(This essay has been reprinted with permission from the publishers of 80 Things to Do When You Turn 80, edited by Mark Evan Chimsky and released in March 2017. Betty Finney is the author of Growing Young.)
In the past, men and women searched futilely for the Fountain of Youth. But they looked in all the wrong places. And the wrong kind of fountain. The fountain that restores youth is all around us. And it’s inside us.
Today more people are drinking deeply from the water of that fountain, enjoying youthful vigor and an outlook that eluded those in previous generations. For the first time, Americans 65+ represent one-eighth of the nation’s population. Not too many years ago, anyone 65 or older was considered “old” — ready for the rocking chair, retired from working, retired from life itself.
If you surprise yourself, then you’ll likely surprise others. With your refreshed frame of mind, you’ll be ready to create your own vision of the future.
Those in this Third Age group (65+) are making history. They are transforming the mindset of aging to the mindset of agelessness. In the ranks of on-the-go citizens today are people in their 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond and they are showing youngsters in their 50s and 60s how to stay active.
The secrets to long-lasting health and agelessness lie in these eight steps, which I call The Growing Young Formula:
1. Leave Your Comfort Zone and Be Willing to Try a New Way
Check in with yourself on a regular basis. A lot of us greet our retirement years with “aha at last!” It’s what we assumed because it’s been handed down to us as a hardened concept. Stop living this automatic perception of retirement. Paint a new picture for your life. It’s a challenge, but oh so exciting.
In my own life, I’ve gone outside my comfort zone many times:
- At 71, I performed in a tap dance show
- At 77, I went zip-lining and “Tarzan swinging” with my husband, Charlie, in Costa Rica
- At 78, I wrote my book Growing Young
Throughout my 60s, 70s and 80s, Charlie and I have set off on our own for self-guided adventures in countries throughout Europe, the Caribbean, South America, and Iceland.
2. Be the Architect of Your Life
Live the life you want. Think outside the box. Bring your experience and wisdom to the forefront. Overcome the myth that you are physically and mentally unprepared for life’s Third Age. Reviewing all your life experiences to date will give you a new perspective of your skills. It’s like letting the genie out of the bottle. If you surprise yourself, then you’ll likely surprise others. Now, with your refreshed frame of mind, you’ll be ready to create your own vision of the future.
3. Shape Up!
Oh yes, exercise. Get off the couch and awaken your body to this new challenge. Live instead of existing. Put together a realistic plan that will fit your vision for your future activities. You may need a professional trainer or assistance from a local gym.
4. Become a Nutrition Warrior
To have high performance every day, you need to fuel your body so it lasts those extra years you have projected. Take some appreciation time daily for this great machine. Your body is a miracle. It works 24/7 and we forget that. Think about it. It never stops. To fuel this machine we need to develop a defense fortress. To do this we must put the right amount of real foods (you know what they look like — an apple, a carrot) into our fortress. Forego the philosophy that there are only four food groups — fast, frozen, junk and processed. Go for healthy foods and give this miraculous body a boost.
5. Get Over Terminal Seriousness
Laughter is a must, for your biological health. Not only does laughter make you feel good, but you get a free massage for every organ in your body. The big bad monster that has consumed our world is stress. It has become an epidemic. Stress can compel us to action, but it can also be brutal to our physical and emotional well-being. As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine.” It can provide a way to get over the speed bumps of stress. Anyone can join the laughter movement. All it takes is a willingness to let go and have some fun.
6. Check Out Your Future Assets
No matter what your age, yearly tuning into your finances is necessary. The Third Age brings new activities and an ever-changing lifestyle. “Be prepared” is the motto.
7. Put Together a Reinforcement Team
Involve those that support your new mission. Include some young blood in order to keep your ideas fresh and current. Get crystal clear in your own mind about what you want to achieve. That will help you get your message across to others. Update your challenges regularly. Be willing to adapt to new insights that are suggested.
8. Hang in There
Small changes are extremely valuable. Often we give up because we cannot accomplish the task we set for ourselves. Even incremental steps can trigger progress. They will eventually lead you to your desired goals. Change will bring choices for happiness, fulfillment, and new beginnings.
9. Seek Your Dream
As you reach 80 and beyond, make sure that hardened old concepts don’t derail your plan. Tell your family and friends that you are Growing Young. Keep this idea in the forefront of your mind. And here’s one final secret to the Fountain of Youth: Become a master of exploration. You’ll discover exhilarating adventures!
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