Enter the 21st century
We live in the world of the smartphone, iPad and laptop. Technology is everywhere and with everyone glued to a screen these days – especially the younger generations – it’s easy to feel isolated. But don’t be afraid of the gadgets. Not only is getting online is a great way of reconnecting with friends and loved ones, it’s a great way of feeding your hobbies. Love family history? Get researching. Love music? Download all your favourite tunes. Love sport? Follow the scores live or find a livestream link and watch from the sofa. Email old pals you haven’t heard from in years. Get the hang of FaceTime and see them without having to leave the country. Text a friend or family member and ask if they fancy a cuppa. Embrace it all – entering the online world is easier than you think.
Go to new places
Travelling isn’t just for students, graduates and twenty-somethings. We all want to see new sights and experience different cultures, and most of us have a list of places we’d love to visit before we die. However, ageing can sometimes make venturing to far-off lands difficult, whether due to physical stamina, health concerns or expense. The good news is that we don’t have to go far to see the world with new eyes. Ever been a tourist in your own town? Why not give it a go – visit local parks, museums, libraries, art galleries or shopping districts and discover new things. Grab a table at a restaurant you’ve never tried. Take a guided tour. Book yourself into a local hotel for the night. And if you’re feeling up for it, why not take a trip of a lifetime? Enquire about that cruise. Go on safari. Head for a hillside retreat. The time is now – and the world is waiting.
Embrace the greys
Few things in life are inevitable, but as we age wrinkles and white hair are two of them, whether we like it or not. The good news is that, thankfully, more and more people are embracing the lines and silver strands – and you should too. Instead of wasting money on injectables and expensive creams, or masking yourself in makeup, why not get to know your creases and show them off with confidence. After all, they tell our story. Put down the hair dye and go ‘au naturel’. Not only will saying goodbye to chemicals do your scalp and skin some good, showing off shiny grey locks means you’ll be effortlessly on-trend (silver hair is having a bit of a moment don’t you know?) Oh, and the same goes for physique. Be thankful for your body, which has worked hard to get you this far. Perhaps it’s helped you bring your children into the world. Keep on top of personal hygiene, too. Bathe yourself in luxury bath products. Get regular haircuts. Treat yourself to a manicure or a professional wet shave. Love the skin you’re in.
Get a pet
Extensive research has shown the many benefits of owning a pet – and the joy that it can bring older people. Ever notice how many people turn to pets following the loss of a spouse or partner? There’s a reason – not only do our furry friends offer companionship and unconditional love, studies suggest they may have the ability to reduce stress and boost health and wellbeing, especially during times of loneliness. Not only that, being a dog-owner means you can count your pup’s morning and evening walks as your day’s exercise and you’ll always be met with excitement and (slobbery) kisses when you return home. And if you’re more of a cat-lover, having the pitter patter of little paws around the house is guaranteed to make you feel less alone. Never underestimate the power of kitty cuddles, folks.
Remember your youth
A bit of nostalgia never hurt anyone. In fact, reminiscing about your life has many benefits. Not only is it incredibly cathartic (there’s a reason we don’t forget our happiest memories), it’s a reminder of just how far we’ve come and all the things we’ve learned on life’s journey thus far. But this isn’t about comparing yesterday’s highs to today’s lows – or what you could do back then, but can’t now. It’s about revisiting life’s highlight reel through old photos, videos and letters. Perhaps you have old diaries you could read through, or old clothing you could go through. Laugh at the fashion back then, tell old tales from your youth, listen to the music that inspired your teenage years, dedicate a dinnertime to the food you used to love (if you can still find it in the supermarket!). Retrospect is a beautiful thing.
Take the tests
Yes, going to the docs can be a pain. Nobody likes it, right? But it’s important to pay attention to the niggles. Don’t let the fear of receiving bad news put you off making an appointment, but isn’t it always better to be safe than sorry? Chances are, your aches and pains can be fixed, but if not, the earlier problems are caught, the sooner they can be treated and managed as effectively as possible. Keep on top of optician and dentist appointments. Get your flu jabs. Don’t ignore mammogram and prostate exam invites. Look after your bones. Get your hearing and your blood checked regularly. Oh, and treat your mental health with care. Speak to a trusted friend or loved one if you feel down or confused. We’re all in this together.
Develop new interests
If you think having a social life is just for teenagers, then think again. The benefits of having a group of good chums around you are endless, as are the ones that are born out of meeting new, likeminded people. Nobody wants to be lonely, so why not get out and about in a bid to build new relationships and perhaps spark new interests, or a hobby. Join a local walking club or choir, head for church, sign up to a yoga class or do some volunteering. The feeling of community can work wonders when it comes to boosting self-esteem, feeling accomplished and feeling like you (still) have a purpose in this world. Network as much as you can and start reaping the personal rewards.
Cut the caffeine
Coffee – it’s great, we know. Same goes for tea. Tea, glorious tea. We love them both. Some days, there’s nothing that a good cuppa can’t fix. But do you know what they’re doing to your insides? And your wellbeing? Sure, your morning espresso may help you stay more alert during your 9am yoga class (same goes for that mid-afternoon Americano when battling your brainteasers), but what about that lunchtime slump? Or that dreaded I-may-collapse feeling come 4pm? Not nice. A caffeine addiction causes all sorts of bother – it makes your heart beat faster and knocks it out of rhythm, it disrupts your sleep and turns you into a jittery mess if you have one too many. Cut down by switching to decaf and reducing your numbers (no more than three cups a day) or go cold turkey and cut it out completely – your body will thank you.
If the thought of jogging around the block or working up a sweat in the gym fills you with horror, why not try a lighter form of exercise instead? Experts say that mid-lifers should aim for two types of physical activity per week to stay trim and healthy – aerobic and strength exercises being key. Try things like cycling, walking, badminton, singles tennis and aqua-aerobics to get your heart rate up, and simple stuff such as carrying groceries, dancing, gardening, yoga and pilates to help build muscle, strengthen joints and keep you limber.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times before: smoking is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in England, affecting just about every part of your body, from your heart and lungs to your brain and bones. In fact, it accounts for more than 80,000 deaths each year – meaning one in two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease. Our lung capacity naturally diminishes with age, making cutting down – an eventually quitting – even more crucial as we get older. Why? In your later years, having maximum lung capacity can mean the difference between living an active, healthy life and spending your time wheezing and spluttering when walking up and down the stairs. Like they say, if you could see the damage, you’d stop. So why not go for it now and start breathing more easily? Ask your GP for help (the NHS offer a ton of free, proven support, including nifty apps, ‘Quit Kits’ and face-to-face guidance), get outside when cravings hit (the fresh air will make your lungs feel clearer and exercise will ease anxiety), distract yourself by talking to friends and family or chew on something healthy instead – things like carrot or celery sticks, peppers or berries – to satisfy the urge to put a cigarette in your mouth. Trick yourself healthy.