Wikipedia defines “successful aging” as: physical, mental and social well-being in older age.
Authors of Successful Aging: The MacArthur Foundation Study, John Rowe, MD and Robert Kahn, PhD define it as the cross-section between three components:
- Good health, low risk of disease and disability
- High mental and physical functioning
- Active engagement with life, an active life
Sure, we all want to get to that magical cross-section, but what are some practical tips to getting you there?
I’ve put together these five key ingredients for an active, healthy, engaged lifestyle that you can incorporate into your daily life now, so you can better prepare for your future self.
Key Ingredient #1: Community
There are so many studies out there that tell us being socially engaged can increase your physical, mental and emotional health. The importance of social interaction is so closely tied to your overall well-being, that loneliness has become a risk factor for not only functional decline but even early deaths if you’re over 60.
And community and relationships are especially important for women.
The ESRC found that for women, having a large family network doesn’t necessarily mean a healthier well-being because family can sometimes place more burden and obligations on women. This means friendships play an even more important role for us ladies.
Whether it’s family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, coworkers or even strangers, prioritizing your circle of influence can make such a big difference on the quality of your life as you age.
Bonus Tip: Align your relationships and community involvement with your core values. The power of association is so strong. Not only do you become who you spend the most time with, but check out these fun facts:
- If you spend time with smokers, you’re more likely to smoke
- If your close friend is obese, you’re 57% more likely to gain weight
- If you friend gets a divorce, your chance of getting a divorce goes up by 75%
So why not associate with people who bring out the best in you?
Spending more time with people who hold you accountable for your growth, goals and values, and people who give you energy, can have such an impact on your aging.
Key Ingredient #2: Growth
Just like your nails and hair are designed to grow, your brain is designed to grow through new life experiences and lifelong learning.
And according to the Hebbian theory, you can create new neural pathways until the day you die… which means by taking on new experiences that focus on growth you’ll be nurturing your cognitive health.
Bonus Tip: People who use self-assessment have a huge advantage in achieving their greatest goals. Use this free Retirement Lifestyle Assessment to get super clear on your core values and goals. Finding clarity on what you really want gives you a crystal clear destination, so you can better map out fulfilling activities, goals and growth experiences.
Some ideas pulled from these 19 Tips for an Amazing Life After Retirement:
- Add something new to your life – whether it’s a new route to a typical destination, a new skill set or any entirely new travel adventure, getting out of your comfort zone is where all the good stuff happens
- Go back to school – not in the traditional sense but for the sake of lifelong learning. What have you always been curious about but never took the time to learn?
- Immerse yourself in culture – engaging in a completely different way of life – food, language and people – can create such profound experiences
- Spend time on key hobbies – activities like playing music and dancing exercise multiple cognitive functions at once, so it’s like a full-body brain workout… say yes to brain plasticity
By tapping into your core values and your sense of adventure, you can create exciting experiences for yourself that promote not only self growth but also your cognitive growth. Exercising your brain like any other muscle in your body will be crucial for your longevity and successful aging.
Key Ingredient #3: Giving Back
There’s a dose of oxytocin that hits you when you give back and it can even last up to a couple weeks. So imagine if you were to prioritize your sense of volunteerism and give back on a regular basis.
Not only that… giving back is good for your health and can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
There are studies that tell us volunteering improves your well-being and life satisfaction. And volunteering has been linked to lower risk of dying early and decreased depression.
UnitedHealth Group conducted a study and found that out of the people who volunteered:
- 75% felt physically better
- 84% had improved mood
- 78% were less stressed
Whether caring for a family member, leading an environmental cleanup, gifting to a charity or working toward solving world hunger, your sense of giving back can help immensely with successful aging.
Want to find a volunteer opportunity but not sure where to start? Here are seven steps to finding the right volunteer opportunity.
Key Ingredient #4: Health
Intuitively, if you allow yourself to tap into the decision-making part of your brain to focus on value-based habits and activities, you know what to do. You know that a specific plan customized for you (and only you) is going to work for your body type, so I won’t go into generic health tips here…
Beyond the diet and exercise mantra that we’ve all heard repeatedly, the trick to sticking to a healthy lifestyle is to not overwhelm yourself with the big picture requirements, but rather focus on micro-steps along the way.
Create a very simple plan and take consistent micro-steps every single day until it becomes a second nature habit to you. Then you can tackle another micro-step and repeat.
Example: cut out sugar.
Rather than fretting over some daunting regimen of no sugar, no carbs, no sodium, no alcohol, more veggies, more water, more cardio, more yoga, etc., just focus on one element at a time.
Once you’ve mastered that, celebrate your win and tackle another mini-goal.
This’ll keep your health goals much more achievable. Plus, you won’t get distracted and overwhelmed by all the other advice out there, which can also keep you from adhering to your personalized health plan.
Key Ingredient #5: Finance
One of the biggest worries of pre-retirees and retirees is finances according to a recent Merrill Lynch and Age Wave survey. The fear of outliving your money can contribute to your stress level and can certainly weigh heavily on the quality of your lifestyle choices.
Like with all the other four key ingredients, it’s important to give your financial life the attention it deserves and to create meaningful goals that you can commit to. One foundational component to achieving your financial goals is to find clarity using a budget process.
Having a very clear snapshot of where exactly your money is going, can help you take control of your spending and saving habits. Some tips for the budgeting process:
- Remember your annual expenses – something it’s easy to forget about those bills that come through once a year
- Include your spouse or family member in the process – to have a full understanding of what’s happening with your inflows and outflows, be sure to include those who need to be involved.
- Track all your expenses for 2 weeks – this can help you catch all the tiny little one-off expenses that you may not think of as your sit down to recall your regular expenses
- Compartmentalize by category – by organizing your spending into various categories like household, daily living, healthcare, insurance, transportation, entertainment, etc., you can change your spending habits within certain areas of your life. This’ll help make your goals more bite-sized and achievable.
- Maintain your budgeting process – since your expenses likely aren’t consistent depending on what’s happening in your life, revisiting this process on a regular basis can help you at a minimum have a clear picture of your spending habits within specific categories
So there you have it, five key ingredients to successful aging.
Want to see how balanced your life is across these 5 key ingredients? Use this free Retirement Lifestyle Assessment to discover the exact roadmap to your ideal retirement lifestyle.