By Juanita Pienaar
Aging well is so much more than just taking care of your physical body. While eating well and exercising is essential, taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally is a powerful way to live your very best life as you get older. Spending time to learn new skills and doing the things that keep you engaged in life can make a massive difference in how you approach this new phase of your life.
The world is a very different place from 20 years ago. It is a very different place even from just five years ago. Things are changing rapidly, and it might sometimes be a bit overwhelming to keep up. You don’t need to, but staying up to date with new developments and technologies or different ways of doing things can contribute to aging well. Not only does it encourage you to continue learning new things, but it can also maybe even make life a bit easier.
One of the best, and most fun, ways to learn about these new things is to spend time with younger people. They usually have their fingers on the pulse of everything new and useful. Don’t underestimate the very young people – it is amazing what a 7-year-old can teach you about your smartphone and probably even your TV!
We can all agree that young folks did not invent avocado toast, but they sure are onto something with it. There is a rise in demand for food that is organic, healthy, and nutritious. Aging well includes eating well. Today there is a diversity of healthy and delicious options to include variety in your diet. Don’t be afraid to try a new and trendy meal, and be sure to include a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables into your meals each day.
Have a plan.
Life does not stop once you retire or when you get older. John Rowe and Robert Kahn stated that Successful Aging included decreasing the likelihood of developing disease and disease-related disabilities, keeping your mind and body strong and healthy, and engaging with life.
The best way to not become stagnant and aging well is to keep making plans, set goals, and to do the things that you have always put off for later, for when you were less busy. Yes, there are the mundane tasks like grocery shopping and doing laundry, but focus on achieving things that give you a sense of satisfaction. Take up a new hobby or learn a new language. Make a list of goals or achievements that you would like to accomplish and do something every day that would move you closer to obtaining it.
Do things that make you feel most alive.
For some people, this could mean jumping out of an airplane or going diving with sharks. For others, it could be standing outside, feeling the wind in their hair and on their face. Or it could simply mean sitting in your favorite spot with a good book and a cup of tea or spending time with the younger members of your family. Aging well means finding the joy in each day.
There are plenty of stereotypes ascribed to older adults. Many of them hold the ideology of aging well, from grannies who are famous for their cookies and pies to granddads who teach their grandchildren to ride bikes.
Defy the stereotype.
There are also many negative stereotypes connected to growing older. Holding these negative stereotypes can influence your physical health. People who have a negative view of getting older, on average, live 7.5 years shorter. They have poorer memory and cognition and have a lower chance of recovering from severe disability.
Here is the secret to aging well: Our expectations of what it would be like to grow old – those negative stereotypes – are not true for the majority of people.
Aging well means taking care of yourself. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. Spend time each day doing something that makes you feel cared for, which makes you feel nurtured and cherished. Take a long hot bath with candles and some Epsom salts or essential oil, or spend time with your pets. Pursue activities that make you your soul feel full.
Getting older is a massive transition period, and it could become a bit overwhelming at times. Taking care of your body, mind, and soul is integral in aging well and living a healthy and fulfilling life. Spend time on the things that make you feel joyful and alive. Take time for yourself and spend time with those who inspire you to learn and grow. Most of all – focus on enjoying this space that you are in – you have earned it.
Juanita Pienaar is a writer in Johannesburg. An honours graduate in Psychology, she spent 5 years living and traveling abroad, is an Hatha yoga teacher and a retired scuba dive instructor.
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