Every now and then I counsel older clients who have anxiety about getting…older. They feel like they’re facing an unknown future – maybe they don’t have enough retirement money saved, or there are personal issues going on in their life that they’re uncertain about. Maybe you’ve got the same concerns and, you too, are wondering about your future as you get older. But, getting older could easily be the happiest time of your life. Here’s why…
Get Happiness from These 4 Basic Areas
Some research studies have noted that Boomers, as a whole, are not as happy as same-aged people in generations before them. Why? First of all, I’m not sure I completely agree with that assessment. Yes, there are some issues facing Boomers right now that have grown out of the downturned economy we’ve had for the last 5 years. Some have had to forestall retirement until the age of 70 and that has left them uneasy. The current upheaval in the state of healthcare hasn’t helped older adults feel more secure either.
But, in general, the Boomers I meet are mostly enthusiastic, upbeat go-getters who are looking forward to retiring from one job and starting a whole new adventure in their lives. Whether it is starting a new second career, spending more time with a hobby or grandkids, traveling, or doing just whatever, they have a lot of good ideas of what they’d like to do. They more often just consult me for tips on how to better pursue those avenues.
But for those older adults who really do have some nervousness about their future, I like to ease their concerns by reminding them that getting older can be a happy time if they’ll just focus on these 4 key areas:
1. Your Health. It’s at the top of the list, because I feel it’s so important. The old saying, if you have your health, you have everything, is very true. Pay more attention to taking better care of your health. Studies show that if you become fit by middle age (today, that’s your 60’s); you likely will have a much longer, healthier lifespan ahead. Get regular exercise at least 4-5 times a week, eat a good diet, take a good multivitamin, limit your alcohol, sleep at least 6-7 hours a night, and stop smoking if you haven’t yet. See your doctor for regular checkups.
2. Strengthen Family/Friend Ties. I find that my clients have more anxiety about their future if they have shaky family/friend relationships. Studies show that people have more peace of mind, and are happier, when their family ties are stable. That doesn’t mean you have to get along all the time, but just knowing that your family, at the end of the day, has your back in times of crises helps a lot of people relax. Do your best to shore-up any laxity in your family ties – this includes your immediate family as well as your extended family. Take the initiative of visiting older, or distant, relatives more often. At least make a phone call, write an email and re-connect with them. Arrange a family reunion, or holiday party, and try to be the peace maker/broker between disgruntled family members.
3. Offer Love/Find Love. Strengthening your relationship with your spouse or significant other can also go a long way in dissolving anxiety and making you feel happier and more at peace with life. Strong love relationships actually protect you from age-related cognitive decline, says a study out of Michigan State University. And, if you’re newly divorced, or widowed, give yourself enough time to heal, but don’t shy away from people. Loneliness, especially after a divorce or death, can degenerate into serious depression and physical illness, studies show. They also show that people with good relationships are happier than singles.
So, even if your “relationship” is only with your best buddies for a while, get out in the world and do things, spend time with them. It will help you heal much faster and, you never know, someone special may just wander into your life. When the time is right for you, you might want to explore other ways to bring love, or even just companionship, back into your life by maybe checking out OurTime, or Eharmony, or Match.Com. No one knows you’re available, and how great you are, if you’re isolating yourself at home with the television.
4. Money. Most Boomers I talk to are at least a little concerned about their finances, especially the ones who took a big hit back in 2008-2009 when the economy tanked. Like them, you may have had to move back your retirement date or you may have taken on a second job to pay off some existing debts before you do retire. Although money can’t buy happiness, it can help ease feelings of insecurity about what money you’ll have to live on as you get older.
Maybe you need to downsize some of that excess “stuff” in your house that you don’t need and raise some extra cash. Maybe you need to downsize your entire house and reap some maintenance savings there as well. You may need to sit down and make a list of financial issues that need prioritizing. If you’re really in a quandary about your finances, you might want to seek out a financial advisor who can map out a strategy that can ease your mind.
All these areas are important, but equally so is maintaining a good, positive attitude. Realizing that life really doesn’t have to be any more unhappy for an older person as it is for a younger person can literally set your spirit free. It all depends on your outlook and how you feel about yourself. As a Boomer, you come from a generation that has achieved some pretty fabulous things. Remind yourself frequently of all the good things that you’ve done so far in your life and set future goals to accomplish some more!
Dale Brown, B.S., M.A., C.E.C.
Certified Empowerment Coach
AARP National Opinion Research Survey, http://www.aarp.org/about-aarp/info-10-2012/aarp-member-opinion-survey-2012.html
Baby Boomers Happier, http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/On-Retirement/2013/06/11/7-ways-baby-boomers-can-be-happier