Though not everyone sees more free time as they age, later life gives you license to reorganize your priorities. Even if you don’t necessarily have more time, you might allocate your time in a different way. As you’ve likely devoted great amounts of energy to family, career, and community throughout your life, maybe you’re ready for a change. Maybe it’s time to put “me” first.
People over 60 may endure a series of life transitions, which can come with a great deal of emotion, but also a great deal of positive change and new opportunities for emotional wellbeing. You want to make the most out of life, and now is the time to live for yourself.
So how can you grow into your era of “me”? Here are some tips.
It sounds simple, but have you asked yourself the question: “What do I want my life to look like?”
Do this with an open mind. Picture an ideal day at your current age or a few years into the future. Do you get up, eat a nice breakfast, and spend time outdoors? Do you have a group of friends that you see regularly? Do you play board games together? With whom do you tell jokes, laugh, and talk about your day?
After you think about what your ideal life looks like, ask yourself what steps you can take to get to that place. Additionally, if it feels like something is missing in life, ask yourself what that is and how to best fill the gap. Maybe that’s by rediscovering your passions, or by dating again.
If you envision a life that is more social than the one you currently have, brainstorm ways to put yourself out there and meet new people. If you seek purpose or want something more meaningful to fill your days with, ask yourself what that means to you. Do you want to volunteer? Would you like to take a part-time job where you work with kids? If you aren’t able to do the exact things that you would like to do, what are some other alternatives?
Get creative, and don’t be afraid to think about it with the help of someone else who may be able to listen or offer a suggestion.
Know that now is a perfect time
Introspection can be extremely rewarding. To get the full effect, you have to let yourself look at and acknowledge your genuine desires. You also have to look at where you’re holding yourself back, convincing yourself you’re not ready yet.
Maybe you want to date, but when love starts to enter your mind, you shut yourself down out of fear. Or, you want to socialize more, but you feel like it’s too late to make new friends. It’s important to look at which restrictions are real and which are perceived.
You can try new things. Challenge thoughts like, “I’m too old.” If you are here, the truth is that you aren’t too old, at least not for many of the things that you might want to do. This can refer to anything from a yoga class to learning sign language to dying your hair purple.
If you experience nerves around the social aspect of doing what you want to do – for example, taking a class with younger people – remind yourself that if you’re kind and have a good attitude, people will want to be around you, regardless of your age. You might find that you’re not just accepted but greatly welcomed and adored, too.
Likely, other people will consider you an inspiration. When you prioritize enjoyment and do what you truly want to do, it shows. There is a certain vibrance that comes with being true to yourself. So, know that now is the perfect time to live your most authentic and enjoyable life.
Make social ties a priority
Maybe you are someone who already has excellent social ties; you have a friend group, meetings to attend, blood or chosen family members who you see regularly, and so on. However, if this isn’t the case, socializing–and the choice of who you socialize with–might be a major part of living for yourself and living your life to the fullest over 60.
After all, regardless of whether a person is an introvert or extrovert, most of us value social relationships and find that they enhance our lives.
Loneliness is a known epidemic and crisis for people of all age groups. Current research shows us that loneliness can lead to a magnified risk of mortality, heart disease, and depression symptoms. On the other hand, people who have positive social connections reap a host of benefits.
For example, one study found that cognitive decline is statistically lower in those who participate in senior citizen clubs or centers. Other outcomes found in those who participate in positive social activities include but are not limited to a lower likelihood of depression symptoms, better heart health, improved stress management, and an increase in happiness.
So, make social ties a priority, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. People of all ages can live with conditions like social anxiety, so know that if this is something you struggle with, you can still get help and support at this time.
Confront potential financial worries
Avoidance, some would say, has a time and place. However, finances are not a topic to avoid entirely. If you find that financial issues stress you out, it may be time to face them head-on and with action in mind.
Don’t hesitate to do what you need to do, and challenge any shame you may feel if you need to ask for help. For example, if you qualify for food stamps and need them, apply or allow someone to help you apply. In the year 2019, statistics indicate that 7.1% of seniors experienced food insecurity, and the current number is said to be even higher.
No matter your circumstances, know that you may be less alone than you think. It’s vital that your needs are met, and you deserve to have them met. You are not taking away from anyone else by doing so.
If it’s a topic you usually avoid, you may be surprised by how much better you feel once you look directly at these things.
Be proactive about what you believe in
Is there a cause that’s close to your heart? Animal welfare, the environment, you name it?
If your career, family life, or other obligations have shifted into a place where they take less of your time, or if there’s something that you care about and want to find a way to squeeze it in, it may be of value to put your heart where it counts.
Volunteer work and advocacy can be valuable for physical and mental health. Get involved in a cause to promote self-esteem, vitalize your passion, and help others.
Think about what health means to you
It’s not uncommon for older adults to have lived most of their life taking care of others. A busy job or parenthood could’ve taken up much of your time for self-care in the past; you loved it, truly, but you also may have found yourself tired, putting long hours into your day and neglecting your own wellbeing – again, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or socially – as a result. All of these parts of wellbeing go together more than many of us expect or understand. Take some time to think about what it means for you to care for your health.
Just as you can implement new opportunities and hobbies into your daily life, you may want to use this time to implement new health-promoting practices. This can mean engagement in activities that stimulate the mind and support memory or cognition, getting on top of doctor’s visits, joining a support group if something has been weighing on you mentally, trying a new form of physical activity that meets you where you’re at in terms of physical ability, taking up meditation, or something else.
This is not about health fads, many of which you have likely lived through and seen pass. This is about your health as a whole person, both mentally and physically, and caring for your body and soul in a way that feels authentically good for you.
Why is it hard to shift focus to yourself?
If much of your life has been spent with the needs of others in mind, it may be hard to shift focus to yourself. The same could be true if you spent a large portion of your life without concentrating on your needs, whether entirely or partially, for another reason. Getting in touch with your feelings might play a role in living for yourself at age 60+.
Professional help or peer support options may aid you as you transition into an era of “me” and move through any roadblocks you face along the way. You have a special role in this world, and by caring for yourself and enjoying your time, you are doing something more powerful for yourself and others than you may know.