The older we grow, the better life becomes.
Mary Ann Spina, a Pastoral Associate at Holy Cross Church in Deerfield, Il, recently hosted an event at Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services focused on turning around the perception that because our bodies age, seniors can’t enjoy life as much – or even more than – they ever have before.
Spina discussed how through spirituality, seniors can maintain a positive view on aging and learn to enjoy the now.
“The more we try to look at what we can do as opposed to what we can’t, the more satisfied we are going to be,” she said. “Clearly, as we age there’s physical diminishment. You wake up and there are more aches and pains than there used to be. That’s a given. But, a lot of what psychologically affects people is how they view these givens.”
It’s time to shake these psychological constraints off. Below are three ways aging can create a better life for seniors, and tips for how they can get the most out of this stage of their lives.
Knowing How to Help Others
Yes, its true. As we age, our memory begins to falter, especially our short term recall. Luckily, the cumulative effect of a life’s worth of experience more than makes up for this.
The Seattle Longitudinal Study, perhaps one of the longest running and most respected studies on people as they age, has proven that as we grow older, our inductive reasoning capabilities actually become stronger.
In other words, the older we get, the better we are at making informed decisions. In a 2010 study at the University of Michigan profiled in Smithsonian Magazine, 200 people were told to answer letters seeking advice. The researchers found that “subjects in their 60s were better than younger ones at imagining different points of view, thinking of multiple resolutions and suggesting compromises.”
What this means is knowledge and understanding are priceless. Seniors can take advantage of this unique life perspective by sharing their knowledge with those in need, serving as a mentor or giving back to organizations they care about. All of which comes with great personal benefits, as a study conducted at the University of Exeter Medical School showed, volunteering could lead to a “20 percent reduction in mortality among volunteers compared to non-volunteers,” while also leading to an overall “improved quality of life.”
Living a Happier Life With Less Stress
With more knowledge to back up decisions, it makes sense that, according to the Smithsonian, stress declines drastically as we age. Likewise, happiness tends to increase for people over 50, according to a Stony Brook University study. While younger years are filled with decisions that seem so important in the moment, with the perspective of time, we become more even-keeled and less susceptible to drastic emotional swings.
This leveled-off emotional playing field allows seniors to more effectively look at the past while also evaluating and appreciating moments in the now.
“Sometimes we don’t have the time to look back and reflect and consider, even on a day-to-day basis,” Spina explained. “In your 20’s and 30’s and even into your 40’s, you’re trying to establish yourself, your career and your family. It’s hard to find the time to sit, reflect and review. And sometimes, as we get older, we have more time available to us.”
Best of all, happiness is contagious. According to Harvard Medical School, “happiness may be a collective phenomenon,” as they found that someone who lives close to a happy friend tends to have a higher probability of being happy themselves. Just by sharing their happiness with others, seniors can make a huge difference in their world.
Time to Dedicate to Learning
Being removed from the stressors of younger life naturally allows seniors to get caught up on the things they’ve always wanted to do. Maybe they can read that book they’ve always wanted, learn a new skill or hobby, or embrace their spirituality.
Indeed, Spina says one of the best ways to enjoy the aging process is to learn. “Always be open to new ideas and new things, and continue to learn, whether you’re nine or 90.”
As an added benefit, this learning may actually help with your long-term health. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that engaging in “mentally challenging activities, such as learning a new skill, adopting a new hobby or engaging in formal education, may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.”
With higher levels of happiness, less stress and a wealth of knowledge to draw on, perhaps the best way to enjoy your older years is to stay curious, open and excited about the possibilities in life.
“We can still find meaning and purpose and enjoyment,” Spina said. “One of the ways to do that is the explore what we can do, and what possibilities are open to us.”