For many, the phrase “the golden years” conjures up an image of a smiling senior couple holding hands in a pair of Adirondack chairs, sipping coffee and enjoying a beautiful sunrise. But as we all know, life’s many challenges can become even greater as we age. Loss of loved ones, physical pain, memory loss, and limited mobility are just a few of the challenges faced by older adults. The resulting emotional stress can leave some deflated and depressed, significantly hindering their quality of life. Yet while these challenges must be faced, they can be managed. Here are 10 suggestions to help older adults remain happier and healthier while meeting the challenges that come with aging.
Embrace Your Feelings. Don’t ignore them. Struggling with grief over the loss of a loved one? You are not alone. Grief is painful, but it must be felt. Join a support group, visit a counselor, or write down your feelings. Find a way to express yourself so that you can move forward. The inclination to withdraw and retreat may be natural, but it is not healthy.
Get Involved. Did you teach Sunday School at church when your kids were young? Were you a regular in a poker game with your friends back in the day? There is no reason to let these activities go. Get involved in your church. Join a dinner party or a book club. Opportunities abound and meaningful friendships await you. You’ve just got to go and find them!
Adopt a Pet. One of the greatest things about pets is that they love unconditionally. Visit your local animal shelter and take a look at the dogs and cats. These are animals that need love and attention as much as you do. Start a mutually beneficial relationship with a four-legged friend and bring copious amounts of joy and fulfillment into your life.
Pick Up a New Hobby. Or, rediscover an old one. Did you love to paint when you were younger? Was there a musical instrument you always dreamed of playing but never found the time? It’s never too late. Now is the time to rekindle your love for painting, sewing, writing, cooking or playing the piano.
Get into a Routine of Activity. Remember that day-timer you used to use? Get it back out. Just because you are retired does not mean you can end all obligations. Set up a lunch date with a friend. Wake up early, enjoy your coffee outside with a newspaper, and take the dog for a walk. Remember Newton’s first law: A body in motion stays in motion, so get your body in motion!
Volunteer. Nothing will give you the perspective you need to appreciate your life better than helping someone else out. Lend a hand at a local food bank, make calls for your favorite charity, participate in a local political campaign, or spend some time with those less fortunate than you. Helping other people with their problems helps you to focus less on your own. Plus, it just feels good.
Monitor Your Health. While the thought of adding one more pill to your morning routine may make you want to pull your hair out, taking care of your body is critical to your overall health and happiness. Keep up with your doctor appointments, watch your weight, monitor your diet, and exercise when you can. One more pill can mean the difference between walking or not walking, seeing or not seeing, energy or fatigue.
Get out! Spending time outside is good for the mind, body and spirit. Take a walk, do a little gardening or landscaping, or just sit in a comfortable chair in the sun and read. Spending time in nature soothes and centers us, and allows for the many benefits that a little sunshine and vitamin D can provide.
Find Your Soul Mate. It’s never too late for love. Studies show people in committed relationships are generally observed to be happier. Don’t give up on happiness or sell yourself short by telling yourself you’re too old. If you meet someone and see the potential for more than friendship, pursue it. It could be the best decision you ever made!
Don’t Forget to Laugh. A sense of humor is essential at every stage of life and never more so than in the golden years. Learn to laugh at yourself and challenging circumstances. Think the latest comedy movie is too over-the-top? Give it a shot. You might be surprised. Laugh with your friends often and deeply. It will keep your spirits high, and it’s great for your health too!