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12 Steps to Staying Young at Heart

 
Stay young at heart

 

The last time we checked the owner’s manual, there’s nothing in there that says when you get older you have to be a fuddy duddy, cranky, or set in your ways. However, if you keep reading the small print in the appendix, you’ll find a statement that says, Peter Pan was right. You don’t have to grow up, just use your life-long lessons to make better decisions than you did as a youngster.

Young at heart is defined by Merriam-Webster as thinking and acting like young people; active and having lots of energy. To get an idea of how we can all stay young at heart, I interviewed several of my favorite people who are no longer in their 20s and 30s, but you certainly can’t tell it when you meet them or enjoy their company for a little while. Here’s what they shared.

1. Don’t look in the mirror. Seriously, don’t. We are our own worst critics. What we see when we look in the mirror is someone who is our age – the laugh lines, the “battle scars,” the gray or non-existent hair. While others will see someone fun to be around, who gives good advice, and is an all-around good friend. Thanks, Bob.

2. Find something you loved doing when you were younger, and try it again. Starla was always involved in sports while she was growing up. Now, she has a blast playing in an over-50 softball league in her hometown and competes in the Senior Games. I’ll concur on this recommendation. I play co-ed softball in the fall, and if you take the age of most everyone else on the team and double it, either my age is still more or within a couple of digits of being more. It’s great fun and helps connect generations.

3. Be active in your community. Janet is a former Mast employee who now resides in a “retirement community.” But, she says they act anything but retired. She is always involved in something. Her neighbors help prepare meals for the local homeless shelter and make blankets for children and for the elderly. A group of them regularly walk the beach on Turtle Patrol to help cordon off and monitor active nests. She and her neighbors often get together to play bocce ball and Texas Hold ‘em. She also is a season passholder for Disney World and loves going several times each year.

4. Exercise your mind and your body. Becky shares a common statement from several of my interviews. Her father was close to 100 when he passed away and was as clear-minded as when he was in his 40s. She recommends exercising every day and finding things about life to enjoy – family, volunteering, etc. “Dad always said to keep learning and walking forward, and now it’s my motto, too.”

5. Turn away from negative people. My aunt shares this nugget of wisdom. Other articles will call these people “energy vampires,” because they will suck every bit of energy from you if you allow them. You are better off to have your circle of friends include those who are setting goals and making plans to achieve them rather than ones who are playing the blame game or holding their own pity party.

6. Get rid of things that are bogging you down. For Mary Jane, she confesses that she needs to work on this one herself. This recommendation is multi-faceted. For some, it can mean that you don’t need to keep your mother’s piano around anymore because she’s not in it, she’s always in your heart. For others, it can be ridding yourself of guilt from years past. For now, there’s not a time machine, so you can’t change whatever it was, so let’s make new friends and enjoy new experiences.

7. Be filled with curiosity and wonderment. One of my childhood friends Karen observes, “When we are young, we are filled with curiosity and wonderment over the smallest things in life – a creek in the backyard, clouds in a blue sky, a rainbow …. Remember these feelings and opportunities to let your inner child always be with you.” There are always occasions to learn something new or explore a place you’ve never been.

8. Stay connected and engaged. It is important as we grow older to not let our circle of friends get smaller. Toby, who has worked in recreation all his life, says it’s important not to become sedentary. If you retire, you should have a plan for something to do after retirement. “My dad retired from one job at 60 then went to the local hardware store and retired from there at 86.” Interaction with friends, customers, family is important.

9. Have faith. Rosemary, a teacher and mother to another of my childhood friends, says that faith in God is important to her. We’ll expand that to having faith in the goodness of other people and faith in something that is bigger than yourself is an essential element of remaining young at heart.

10. Live the adventure. This was another common recommendation from several of my sources. Judy, a friend from the travel industry, Deb, a co-worker and friend from the outdoor industry, and Melissa, a wife of a co-worker, all advocate for travel and for “going out to play.” Traveling helps you live life to its fullest, to meet new people, and to encounter new ideas. Immersing yourself in nature is a whole new world of discovery that can be as close as your backyard and can be experienced relatively inexpensively – hiking, canoeing, birdwatching, etc. Judy adds that it’s important to maintain an open mind.

11. Laugh. Both Debs that responded to my call for response said humor and laughing are important to staying young. One comments, “I’ve learned to laugh at myself. Some days I’m pretty entertaining.” And the other adds, "I cackle a lot." In other words, don’t take yourself so seriously or you’ll miss an opportunity to release endorphins, which promote well-being.

12. Make up your mind. I’ve known Mr. Noble for a long time; so long that I can’t bring myself to call him by his first name. I think his observation is important to take to heart every day. “Not getting old is mind over matter. I require two things before I get out of bed each morning – 1. I have a choice to be happy or sad. I choose to be happy. 2. Everyone I meet I plan to make them smile, then that makes me smile.”

No matter where you are in your life’s journey, you can take action to remain young at heart. Age is just a number, and for many of us, is not applicable in our everyday lives. We’ll see you under the street light a little later for a rousing game of Kick the Can.