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Quick fun fact:
On average, seniors are watching 47 hours and 13 minutes every week.
This is a sign that our elder generation is at risk for living sedentary lives, being disengaged from the world, and having an unhealthy retirement, even if watching TV makes them feel like they’re staying in touch.
But it’s no fault of our seniors. Society pushes us to think an inactive, sedentary, unhealthy retirement lifestyle is just the way it is to age. In fact, it’s one of seven myths about aging that could be holding you back.
Sure, diet and exercise are the most obvious routes to living a healthy retirement lifestyle — but the invisible factors are just as important.
So rather than provide you with a suggested meal plan or exercise regimen (because those are everywhere), I’d like to share with you three hidden secrets to avoiding an unhealthy retirement lifestyle.
The invisible stuff counts, too.
Here they are in no particular order:
Tip #1: Find your purpose
Easier said than done – but if you’re like most seniors and baby boomers, you’ve spent most of your decades living a life of duty. You’ve been a dedicated family member focused on your career and spent years and years hacking away at strengthening your work and family life.
I get it.
Your top priority has been the whole responsibility of life and a family that depends on you – a very necessary and noble path…
Unfortunately, you can lose sight of what you really want in life. And if you’re anything like my parents, family friends and a lot of the seniors I know, you’ve had to lock up a few things in a hope chest… or toss certain ideas onto a bucket list for later.
And then that later becomes much much later, and then dissipates into something ever-so-faint until — you feel like you have no purpose by the time you hit your golden years.
And how important is finding your purpose in retirement when it comes to your health?
I’d say pretty important — after studying 136,000 people, research reveals that people with a sense of purpose in life have a lower risk of death and cardiovascular disease.
And according to Dr. Peter Attia’s longevity curve, purpose among one of the top contributing factors:
So how do you go about finding your purpose?
Finding clarity is the foundational piece to living each day intentionally so that you’re running your days vs. the other way around.
Whether you’re overwhelmed with too much to do and life getting away, or bored as heck with nothing to but TV to fill your time (I’ve seen severe cases of both), most people miss this critical step of finding clarity.
Some ideas and exercises for finding clarity are:
- Focus on your core values – what 5 core values define you as a person right now in this stage of your life? Once you’ve got your core values laid out you can tailor all of your life activities and the people you spend time with around those values.
This is a super powerful process and will give you fulfillment and energy.
- Use an energy meter (for nearly everything you do) – and what I mean by that is to get in the habit of becoming more self-aware about how energized you feel throughout the whole day based on the who, what, where, when and how of your daily life. More specifically — as you go about your entire day, pay attention to which activities, events, and people naturally give you more energy; and which activities and people naturally deplete you. Here’s the energy meter my students use, with 1 being very depleted and 5 being completely energized:
If something’s giving you more energy than you put into it, that’s gold right there – definitely something to double down on.
There’s so much more to finding clarity and it deserves some serious thought and time to really work for you, but for now — if you haven’t checked it out, this Retirement Lifestyle Assessment can help point you in the right direction.
Tip #2: Stay social
I can’t stress enough the importance of community and your relationships and the connection that you have with other people. Not only is being social good for your everyday stimulation and interaction level but it’s so good for your health.
There are several science-backed reasons why social interaction is good for your health. In a nutshell, research tells us:
- It improves your brain health because it reduces your risk of dementia and it delays your cognitive decline.
- It improves your physical health because being social lowers your blood pressure and improves your cardiovascular health, and it also reduces your risk of some cancers, and arthritis, and osteoporosis.
- And it’s good for your mental health and can keep you away from ailments like depression and of course loneliness, which can put you at risk for a shortened lifespan or a premature death.
So prioritizing your friendships, your involvement in the community (even if it’s just neighbors or strangers) is so helpful for your mental, emotional and your physical health.
Which also means your overall well-being and longevity.
There was even a study conducted in Australia at Flinders University that followed 1,500 people for a span of 10 years, and they found that people with a large network of friends outlived their counterparts by 22%.
Bonus tip: If you match up your circle of friends and your circle of influence with your life goals (once you’ve found your passion from Tip #1 of course), you’ll be much more likely to accomplish exactly what you want in retirement.
Basically, you become who you most hang out with so make it count.
Tip #3: Practice lifelong learning
It’s pretty obvious that you need to keep your body moving to avoid an unhealthy retirement life but don’t forget about your brain muscles, too.
Otherwise, you’ll fall victim to the “use it or lose it” principle – just like your body’s muscles, if you don’t exercise your brain, you’ll lose some of your cognitive functioning. Your hair and your nails are designed to grow, just as your brain is meant for lifelong learning.
This means you can actually rewire your brain and create new neural pathways until the day you die – so take advantage of that and keep both your body and your mind active.
And how important is lifelong learning?
Paul Nussbaum, PhD, director of the Aging Research and Education Center in Pittsburgh said:
“Every time your heart beats, 25% of that blood goes right to the brain. But while exercise is critical, it may be education that is more important. In the 21st century, education and information may become for the brain what exercise is for the heart.”
And this goes beyond just memory training and puzzles and brain games. To really create new neural pathways and increase your brain plasticity, you need to participate in high-level thinking which means new experiences and skills, and new challenges.
Neuroscientists at the University of Texas at Dallas conducted a study that found when seniors took on a new mentally challenging hobby they saw a lasting increase in their memory skills. Certain high-challenge activities strengthen the numerous networks in your brain.
Over to you
By taking action now and implementing any of these tips, you’re actively setting yourself up for a better future.
This means you’re taking care of your future aging self, avoiding unhealthy retirement, and ultimately, working to avoid becoming one of these scary stats on the rise:
Which is my mission – to help you live a more purposeful retirement lifestyle, so you’re active, healthy and engaged for as long as possible.
To recap, to avoid an unhealthy retirement lifestyle:
- Find your purpose. To do this, participate in activities that energize you (which will actually be your passions), and don’t miss the important step of finding clarity.
- Be social. It’s good for your health on so many levels.
- Practice lifelong learning, so both your brain and body don’t turn to mush.
Thank you for being proactive in caring about your future self. By setting high standards for yourself you’re setting an example for other people and you’re helping to shift our culture to uproot ageism.
If you need anything at all as it relates to living your ideal retirement lifestyle, please reach out to me — I’m here for you. And if you haven’t already, watch this free workshop on how to build a purposeful retirement lifestyle that you love.