The simple things I used to do are becoming a bit more challenging with the passing days. Staying in shape, eating the right things and avoiding excess are all standard fare for my life beyond 50. I don’t expect myself to be as nimble or energetic as I was at 20, but that doesn’t make coming to terms with the realities of aging any easier.
Over the years, I have discovered three areas of focus that help me make the most of each day and fend off age-related challenges that are popping up with alarming frequency. Here are three ways to cope with the challenges of aging:
Become body aware. As we age, it becomes annoyingly easy to accidentally hurt ourselves by doing simple activities. More often than not, I don’t even know what I did that caused a bruise, bump or mysterious pain. I don’t know how many times my wife has asked, “Where did you get that bruise?” My predictable response is: “What bruise?”
I have found that if I pay closer attention to where I am in relation to the world around me I am a bit better insulated from harm. Instead of just mindlessly stumbling along, I try to be aware of the space my body takes in relation to other objects in my vicinity. Simple things like reminding myself as I walk to keep an eye on the path ahead, being aware of my nearness to a sharp edge on a piece of furniture or noting the narrow confines of the shower stall can help to keep me safe from damage. With a little attentiveness and body awareness, we will be better equipped to see and register what is right in front of us and get a little extra time to avoid impact and injury.
Focus on one thing. Today’s world is full of multitasking and juggling as many things as possible at the same time. For better or worse, the younger generation has developed an uncanny ability to deal with multiple projects at once. But I find that for me, a focus on doing one thing can help me get it right the first time. How often have you been doing one thing while your mind is miles away on another topic? In this state of distraction it becomes easier to make a mistake or slip up. Earlier today I was walking along the deck while on the phone, oblivious to a low-hanging tree branch that suddenly smacked me on the head. How many sets of lost keys are the result of our thinking about what was for dinner rather than where you put the keys down? Think about how often you have had to ask someone to repeat what he or she just said because your mind was far away on an unrelated topic.
It helps to live in the moment rather than daydreaming. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with daydreaming. But if you are thinking about a dinner party or concert next week, you cannot devote your full attention to what is going on right here and now. It becomes easy to miss the little things that are part of your life today if your thoughts are forever on the future.
Be patient. These seemingly simple two words are truly challenging to incorporate into each day. Many of us have become accustomed to living at a fast and furious pace that would leave us exhausted if we were not caught up in its whirlwind. Who among us is not guilty of prematurely honking a horn at a slower driver or rudely cutting in front of someone in the store as we battle to be first in the checkout line? Faster is not necessarily better, but with so little free time we can feel we have no choice. As we get older and are able to remove ourselves from the normal stresses of work and raising a family, perhaps we can step back and try to take it down a bit. Maybe we can take the high road and realize that many younger or busier people are probably doing the best they can to get everything done.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.