Here’s a surprising fact: Researchers now consider baby boomers in their mid-70s to be middle-age. You could have fooled me! I can still recall how slowly and laboriously my grandparents climbed the stairs, unloaded groceries and performed other chores while they were in their mid-60s. Now, most folks in their 60s are as agile as ever. Since people are living longer and healthier lives, it’s particularly important to ensure that their years are as fulfilling for them as they were when they were younger.
Baby boomers who want to continue to enjoy fine emotional, physical and mental health through middle age and beyond might consider the following pointers. While they might have heard these suggestions already, they bear repeating; after all, memories aren’t what they once were.
• Get out there! Participate in social activities on a regular basis. My 87-year-old mother plays cards two to three times a week with friends. Since research and experience show that people with an active social life enjoy better health, her doctor heartily endorses this “prescription” for fun and excitement.
• Exercise your brain: Enroll in a philosophy class, read newspapers in a foreign language or play chess with friends – do something to “strain your brain.”
• If your medical provider gives you the green light, follow a moderate physical exercise routine for the benefit of your brain and your body. Gardening and housecleaning may not be as exciting as downhill skiing or speed skating, but these activities still provide some cardiovascular benefits.
• Treat your body as you would a beloved and precious possession. That includes following such advice as, eat to live, don’t live to eat. If you smoke, get help to quit.
• Give back. Meaningful volunteer work mutually benefits the givers and the receivers. After retiring, some people struggle with finding ways to continue to live fulfilling and meaningful lives. Often, they ask themselves, “What now? What’s my value?” Struggle no more – contribute your time, your talent or your treasure to a cause for which you feel passion – be it Jewish history, climate change or women’s rights. Before dedicating yourself, consider your preferences: Do you want to “roll up your sleeves” and be a hands-on volunteer, serve as a board member or raise money? Check with the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Seniors Agency of Rhode Island – all these agencies need volunteers, as do many other Jewish and secular organizations. Stuck for ideas? Search State Farm’s website, neighborhoodforgood.com, by zip code to view volunteer opportunities.
• Plan for the future: Living longer has its benefits, unless your money runs out. Meet with a reputable financial planner to evaluate your financial situation and plan, plan, plan.
• Ask for help: You might be overwhelmed by caring for an elderly parent, ill spouse or young grandchildren. Or, you could be worried about finances, or simply feeling blue. Contact Jewish Family Service for confidential help, resources and referrals. Call the agency at 401-331-1244.
ERIN MINIOR, LICSW, is CEO of Jewish Family Service.