a teacher or friend who can guide and challenge you can help you avoid frustration and also has beneficial effects on the brain, he adds. And even if you’re too busy now to throw yourself into a new hobby, “stay engaged with the people and projects that matter to you,” says Laura Carstensen, Ph.D., director of the Stanford University Center on Longevity. “Explore what you might want to do when you have more time.” That might mean reading up on certain topics or volunteering for a few hours.
- Keep an open mind about what aging looks like. “Most people in their 60s fear aging less than those 20 years younger, because they’re starting to realize it’s not so bad,” Carstensen says. “A raft of improvements come developmentally with age.” Not only do people tend to be happier and calmer as they age, but they’re better at resolving conflicts and seeing patterns.
- Tune out negative self-talk. “At times in the MFA program, I felt, Gee, I’m a little old for this,” says Carol Niederlander. “But I wasn’t treated like an outsider by other students—I made new friends with whom I continue to be in close touch.” (Her tip: Resist the urge to give unsolicited advice to or criticize younger people around you, which creates distance rather than closeness.)
- Find people who inspire and encourage you. “In my 20s, I was friends with a woman who was 50, and it was a really good experience. I wondered if I’d reverse that when I myself was older, and I have,” Niederlander says. Age isn’t relevant if you share interests and passions.
- Keep moving. You can’t think yourself into a fit 30-year-old’s skin, but staying physically active keeps your energy up and your brain sharp. You don’t have to run marathons, Carstensen says—just move. Niederlander had never been active before, but some years after retirement she began working out with a trainer. “I’m not crazy about it, but I’ve seen how fragility can limit a person,” she says. “So I made a rational decision to do the work, and I’m stronger, my arms look better, and my jeans fit better.”
- Focus on goals and celebrate success. After a knee injury, Judi Fordyce was told she should hang up her skis. “But my brain told me I needed to get back out there,” she says. After powering through difficult physical therapy by remembering the fun of skiing, she was able to return to the slopes—a win she carries with her.