In our society we often look at life in three stages: Youth, Adult and Senior. Youth is generally a time of exploration. We garner our formal education, learn through play and dream about that far away thing called the future. Then as adults, with what we’ve learned, we dive into the business of building our families and careers, accumulating and storing what wealth we can for that thing called retirement.
And then it arrives, that third stage of life, in which the families we nurtured are busy doing what we once did, the careers we built are winding down or finished, and time opens up again. But by this point a good number of seniors have forgotten what to do with this open space.
Because personal identity often has been deeply connected to career status, performance evaluated by others and/or parenthood, when that open space arrives it can feel like a huge void, a black hole.
Though many have a plan for this time of life, I also have observed two extremes in people regarding the Third Stage. Some fall into the void, become lethargic and depressed, retreat from activity and park in front of the television, where they blend into its fictitious world. Others move into a frenzy of activity to try to fill the hole and seem afraid of the opportunity for stillness and ease.
But like every stage of life, the third is a balancing act that requires awareness and attention in order to maintain … or finally bring … health and harmony to one’s journey. The following 5 Tips may seem obvious to many of you, but when actually observing the seniors in your realm, you many be surprised at the lack in their lives that could turn into richness if they implement these suggestions:
1. Stay Engaged ~
Continue to be part of the working world. If you have to work for financial reasons, make the choice to count it as a blessing, a great opportunity to keep your mind-body active and to be with others. If you are retired, volunteer! Organizations everywhere look for seniors to mentor others in business, help in schools, the homebound and work with the less fortunate.
2. Stay Physically Active ~
Find something you enjoy and do it regularly. Physical exercise is proven to help reduce pain, improve circulation and your mood! Even if you have physical challenges, taking a small daily walk can work wonders for the body-mind. Consider joining a gym that caters to seniors, take a Tai Chi or yoga class. Not only will you improve strength, reduce bone loss, lower blood pressure and boost brain-building hormones, it’s another way to continue to be engaged with others!
3. Stay in Learning Mode ~
Humans are learning beings. Stay active in your learning, passivity dulls the brain. Reading, playing cards, doing word or number puzzles, being in a discussion group are all ways of learning. Or do something radical like study a new language or computer skills. All forms of learning stimulate the brain into action to form new associations and, in the process, create new memories of these experiences.
4. Stay Centered ~
Having a spiritual practice is an important part of creating a happy, balanced life. Activities like mindfulness meditation, spending time sitting in nature, being in a prayer group or one that uses writing to focus on personal well being all offer wonderful ways to stay connected to others and are proven to contribute to wellness in body and mind.
5. Stay Creative ~
The third stage of life can open doors to creative pursuits you never had time to do before: write a memoir for your family, if not for the world; start painting or doing ceramics; take up, once again, something you loved as a youth. Creative pursuits engage both hemispheres of the brain, which research shows to increase one’s sense of satisfaction and happiness.
6. Stay Care-Full ~
During earlier times in life, many of today’s seniors put self-care on the back burner. Their strong work ethic and “doing” at every opportunity left little time for the self-nurturing activities we have available to us today. And even if they were available, to engage in such seemed self-indulgent. But this type of self-care has numerous benefits for both women and men because it offers therapeutic touch. Massage improves circulation, releases body toxins and reduces stress. Reiki and reflexology balance and integrate the body’s sensitive energy system, help reduce pain and promote feelings of relaxation. Pedicures keep toes and nails healthy, especially important for diabetics.
Make the most of your days. By doing so, not only will you feel more balanced and happy, you will be an inspiration and shining example of Life to those around you. A worthy goal for the Third Stage of life, don’t you agree?