11 Easy Habits That Can Make Aging Easier
The best part? You can start all of them today.
Do you think you'll need to pull back as you age? That your body and mind will definitely lose their sharpness? Instead of automatically answering yes to those questions, architect Matthias Hollwich decided to see if there was anything he could start doing today to benefit his older self. So he had his design firm HWKN team up with the University of Pennsylvania to research ways to make aging feel less stressful and scary. The result? New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever, a beautiful manual to growing older (designed by Bruce Mau Design with illustrations by Robert Samuel Hanson), that offers everyday tips that make aging an adventure for everyone. Here, some of our favorite tips, excerpted from the book.
Don't miss a chance to walk in the shoes of an older person. Many of us encounter the process of getting older for the first time through our families, and we can learn a lot about aging through older family members. Helping them with important tasks and decisions is not only fulfilling, but also a learning experience that allows us to grow and develop our own attitudes toward aging in the future.
To do today: Pick up the phone and call the oldest person you know. Talk about their experience with aging and how they deal with it on a day-to-day basis.
Through the passage of birth and adolescence to early adulthood and the point of reaching maturity with wisdom and calmness, every stage of life is a moment to visit with open eyes, like traveling to a new country. No matter our location, we can be explorers in our own lives by welcoming a sense of the unknown throughout life. Curiosity is the key to triggering a desire to explore and experience more.
To do today: Try something new, from the simple—like reorganizing a part of your home or visiting a new part of your town—to something more dramatic—like swimming, gardening, or stargazing.
It is convenient to stay home—but inconvenience can add a healthy edge to our lives. Let‘s make sure we get out of the house, socialize with old friends, meet new people, collect fresh experiences, and exercise in the process. Remember that every time we leave the house we add a microexercise to our daily routine, burn calories, and breathe fresh air. Minimizing the use of cars lets us bike or walk more, take in the beauty of our surroundings, and meet other people.
To do today: Look at this month‘s calendar and add a new reason to get out each day: drink a coffee in a café, see a game in person, visit a museum, shop at a market, watching a movie, or just go window-shopping.
It is easy to just go on with life and concentrate on all the tasks that we have to accomplish on a daily basis. But let's not forget that there is more to life, like sharing experiences in person. We can make a rule to be social at least twice a week, by meeting with friends or family and choosing an activity that everybody will enjoy: shared dinners, shopping, museum visits, or sporting events. We can also dedicate specific days for social activities or to be spontaneous. Once we begin to involve more people in our lives, they will start involving us in theirs.
To do today: Review your weekly schedule and explore how you can add other people to it.
When we have free time on our hands, we can participate in the day-to-day life of our families, whether it’s babysitting for grandchildren, taking care of older family members, or helping with household tasks and errands. If we approach this like a “real” job, we can also begin to think of ways to excel: creating more family activities, running an efficient social calendar, and saving money for others—all while getting out of the house ourselves.
To do today: Call your closest family members and friends and ask them what type of help would benefit them most. Look at your own life and determine what you can ask for help with, too.
An overcommitment to "stuff" shouldn't prevent us from living in spaces of the right size. Passing things on will clean up the closets and let us have valuable conversations with friends and family in the process. We can incorporate smart storage systems and use archival photo boxes as well as digitize documents to hold onto things that are truly irreplaceable. Evaluate the things that bring true purpose and happiness to your life, then give useful items and heirlooms to family members and donate the rest to charity.
To do today: Go through a closet and choose 10 pieces to give away. Make a rule that when you get something new, you give away one thing as well.
Taking classes for fun when there is nothing at stake beyond self-improvement is far more enjoyable than the required classes from our school days. Continuing education keeps our minds active and exposes us to intergenerational learning environments. Learn something new that could open up opportunities for work, volunteering and other social contributions.
To do today: Look for the three closest educational opportunities in your area. Many colleges and universities will offer people in the community the option to audit classes. Study their offerings and sign up for at least one class next semester.
Sometimes we watch a couple of cooking shows or read a magazine and feel like we need to cook a three-course meal every night of the week. But the reality of today‘s schedules is that people have less time to shop for groceries, let alone spend an hour or two (or five) on meal preparation and cleanup. Find ways to bring healthy ingredients into you home without breaking your back, whether by arranging for a delivery of produce and meat from local farms (or farm-share programs) or your nearby grocery store, or by tapping into the many Internet-based services that will send ingredients directly to your door.
To do today: Good food doesn‘t have to cost you your sanity. Cook a new, easy, healthy meal just once a week and expand your knowledge about how to make cooking convenient.
People watch up to six hours of movies and TV each day—it is part of our culture. Make sure the TV is not just on to produce white noise; instead, use it to extend your reach and experience, and as an inspirational tool. A TV can become an inspiration for activities that we have never tried before. A TV can become a resource that teaches us new things.
To do today: Turn your TV on and switch to a program that inspires you to cook, travel to a new place, or learn something new. Use TV as a service to you, not just a way to kill some time.
Smartphones and wearable devices are finally at the point where they truly enhance our lives, tracking activity and providing nutritional, organizational, and even emotional support. They are becoming an extension of ourselves, helping us engage in both the real and digital worlds and bringing a new level of awareness to our health and environments. They can also become the interface with almost all of the services and conveniences as we desire, as long as we learn how to use them. And we are just at the beginning of this revolution—many more opportunities to improve our lives with technology will emerge in the years to come.
To do today: Test out a wearable device that tracks your activity and start sharing results with friends.
"We should sit with our families and discuss the next 30 years of everyone's life. Talk about ideal living location, vacation plans, emergency procedures, and long-term health-care wishes. By introducing a sense of transparency about things like real estate, and financial and medical decisions, we will all know what to expect with one another."
To do today: Set up a meeting with your family to discuss the coming decades and align your important future decisions.