Carolyn and Mikol here.
Some look to be aging well. Others not. What’s the difference? We are having a little getaway in beautiful Lake Tahoe with perfect weather, blue skies and breathtaking scenery.
I watch some folks apparently having fun and others looking glum while staring out into space. Some of them are smiling as we pass by. I’ve talked to a number of these folks. I’m on a secret research mission to find out more about how to age well. I’ll be an official senior citizen on my next birthday. Gotta find out! I observe. I ask a few questions. I take note.
What the happy folks are doing that others aren’t includes participating in life here. You see them in the water, either a pool or the cold lake. They are walking or exploring. They’re in a hot tub relaxing. They’re going out for a show. They may be reading a book and chatting occasionally with the person next to them.
The unhappy ones are in front of the TV. Can you imagine? Daytime TV watching in a place like this? Missing it all by staying inside doesn’t seem to make them happy. The happy folks are engaging in conversation. This is a small resort and it’s easy to get to know anyone. People are friendly but you have to reach out a little to connect to them. That seems to be another quality of the happier ones: they make an effort to get to know others, even if in a casual way.
We are social animals by nature. Some need social contact more than others. The ones who are having the most fun, it seems, are making more social contacts. The unhappy ones seem to keep entirely to themselves. I’m sure that’s okay, and maybe they just need some quiet. But they don’t look as if they are laughing at any jokes. They don’t seem to be finding some humor in the events of the day. If humor helps us age well, it seems that we have to extend ourselves to find it. Hmm. I’m definitely going to that comedy show down the road tonight.
Aging well, the literature on aging tells us, involves healthy habits, like exercise. I see a lot of people strolling along the beach or walking into town or going along the many walking paths around here. It’s gentle exercise. They look relaxed and I see pleasant expressions. And those unhappy ones say they’re bored. But they rarely leave their condos. Seems pretty obvious that getting out and moving around helps the happier ones enjoy the moment. I was in a short conversation with middle aged guy who said he doesn’t like anything here. His wife, on the other hand is having a great time. (How do they stay married??).
What’s different between them is that she is willing to try new things and he isn’t. He reports staying inside, taking a business call and not finding anything he can enjoy. He is seemingly bent on being miserable. He can’t wait to leave. She wants it to last. She has the positive attitude. He doesn’t. I wonder which one will age better than the other one?
So, based on unscientific research and no particular data besides people watching, here in a nutshell are the top five things the happier people aging well are doing that the others aren’t.
1. Find a positive attitude wherever you are. It is an intentional state of being.
2. Get outside when the weather is good. Banish TV from your daytime.
3. Move around. Walk, stroll, get out and check out the surroundings, even familiar surroundings.
4. Seek humor and laughter in your life. You may have to reach out for it, but make it a plan.
5. Connect with other people. Participate in the life around you and get to know someone new.
New experiences help breathe vitality into your life, and this often leads to feelings of joy. The guy who wasn’t having fun didn’t want to try anything. One of the benefits of doing novel things is that the neural pathways in the brain are reconfigured. New connections are made, which makes you more able to think and act in new ways. I think he was stuck in what he is used to doing and having fun in a resort isn’t one of them. You may wonder what these 5 things have to directly with aging.
All I can say is that people who are smiling and who have a great attitude look a whole lot better than the ones who don’t and I want to look like the happier ones. It seems that if we set out to live in a positive way we age that way too.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt and Mikol Davis,
PS. If the decision-making is making you crazy and you don’t know where to turn, consider getting a free complimentary strategy session at AgingParents.com. It’s a start.