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Tapping into ideas for how to live life to the fullest over 55

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Tapping into ideas for how to live life to the fullest over 55

SHIRLEY SINCLAIR discovers there’s no set formula for living our best life as we get older, but there are plenty of clues as to how anyone might start on the path to living the life they want.

With every orbit the Earth completes around the sun, we can’t help but feel the promise of new beginnings and the possibility of a better life. By March, sadly, most of our resolutions to be shinier, bolder, healthier, fitter and happier have fallen by the wayside.

It was American television personality, talk show host, actress and entrepreneur  Oprah Winfrey who famously encouraged her followers to “live your best life” or, in other words, to create the life you want.

And some people seem to be able to live large and strong all-year ’round. How do they do it? Does it get easier over 55 to live their ‘best life’ each and every day?

So, Your Time went on the hunt for the secrets to living life to the fullest.

The Federal Department of Health and Aged Care website talks about positive ageing. Maybe that’s a good place to start.

“As you age, your focus may shift from work and raising a family to planning for retirement and long-term financial security. But it is just as important to plan for your health, aged care and connection to community,” the website states.

“This is known as positive ageing, which can help you stay healthy and independent for longer. Looking after your body and mind can prevent many diseases and help keep you healthy and happy as you age. This involves:

  • physical activity and exercise
  • food and nutrition
  • mental health
  • preventative health.

Life coach and Your Time columnist Charlie Griffiths says the question of “how to live your best life over 55” is all about aligning actions with values.

“Long before I became a life coach, I concluded that it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80: whatever decision you make, make it for the right reason(s),” he says.

“Some decisions are going to turn out great and some will prove to be dumb. As long as you’re comfortable with why you made that decision, you can live quite comfortably with it and defend it.

“My book Runaway Retiree … is all about helping Baby Boomers reconnect with their inimitable ’70s persona and apply that fearlessness and virtue to whatever they decide to do in their 70s.

“The sub-title of the book is: ‘Do your best work in your 70s’. That’s my motto and I can hardly wait to get into it. I’m 69 … so still have a bit of time to practise.”

A Psychology Today (psychologytoday.com) article highlights ‘9 Longevity Habits for a Happy and Healthy Older Age’ from Meg Selig, the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success.

She lists the nine habits as: cultivate love, friendship and social connections; become more conscientious; exercise and stay active; cultivate positive beliefs about ageing; seek a purpose for your later years; save for the future; reduce excessive and chronic stress; avoid the top causes of preventable deaths; and create healthy eating and sleeping habits.

Kali Lohman, director and psychologist at Mindful Psychology (mindfulpsychology.com.au ), agrees with these, but with one important addition.

“The thing I would add is the importance of a spiritual connection of some sort – whether that be through someone’s faith or religion, or through practising meditation, especially mindfulness meditation,” she says.

“There are numerous evidence-based benefits for our mental health and it helps to tick many of the ‘longevity habits’ boxes, such as adding to our connections (when we practise with others) and to finding more meaning, purpose. joy and peace in our lives.”

The sum of all these parts seems to be reducing stress and putting more joy into our lives over 55 to ensure we thrive.

Readers may be familiar with communications and performance expert Amanda Gore’s The Joy Project (thejoyproject.com). It aims to create a global joy movement by helping people start mini
joy movements with their families, friends or workplaces.

Her book Joy is an Inside Job offers 12 steps to joy: simple but profound exercises that will help eradicate fear in your life and bring much joy and success. Two of the most powerful messages she gives is to do away with FOWOT (fear of what others think) and to practise gratitude – for what we have, who we are, and, in particular, how we got here. Appreciating every event that has happened to get you to this point is using the wisdom we have gained.

“One of my secrets for living my best life after 55 is to not think I’m 55 and that 55 is old,” Amanda says.

“Seriously, I work at keeping my body in good shape (with a power plate and movement), I have paid attention to my diet for most of my life, I learn something new most days and am always curious, grateful and in awe of nature and the world around us.

“Although I sound a bit like a space cadet, I think those things and the fact I don’t think ‘old’ mean I am a perpetual 45 year old. And I am 69 now.

“My body is in better shape than most 45 years olds these days. My face gives it away but you can’t have everything. LOL.

“Oh, and a sense of humour makes a huge difference, along with not taking myself too seriously.

“Knowing you are worth loving, learning to love yourself and help yourself feel safe are two key emotional keys to living your best life. These core fears are the most common stories we tell ourselves as children and they become core, unconscious beliefs that rule the rest of our lives.

“You are worth loving and in most situations, you are safe but our childhood beliefs take over. Work on changing those and you are well on the way to your best life. Give your body what it needs to repair and rejuvenate (the right food, sleep and exercise), hang around with young people to remind yourself how to ’think young’.

“Focus on joy, wellness, gratitude, compassion, love and learning and explore your beliefs – and have fun and laugh as often as you can.  In short, be joyful. It’s the foundation for your best life.”

Making the decision to try to live our best life isn’t something we necessarily do consciously. Rather, we ‘just do it’. And this ‘good life’ is different for everyone.

For some, it’s a feeling of place: somewhere they’ve always wanted to live, or be closer to family. For a few, it’s about finding love and companionship, gaining a new lease on life. Giving back to the community by volunteering or mentoring, pursuing new skills, being able to travel at a whim, joining a social group … all of these may come into play.

When we’re in the middle of it, we may reflect on the fact with a smile or chuckle.

These folk reckon they’re pretty darn close to living their best lives right now.

 

Name: Jim Graham.

Age: 62.

Work status: Self-employed
electrical fitter.

How do you try to live life to the fullest?: I’m definitely a glass-half-full kind of guy. Working for myself over the years has given me loads of time to reflect on life and how lucky I am to have it. At the age of 25, I was diagnosed with a pretty nasty cancer. With a young wife and an unclear prognosis, I was in, at times, worrying and unchartered waters. But here I am now, 41 years married to my beautiful wife Linda, and have two gorgeous daughters Caity and Kristy and I’m still livin’ and lovin’ life.             

 

Name: Sylvia Reid.

Age: 74.

Work status: Retired administration officer.

How do you try to live life to the fullest?: By being active, helping out at my grandchildren’s school, and giving back to the community. At the moment, I’m helping an elderly neighbour who had a stroke. I like to always be positive and upbeat, and I’ve taken up playing the ukelele (I’d never played an instrument in my life until now!).

 

Name:  Lyn Brooke.

Age: 78.

Work status: Retired administration officer and receptionist.

How do you try to live life to the fullest?: I’m now enjoying time with husband Phil, family and friends,  but it took a while to adjust after working until late in life. I have been very blessed with four children, seven grandchildren and a marriage of 57 years.  I love travelling domestically and overseas, doing patchwork, reading and babysitting.

 

Name: Mick Dickfos.

Age: 64.

Work status: National plant
hire manager.

How do you try to live life to the fullest?: We have been planning for a move to the Sunny Coast and a gradual transition to retirement. This is now happening later this year. Life, for me, is spending time with my sweetheart wife Kate. We are very modest in what we need to be happy. We have an old Ford Transit van comfortably decked out for travelling. I love spending time with family and am very fortunate to have amazing friends in my life. Life is great and I’m so grateful.

 

Name: Angelo Harrison.

Age: 68.

Work status: Retired businessman.

How do you try to live life to the fullest?: I try to live my best life every day, with the help of my wife, children and grandchildren. I try never to be a ‘glass-half-empty’ kind of guy, and my friends help me to remain grounded and positive. I believe that everybody has a story to tell, and
being interested in others keeps me excited in life.

 

Name: Helen Heaton.

Age: 62.

Work Status:  Retired. Former long-haul Qantas flight attendant.

How do you try to live life to the fullest?: After
30 years of flying around the world, there’s nothing quite like stopping and discovering paradise is right here at the beach in your own backyard. I cram plenty into my days, nurturing and learning from my immediate natural environment, our greenbelt, my garden and my birds, which in return generously enrich
my life.

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