5 Personality Traits that Facilitate Healthy Aging
Despite all of our advances in science and technology, the biological basis of healthy aging is still a mystery. There can be little doubt that genetics plays a role in how we experience the aging process, but, exactly how this works is largely unclear.
So, until science is able to give us a “healthy aging pill,” we’re pretty much on our own. This doesn’t mean that there is nothing that we can do to live longer, healthier lives. It simply means that we need to take control.
Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of women in the community. Through these discussions, I’ve noticed a few trends about healthy aging. Specifically, the women in our community who seem to be getting the most from life after 60 are the ones that exhibit certain personality traits. The good news is that these are all traits that we can cultivate in ourselves. By emulating the perspective of the healthiest women among us, we can improve our own lives.
Let’s explore the 5 personality traits of healthy agers.
For most of our lives, we are forced to dance to somebody else’s tune. No matter how high we climb the corporate ladder, we always have a boss. We may not work for our kids, but, they certainly dominate our lives. For better or worse, as younger adults, we have a lot of structure pushed on us.
Then, when we reach our 60s, things start to change. Many of the “rules” that we experienced when we were younger disappear. Our careers end. Our kids leave the house. Suddenly, we the only person we need to answer to is ourselves.
This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, freedom is a wonderful thing. Without someone else telling us what to do, we are free to explore our passions. On the other hand, I know many older adults, who, lacking self-discipline, let themselves go in their 60s and 70s. This is a shame, because the decisions that you make in your 60s will set the tone for how you experience the aging process in your later years.
The women in our community who have the best experience with healthy aging are the ones who are able to get themselves to the gym. They are the ones that write down their goals and ask family members to hold them accountable. They take life after 60 just as seriously as they did the other phases of their lives. They still find plenty of time for fun, but, they don’t let themselves go just because no-one is watching.
Take Action: If you want to improve your self-discipline, try the “one-minute technique.” It will have you charging towards your goals in no time!
It’s common to think of retirement as a time for “taking it easy” or “aging gracefully.” The healthiest women in our community know that this is a myth. Even if you can afford to take it easy after you reach retirement age, which most of us can’t, too much relaxation can actually be a curse.
Instead, life after 60 should be about embracing our passions. If you are turning 60 today, chances are, you have at least 20-30 years to live. That’s an enormous amount of time. Instead of filling it with passive activities, like watching TV, why not learn a new language, take up a sport or perfect a hobby?
One of the great things about life after 60 is that you no longer need to answer to anyone. You can do absolutely anything that you are passionate about. Following your passions helps to keep your brain sharp, especially if your passion involves tangible skills. In addition, your passions will help you to stay social, which has been associated with many health benefits among older adults.
According to the University of Rochester Medical center, social contact can help older adults to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. It may also contribute to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, it can help to keep their blood-pressure in check.
Take Action: Write down 3 things that you have always wanted to do, but, have never taken the time to try. Find a way to experiment with each of these in the next month. Find local groups, watch YouTube videos. Whatever you do, do something!
As we reach our 60s, it’s natural to become a bit more risk-averse. We are told that we should start being more conservative with our money. Our aging bodies begin to tell us that sports and other activities are “dangerous.” In short, we have more to lose.
The challenge is that, by becoming risk-averse, we may trade known short-term risks for unknown long-term risks. Let me give you a few examples.
As we get a little older, many of us find that our balance isn’t as good as it was when we were younger. We also may find that it takes longer to recover from small injuries. As a result, we perceive going to the gym or participating in sports as being “risky.” In doing so, we avoid activities that could help us to experience healthy aging.
Our social lives also suffer from our desire to avoid perceived risks. After 6 decades on this planet, many of us are a bit wary of strangers. We’ve seen far too many detective dramas to see the truth – that most people are friendly and safe to talk to. So, we sit on the bus, looking at our fellow passengers, but, never saying hello.
Healthy aging requires us to cultivate our own sense of adventure. We need to fight back against our fears and engage in the activities – physical, emotional, and social – that will set us up for success in the long term.
Take Action: Read this article on the importance of talking to strangers after 60 and join the conversation.
By the time we reach our 60th birthdays, most of us have been hurt numerous times. We have been betrayed, lied to, cheated and ignored. If left unchecked, our anger at the people who have wronged us can have a negative impact on our lives. For example, if we have gone through a painful divorce, we may be less likely to look for love after 60. We may even be less likely to trust our friends or meet new people.
The only person who suffers when you have anger in your heart is you. You can’t punish someone by ruining your own life. As a result, forgiveness is an essential quality to cultivate after 60.
This doesn’t mean that you need to confront the people who have wronged you. Nor do you need them to apologize in order to get on with your life. You just need to find a way to let go of the anger that you are carrying in your heart so that you can build the kind of active, social and happy life that you deserve.
Take Action: Watch this Ted Talk on the power of forgiveness.
When I talk to women in their 60s and 70s, they tell me exactly what they think is missing from their lives. You might be surprised to hear that one of the biggest gaps that they feel is “being needed.” At every other stage in our lives, we have a “role” – actually, we usually have several roles. We are daughters, moms, employees and wives. When we reach our 60s, many of these roles change.
Like so many aspects of life after 60, if we want to be needed, we need to do some extra work. Fortunately, there are so many ways that older women can give back. We can get involved with charities or organizations that we believe in. We can become a mentor for young people. We can start our own businesses. We can help elderly people in our community. We can adopt a pet or volunteer at an animal shelter. The list goes on and on.
The message here is simple. If you want to find meaning in your life after 60, mean something to others. Look outside of your daily routine and decide how you want to make the world a better place. When you do, you will see that life after 60 is just the beginning.
Take Action: Watch this short video about giving back after 60. Then, join the conversation at the end of this article.
What do you think are the secrets to healthy aging? What personality traits do you personally want to cultivate now that you are over 60? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the discussion going!