Times have changed when it comes to the discussion of getting older. It’s an interesting evolution that has become more poignant with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 1880, 23.5% of retired men over 65 lived alone or with their wife, independent of their kids; read that as 76.5% lived with kids. By 1900, almost 28% lived alone, and by end of the 20th century over 80% lived alone. Along with that are changes in employment, or retirement, and eldercare. There are lots of reasons for these changes through time. I think it’s time to reconsider the state of elderhood and retake control of our lives. We need to integrate the elders back into our daily lives.
The size of your destiny, be it into the limelight, to your own business, or to spread smiles around town, isn’t what matters. I have several tips to keep you on your path, presented in this Getting Better series. What can you do to pursue your destiny with optimal vibrancy? Lots: get enough sleep; move enough; drink enough water; laugh enough; maintain enough human contact; express gratitude enough; use your brain enough; play enough; keep your mindset young enough.
Now you’re going to ask: how much is enough? You’re right in asking that. There is no one answer that applies to everyone. At the very least, it’s a concept to be aware of and think about as you maneuver your day and make life decisions. One of the exciting results of improving your vibrancy is that you feel and look better — younger. People will wonder what you are doing. And that provides another opportunity to share more of your wisdom. Let’s explore these three points to see if you can get better – not older – together.
Keep Your Mindset Young Enough
You may know people who seem stuck in their rut of living. They are doing things the same way they have for years or decades and don’t see any need to change You may ask, but what about adopting new technology, learning new ideas about healthy eating, or incorporating new ways of moving into your day? People with a young mindset are curious, adaptable and thoughtful, and so they do stay on top of changes.
Having a young mindset isn’t an indicator of age, it is an indication of flexibility. There are young people and old people alike who are missing out on a young mindset, as there are young and old people who are the poster children for a young mindset. Those with the young mindset will get older more smoothly, effortlessly, and gracefully. They’ll be better prepared for the changes they face and the challenges that they encounter. They’ll have more fun as they get older. They’ll be healthier as they get older. They’ll be great role models for those around them.
A young mindset is a strong element of getting better — not older — together.
All work and no play makes you a dull person. And a less-than-happy person.
Play comes in so many different flavors. Anything can turn into play with the right attitude! Playing is like laughing — kids do it naturally and abundantly, and mostly grow out of it as they grow older. Part of what makes people young is their desire to play, and ability to turn anything into a game. Part of what makes people old is taking life too seriously and having no interest in play or games.
Play keeps you vibrant mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s like a panacea to what ails you. It’s a cure-all for being in the dumps or feeling lonely.
What does play look like? It looks like physical activity: swinging, dancing, skipping, tennis, golf, swimming, skiing, and biking. It looks like games: cribbage or backgammon, chess or checkers, Story Cubes or charades, or Cards Against Humanity or Pin the Tail On The Donkey. It looks like paying it forward, “it” being” a favor, a kind gesture, or a good deed. It looks like humor: telling jokes or making jokes up on the spot. It looks like creativity: painting, playing music, or writing.
When you play enough not only do you get better, but you also help others get better. What a great way to get better – not older – together.
Maintain Enough Human Contact
Human connection is vital to a vibrant life. That’s why our elders generally seem so old — they don’t have the contact they used to have with friends and family. COVID-19 has cut most of us off from human contact, and people are feeling that deprivation. We feel lonely, lost, and sad when we are disconnected. And connections are ideally with people of all ages and walks of life. Human contact through community is a beautiful way to live.
I think that’s part of what’s wrong with retirement communities and homes. While you may have the opportunity for connection with other people, it’s a thin sliver of what society normally offers.
We need a different approach to elder housing than the typical retirement community or retirement home. Let’s work to stay in our homes and interact with people of all ages and income brackets. Let’s strive to stay active and doing things that keep us vibrant and contributing to our community.
We need a tight community where your neighbor notices that you haven’t opened your kitchen curtain yet, and it’s late in the morning. We need a community that helps with light chores and arranging to get heavy chores done for those who need that help. We need neighbors who enjoy spending time with everyone — helping with homework, reading to people, cooking and eating together, playing games together. Why not help a college student out by giving them a discounted room rate in exchange for companionship and help for an elder? Why not help people live as independently as possible with a safety net of caring neighbors and friends?
There are living situations like this around the world. Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and the US. Those are the ones I know of. Some people are lucky enough to have tight communities like this already, communities that aren’t developed for them, but that have evolved over generations. My dream is for everyone to take responsibility for themselves as much as they can so they can get better, not older.
In a community like this, you can get enough sleep, move enough, drink enough clean water, laugh enough, maintain enough human contact, express gratitude enough, use your brain enough, play enough, and keep your mindset young enough by virtue of having and being a role model. The list is actually much longer than this. What else do you see that makes for optimal vibrancy and supports your destiny?
We’re All In This Together
When you feel that you are a valuable element of society you want to be and do your best. That’s what getting better is all about. I want to stress that the concept of Getting Better isn’t just for the elderly — it’s for everyone. The sooner you start living intentionally by developing your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects, the easier it is to get older (better!) with vibrancy and grace. The sooner you take responsibility for your actions the better you can grow through life. That’s how you live a vibrant life.
Here’s my challenge: make your life vibrant — today. It’s time to start getting better — not older — together.