Your health might decline as you age, but that doesn’t mean your quality of life has to. There are plenty of ways to remain healthy and live a social and active life. It’s a new year, so use it as an excuse to work on a new you!
1. Do something small every day. Health isn’t about trying the latest fad diet or working out at the gym every day. Little choices add up, and each time you make a positive choice, you build mastery and confidence. Focus on making small changes for your financial, physical, and emotional health.
2. Focus on education. You’re never too old to learn something new. Many college campuses offer continuing education courses for seniors. These are often free or deeply discounted. Enroll in a class that interests you or learn more about a practical subject such as nutrition, financial planning, or communication. Staying engaged in a social environment is emotionally and physically beneficial.
3. Do something fun. Being healthy doesn’t mean forcing yourself to do military style calisthenics and eating bland foods. Look for fun ways to spend your time doing something healthy. Anything that gets you moving, engages you mentally, or makes you feel happy promotes health. Play with your grandchildren, walk your dog around the neighborhood, or plant the garden you’ve always wanted.
4. Get away from the television. An hour or two of television per day is not considered unhealthy, but many retirees feel lost after retirement. They spend hours in front of the television because they’ve lost a sense of purpose. Even if you just go to the library and check out a book, getting away from the screen is beneficial. In fact, too much television is connected with increased rates of depression and anxiety.
5. Don’t ignore strength training. Strength training is a must-do exercise for maintaining muscle and bone mass as you age. Focusing on your strength will protect you from fall accidents and injuries and help you feel more confident as you age. If you can’t make yourself do any other exercise during the day, do 15-20 minutes of body weight or weighted strength training exercises to keep your core, arms, and legs strong.
6. Listen to your body. As we age, our bodies will change. You may not be able to safely complete the same exercises you did as a 20 or 30 year old. Don’t overexert yourself during the day, and talk to a doctor and/or an exercise specialist before you start any new exercise program. Learning techniques and joint-friendly exercises will improve your results and reduce the risk of injury.
7. Plan group activities. Focus on your mental and physical health with group activities. Schedule a hike, play outdoor games, or take an exercise class with your friends. A walking pub crawl can even boost your emotional and physical health, as long as you imbibe in moderation. Staying in touch and making new friends will widen your support group and provide a sense of belonging.
8. Volunteer somewhere. Volunteering is another good way to boost your mood and your physical health. The social experience of doing something good for others can lower blood pressure and increase your lifespan. Whether you want to work with children or to beautify the neighborhood, help out with a cause that you can really get behind.
9. Reduce stress. Stress often prevents us from reaching our goals. Finances and relationships are two huge stress contributors. Alleviate financial stress with some strategic planning and ongoing budget considerations. Talk with your friends and family members and resolve any exiting conflicts to further reduce the amount of daily stress you experience.
Many people associate therapy with serious problems, but therapy/counseling is also beneficial for anyone going through a major transition such as retirement. A counselor can help you work through emotions, communicate better, and find your new purpose in retirement.
10. Get involved with your spiritual community. Attend services and study groups and participate in events. A spiritual community may offer the well-rounded support you need to maintain your spiritual and physical health – just watch out for the unhealthy options at the next potluck!
11. Set goals and rewards. Incentives drive action, so set some goals for yourself. Plan to walk in a charity walk, exercise 5 days in a row, or introduce yourself to 3 new people this week. If you achieve your goal, indulge in something fun such as a new book, a plant for your garden, or dinner out on the town. In addition to keeping you active, achieving small goals can also help you find new direction and meaning in life as a retiree.