As you get older, of course you want to thrive. But how? By wisely, pragmatically, holistically, and happily taking care of your body, mind, and spirit. In order to nurture every part of who you are and enhance everything you want to do, consider these 50 tips for aging well. Some are mundane, others lofty—and all can help you live your best third act!
Live With Purpose
- Think outside the box. Look for creative ways to share your gifts and improve yourself. Seek out people who can help you with both.
- Appreciate the roles you can play. You can be a mentor, a financial supporter, an advocate for social justice, a catalyst who helps others network.
- Is there a cause that’s close to your heart? Focus your passions on doing good by volunteering or working for organizations that reflect your interests.
- If you’ve always wanted to be your own boss, now might be the time to start a new business.
- Get feedback from others. Consider forming a support group of fellow explorers with whom to share goals and strategies.
Engage With Others
- Don’t hang out solely with people your own age. Actively network with those who are significantly younger or older than you.
- Do you enjoy playing a sport? Join an amateur league team and get fit at the same time.
- Universities and community colleges are great places to meet new people. Audit or enroll in a course.
- Connect with others at your local library or senior or community center. Take advantage of the many free events it offers.
- Find out if your community is part of the national Village to Village Network. If not, consider working with others to start one.
Manage Your Finances
- Create a budget and stick to it. Paying in cash rather than using a credit card can help you stay within your means.
- Reduce your debt. Prioritize which loans you’ll pay off first, and set dates by which you’ll retire each debt.
- Avoid theft by having Social Security, pension, payroll, and other checks automatically deposited into your bank account.
- Consider bundling your phone, cable, and Internet services into one package; adjusting your thermostat with the seasons; and consolidating your errands into one trip. Comparing prices, clipping coupons, and shopping on senior discount days can save you money, too.
- Appoint a durable power of attorney to have access to your documents and assets, and periodically revise contracts to reflect any important changes in your life situation.
- Create an exercise routine that will increase your strength, coordination, flexibility, balance, and endurance.
- Include cardio fitness, weight-bearing resistance training, and stretching, as well as a warm-up and cool-down.
- Rest your muscles between workouts by focusing on exercising different groups (upper body, lower body, core) on different days.
- If you get bored, try some new movements, take a different walking/jogging/running route, and consider working out with a friend.
- Track your progress to determine how well you’re doing and what you need to work on. Share this information at your next doctor’s visit.
- Create a nutritional plan with your doctor based on your medical needs.
- Shop from the departments (dairy, produce, meats, fish, bread) along your supermarket’s perimeter. If a food in your cart is in a form that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize, you probably should return it to the shelf.
- Store and cook your foods at the proper temperatures.
- Whenever possible, eat slowly and socially. Savoring your food, especially with people you enjoy, can reduce both waistline and loneliness.
- Pay attention to your body’s signals of hunger, thirst, and satiation. Try not to skip meals or eat too closely to bedtime. Stop eating when you feel slightly full.
- Get enough undisturbed rest, which includes cycles of deep sleep as well as dreaming. If you’re still drowsy in the morning or lack energy during the day, consult your doctor.
- Make sure your mattress and pillows provide enough support and your bedroom temperature is on the cool side.
- Prepare yourself for sleep about an hour before bedtime. Lower the lights in your house to get used to darkness, and do something relaxing (read, listen to soft music, take a warm bath, etc).
- Avoid late-night overstimulation such as exercising, drinking caffeinated beverages, looking at a computer screen (and even watching the news).
- See your doctor if you have sleep apnea or take medications that interfere with sleep.
Boost Your Brain
- Aerobic exercise, which is good for your heart, is a major brain-booster.
- Reduce your stress by enjoying relaxing activities: doing yoga, meditating, taking nature walks, journaling—the options are endless.
- Challenge your brain by “kicking it up a notch” in everything you do. Take different routes to work or the store. Cook new recipes. Learn a foreign language or take music lessons.
- Don’t just solve puzzles, create them. And find a “brain buddy” who’s willing to do the same and share with you.
- Engaging socially is an extremely healthy brain activity. Make new friends and maintain older, valued ones. Have meaningful conversations—the deeper, the better.
- Research your destination in advance to determine the safest places to visit and stay. Read online reviews by travelers and get recommendations from people you know.
- Pack and carry the minimum amount of clothing and other items. (Your body will thank you as you run to catch that flight or train.) But take along prescription medicines to last a week longer than you’ll be away.
- Before boarding public transit, know your route and have your fare handy. Onboard, be aware of your surroundings and the actions of other passengers.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi, carrying your Social Security card, or posting your itinerary on social media. Keep secure online copies of forms of identification.
- If possible, take only one credit card on your trip.
Be Safe at Home
- Do a “safety sweep” of your house. Discard expired medicines, secure or remove slippery rugs, and check electrical cords and sockets for damage or overload.
- Avoid injuries by decluttering your garage and keeping your landscape trimmed and free of ground debris.
- If aging in place is your goal, consult a specialist who can help you retrofit every room in your home to allow future physical accessibility.
- Let technology work for you. Consider wearing a personal alarm or using a mobility sensor to track your daily needs or movements and install a home-monitoring system.
- Get to know your neighbors and have them get to know you. Building mutual trust is the best-ever home insurance.
- Keep your loved one at the center of all caregiving decisions. If possible, discuss his or her needs in advance, including end-of-life care.
- Clarify expectations with family members to avoid misunderstandings or resentments. If you engage professional caregivers, discuss all expectations and the best ways of working together.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be specific about what you need. By involving others, you give them the satisfaction of helping in a time of need.
- Take care of yourself and include an occasional break. It’s important to recharge your batteries in order to make good decisions and avoid burnout.
- Check in with yourself regularly to keep your perspective. Make any changes that allow you to regain a sense of balance and control.
Jeanette Leardi is a Portland-based social gerontologist, writer, editor, and community educator who has a passion for older adult empowerment. She gives popular presentations and workshops in journaling, spiritual writing, memoir writing, personal mythmaking, ethical will creation, brain fitness, ageism, intergenerational communication, and caregiver support to people of all ages. Learn more about her work at jeanetteleardi.com.
Love all these suggestions, Jeanette, especially finding purpose. All my grandparents lived into their 90s and were thriving because of their lives having meaning and intergenerational interaction. As we look at joining senior communities, be sure to invest time in your community where you can interact with kids, families and every generation-you’ll be richer for it!
Wonderfully comprehensive, a list to keep and refer to often, to make sure we’re staying on course. This sort of planning goes a long way to prevent or mitigate problems that arise in later life. Thank you!