What Older Adults Can Teach Us About Priorities
Seniors are historians, keepers of family stories, and the people we often turn to for advice. They provide the voice of reason and the benefit of experience.
In honor of Older Americans Month, here are a few of the endless life lessons we can learn from older adults.
Setting Healthy Priorities Early in Life
Older adults who thrive during retirement typically center their priorities on overall well-being, not on accumulating more things or making more money. Those who are happiest seem to spend their days volunteering, visiting with friends and family, traveling, and staying engaged in physical activity.
Setting healthy priorities doesn’t have to be something you delay doing until retirement years. While you might have more time to fully embrace a well-balanced lifestyle when you are no longer working or raising a family, you can still reap rewards by starting earlier.
- Protect your health: Optimal health starts with paying attention to and nurturing physical well-being. Exercising, eating well, visiting your physician annually for a physical exam, limiting alcohol, and not smoking are just a few ways you can avoid or delay chronic diseases.
- Build financial independence: It’s not easy to become financially independent while you are still paying off student loans, raising a family, or paying tuition for kids in college. But making smart money choices now can help you gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have a financial cushion to rely on in times of trouble—and to plan for your retirement. Skip the daily cup of joe at Starbucks, drive your car an extra year or two so you have some time free from car payments, and watch a movie at home instead of spending big money at the movie theater. Follow trends only in moderation, whether it is in clothing or car choices. These are just a few of the strategies that can help you build financial independence.
- Put family and friends first: When life is busy and you have to make choices on how and where you will spend your time, choose to put those you love first. You can never go wrong when you use that life lesson as your guide.
- Learn to manage stress: Stress is not only the thief of joy in daily life, but it is also a leading cause of health problems. People who live with chronic stress have higher rates of heart disease, depression, type 2 diabetes, insomnia, and gastrointestinal issues. Find methods of treating stress that work for you, such as swimming, yoga, walking, or meditating.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff: We’ve all heard this before, and it’s an important tip to adopt. When you are feeling defeated because you can’t get everything on your to-do list finished, ask yourself how important the tasks will be three or six months from now. Is it really something that needs to be done, or is there a better way to spend your time? Don’t make small things more important than they really are.
- Plan for self-reliance, but stay connected: Living well is a balancing act between having alone time to stay in touch with your inner voice and spending time with others to stay connected to the world around you. Taking “me time” helps you listen to your heart, prioritize what is important to you, and care for your physical well-being. But too much isolation can lead to problems like depression, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Try to find a balance in your life that nurtures the body, mind, and spirit.
- Give back: Helping others—whether by serving as an official volunteer for an agency or by lending a hand to an older neighbor—is good for your mental and physical health. Experts say volunteers get back more than they give, and the older you are, the more you benefit.
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