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Tips For Enjoying Your Later Years

Updated on October 26, 2008

Elderly Couple

Boomer Advice


I know quite a few people in their eighties and nineties who are very active, healthy and happy. They all seem to have a number of things in common which I believe keeps them that way.

1. HOBBIES OR INTERESTS: Every one of them has interest in a hobby or other activity. My neighbor and my Dad, both eighty-nine, still live in their own home and are avid gardeners. This activity gives them immense pleasure and something to look forward too. It keep their bodies and minds busy. Their home- grown veggies also adds to the overall of their bodies and budget.

Two other eighty-plus friends of mine are interested in art and, although they say they'll ‘never be famous artists' they don't care because they just love to do it. They read books about art, visit or volunteer at museums and rent movies about the suject. They are continually learning and expanding their art experiences.

Other folks I know make jewelry or pottery, serve as literacy volunteers, build doll houses or carve wood. It's much easier to get up in the morning and ignore aches and pains or avoid depression if you have something fun and fulfilling to do. My grandmother lived to crochet. When her arthritis made it difficult, she taped a pencil to her crochet hook to make it easier to hold on to and kept on going. I recently learned to knit. I'm sixty years old and have probably crocheted my weight in yarn, but never learned to knit. I took a class at the local yarn shop when I was feeling a little blue last winter. Not only did I learn to knit, but met some very nice folks and had fun in the process.

You may not think you have an ‘interest' in anything, but I bet if you look back at what you liked to do as a child, you'll find something. Don't limit yourself. I recently purchase a stained-glass style coloring book and a package of watercolor markers. Who said you have to be a kid to color? Fly a kit? Build a toy boat?

My neighbor invited a few of us over to work on a jigsaw puzzle that her grandson had given her. We had a great time putting it together while talking and laughing.

2. EAT! I've noticed that my older friends eat balanced ‘mini' meals throughout the day. This will keep your energy level at maximum and help keep excess weight from creeping onto your behind. Lately, since there are only two of us at home now, I buy more individual serving sizes of food.

Brookstone sells little four-packs of cottage cheese. They may seem more expensive when you compare price-per-ounce, but after I threw out yet another large, half-eaten, long-past-sell-by date carton of cottage cheese, I realized that I was probably spending more for them in the long run and wasting food to boot.

I purchase three-packs of organic milk that come in eight ounce containers, so have fresh-tasting milk when I want it and don't feel guilty about finishing the last bit of that gallon jug that I know no longer tastes good. Low-sugar fruit cups, one-serving bottles of orange juice, and small bags of baby carrots are helpful as well.

On the treat side, which may not be good for us physically but sure do lift the spirits on occasion, I purchase cookies that come in 100 calorie packs. I keep them in the freezer downstairs and know I'll have to REALLY want them to dig them out. Don't keep this stuff where its too easy go grab. If you're like me, you'll eat five of them in a row. Not good. Blue Bunny sells individual two-packs of ice cream. They taste very good, but the portion is automatically scooped out for you. It's so easy to eat a huge bowl of chocolate ice cream, but easier to just open a single serving and therefore limit your portion size (and your own size as well).

I tend to skip meals or not want to cook like I used too. Having these healthful, convenient foods are perfect for those days. When I do feel like cooking, I make a crock pot of boneless chicken and veggies, bean soup or chili and freeze it in several individual sized containers so I'll have something nutritious and yummy as a back up.

3. EXERCISE: Yeah, I know, I hate it too. But all of my buddies who are age eighty and above make it a point to do some form of exercise. One lady puts on her MP3 player and walks laps in her basement for twenty minutes each morning. Another goes to a senior swim class three times a week.

Start slow. We have a treadmill-ski machine. I started out doing only ONE minute on it. The next day I added a minute and so on until I was up to about thirty minutes. I probably took it way slower than most, but it helped me overcome the hardest part; getting started. I also tell myself that I don't have to do more than a few minutes and often end up staying with it for the full half-hour. Music really helps. I put on ABBA, the Eagles or Queen and sometimes they get me going too fast!

4. SOCIALIZE. Socializing is a very important aspect of a healthy happy life. Good friends often mean laughter which is very healthful. They also give us someone to share our worries and troubles with, and this offers a sort of therapy and emotional support. I combine my art and writing with friends who share my interests.

Places to find friends and people with common interests are; church, senior centers, classes at fabric or yarn shops, continuing education classes, library book or volunteer groups. Find a club or group that shares your interest in books, gardening, art or travel. Or, better yet, start one of your own!

5. ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT. Although I know it sounds cliché' but a positive attitude is very important. I'm a cancer survivor and my doctor said that my 'upbeat attitude' was a huge plus in getting well. A ninety-year old neighbor jokes that he's so old that he doesn't buy green bananas, yet he still plants trees for future generations and watches funny movies when he's feeling low.

It's just as easy to focus on the positive aspects of life as it is to become a negative grump. It may take a bit of ‘rethinking' but once you start looking on the bright side, life does seem to become brighter. A friend once told me that she lists five things she's that thankful for every night before going to sleep. Hearing a child laugh, seeing a Heavenly Blue Morning Glory bloom, the taste of a ripe pear, or the scent of cinnamon, are a few I've listed lately.

My older friends and relatives are a source of inspiration and admiration. I've often told them that I want to be just like them when I grow ‘up'.


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