Wikipedia defines successful aging as “physical, mental and social well-being in older age.” The authors of Successful Aging: The MacArthur Foundation Study, John Rowe, MD, and Robert Kahn, PhD, define it as “the cross-section between three components.”

They mention good health and low risk of disease and disability, high mental and physical functioning and active engagement with life.

Sure, we all want to get to that magical cross-section, but what are some practical tips to getting you there? Here are eight key ingredients for successful aging that you can incorporate into your daily life now, so you can better prepare for your future self.

Community

There are so many studies out there that tell us being socially engaged can increase our physical, mental and emotional health.

The importance of social interaction is so closely tied to your overall well-being, that loneliness has become a risk factor for not only functional decline but even early death if you’re over 60. Community and relationships are especially important for women.

The ESRC found that for women having a large family network doesn’t necessarily mean a healthier well-being. Family can sometimes place more burden and obligations on women, which means that friendships play an even more important role for us ladies.

Whether it’s family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, coworkers or even strangers, prioritizing your circle of influence can make such a big difference on the quality of your life as you age.

It’s always good advice to align your relationships and community involvement with your core values, because the power of association is very strong. For instance, if you spend time with smokers, you’re more likely to smoke. If your close friend is obese, you’re 57% more likely to gain weight.

So why not associate with people who bring out the best in you? Spending more time with people who hold you accountable for your growth, goals and values, and people who give you energy, can have such an impact on your aging.

Growth

Just like your nails and hair are designed to grow, your brain is designed to grow through new life experiences and lifelong learning.

According to the Hebbian theory, you can create new neural pathways until the day you die. This means that taking on new experiences that focus on growth will nurture your cognitive health.

Focus on self-reflection to get super clear on your core values and goals. Finding clarity on what you really want gives you a crystal-clear destination, so you can better map out fulfilling activities, goals and growth experiences.

Here are ideas pulled from these 19 Tips for an Amazing Life After Retirement:

Add Something New to Your Life

New things bring excitement. Whether it’s a new route to a typical destination, a new skill set or any entirely new travel adventure, getting out of your comfort zone is where all the good stuff happens.

Go Back to School

Even after 60 school can play a major role in your life. Of course, not in the traditional sense but for the sake of lifelong learning. What have you always been curious about but never took the time to learn?

Immerse Yourself in Culture

Another idea is to explore a culture you’ve always been curious about. Engaging in a completely different way of life – food, language and people – can create such profound experiences.

Spend Time on Key Hobbies

Hobbies are important. Activities like playing music and dancing exercise multiple cognitive functions at once, so it’s like a full-body brain workout. Say yes to brain plasticity!

By tapping into your core values and your sense of adventure, you can create exciting experiences for yourself that promote not only self-growth but also your cognitive growth. Exercising your brain like any other muscle in your body is crucial for your longevity and successful aging.

Giving Back

There’s a dose of oxytocin that hits you when you give back and it can even last up to a couple weeks. Imagine if you were to prioritize your sense of volunteerism and give back on a regular basis. Not only that, giving back is good for your health and can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Back in 2013, UnitedHealth Group conducted a study and found that people who volunteered experienced decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early.

Whether caring for a family member, leading an environmental cleanup, gifting to a charity or working toward solving world hunger, your sense of giving back can help immensely with successful aging.

Want to find a volunteer opportunity but aren’t sure where to start? Here are seven steps to finding the right volunteer opportunity.

Health

Where your health is concerned, you intuitively know what to do. Beyond the diet and exercise mantra that we’ve all heard repeatedly, the trick to sticking to a healthy lifestyle is to not overwhelm yourself with the big picture requirements, but rather focus on micro-steps along the way.

Create a very simple plan and take consistent micro-steps every single day until it becomes a second nature habit to you. Then you can tackle another micro-step and repeat. For example, cut out sugar.

Rather than fretting over some daunting regimen of no sugar, no carbs, no sodium, no alcohol, more veggies, more water, more cardio, more yoga, etc., just focus on one element at a time. Once you’ve mastered that, celebrate your win and tackle another mini-goal.

This’ll keep your health goals much more achievable. Plus, you won’t get distracted and overwhelmed by all the other advice out there, which can also keep you from adhering to your personalized health plan.

So, there you have it, four key ingredients to successful aging.

Which key ingredient for successful aging gives you the most energy? How balanced are you across these four core categories? Let’s start a discussion!

Cyn MeyerFounder of Second Wind Movement, Cyn Meyer offers education + coaching to help seniors transition into amazing next chapters and age successfully in place. She helps them live out active, healthy, happy “retirement” years, so they can better evade depression, loneliness, Alzheimer’s and nursing home occupancy. 

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