Getting The Most Out of Life in Your 60s
The Caring Generation® – Episode 144 June 29, 2022. Caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson shares tips for getting the most out of life in your 60s to help you create fulfillment, happiness, and good health habits whether you are caring for loved ones or yourself.
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Are you interested in getting the most out of life in your 60s and beyond? There is a lot to think about regardless of your age, for the day that you reach 60 and beyond. Or, if you’re already there, learn about eight actions to consider that can lead to a good life.
Getting the Most Out of Life In Your 60s
Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel
Let’s begin by answering the question, what does a 60-year-old look like? If you Google what does a 60-year-old look like, you’ll probably see photos of gray-haired women and men.
While I’m not saying that 60-year-olds may not have gray hair—not all do. And they all don’t dress like what one imagines older people look like—the picture of a grandmother or a grandfather.
In my opinion depicting a person who is 60 years old as gray-haired, old and weak is disrespectful and biased. In the 20+ years, I’ve worked with the aging population, I’ve known plenty of men and women well beyond 60 who appeared much younger than their years and were more active than some 40-year-olds I knew.
Everyone Can Learn About Getting the Most Out of Life in Your 60s
All of the information here benefits people of all ages who are interested in getting the most out of life in your 60s. Because there’s a lot to do and learn if getting the most out of life in your 60s and beyond is important to you.
1 – Thinking about Retirement
Let’s begin with number one, which may be the most obvious thing that people in their 60s think about—retirement. Why do people feel the 60s are a time to retire?
Well, probably because the age where one can begin to receive social security is age 62, and Medicare kicks in at age 65. Where you are in the retirement planning process could mean that you are in your 40s thinking about the years leading up to retirement. Or maybe you are 40, have worked hard, and decided to retire early and live frugally for the rest of your life.
Maybe you’ve already retired, and the retirement lifestyle isn’t meeting your expectations. I know people at both ends of the spectrum. Those who are retired can’t imagine a different life.
Others who are retired are bored out of their minds because they feel they don’t have a purpose or a reason to get out of bed in the morning. There’s also a big difference in the monthly amount you get from social security between retiring and taking benefits at 62 or waiting until 67.
I’ve known people who retired and died six months later. For some, retirement means the years after a person stops working.
But this definition isn’t everyone’s dream because time after working consistently in a job or career you love that turns into having nothing to do every day can be too unstructured. Just the opposite, if you tolerate instead of love your job, retirement can be a welcome blessing.
Retiring to other people might mean leaving a high-pressure job to do work that you consider a hobby well into your 70s or 80s. However, getting the most out of life in your 60s doesn’t only have to refer to work or a career.
What Does Living a Good Life Mean to You?
So, when you think of the definition of a good life, what does this mean to you? Are you living the good life today, or is living a good life more of a dream that seems far off into the future?
Let’s relate the idea of a good life to being happy in whatever way you define happiness. What does happiness mean to you? Interesting is that some people don’t know or have to think about how to answer this question.
Family caregivers in their 60s and beyond who are caring for a spouse or an elderly parent experience days consumed with working and caregiving. Some caregivers may be working full-time and then participating in caregiving activities 20 or more hours a week over this level.
Few family caregivers would define this as living a good life even though they feel a duty to keep up with everything that must be done.
Challenges for Family Caregivers
Family caregivers experience ups and downs with busy times and lulls when care responsibilities seem to settle until something like an emergency room visit happens to propel daily activities back into crisis mode. All the while, these same caregivers dream of a good life may be getting a good night’s sleep or having a few hours to themselves.
For caregivers getting the most out of life in their 60s and beyond may be having one weekend night or a weekend day off from care responsibilities. The downside for caregivers and some older adults is the loss of social activities and friends due to care responsibilities or physical health concerns that makes it difficult to get out of the home.
This sense of separation from the world can result in feeling lonely or depressed. This is a reality of aging and caregiving that can be mentally difficult to cope with unless you find ways to become mentally strong and make a concerted effort to overcome the loss of friendship or social activities.
2 Only Worry About Things You Can Change
Number two in the list of getting the most out of life in your 60s is to only worry about things you can change by your actions. Worry is a big concern for caregivers.
In my experience, caregivers worry about and want to fix everything sometimes to the degree that they neglect their own lives. Does this sound familiar? Is anyone listening in this position?
It’s as if your life begins fading away because so much of your mental capacity and time is spent caring for and worrying for other people—whether this person is your spouse or an aging parent.
So how can a person stop worrying about things that can’t be changed? Here are a couple of ideas.
Schedule 15 minutes of worry time daily to write down your worries. If you start to worry at other times of the day, stop and come back to worry only during your scheduled time.
Other ideas—stop worrying about what other people think. The assumption is that you worry about what other people in your family believe, or you are obsessively angry with them.
Siblings may not be helping you care for your aging parents. Instead of worrying or judging – have a conversation with them to gather more information.
If you are worried about what people who don’t know you think, stop and ask yourself why this use of your time is beneficial for you? In most cases, worry is detrimental to your mental well-being and health.
Give less importance to the opinions and worries of the world. You probably have enough to worry about in your own life. And last, stop reliving the past and worrying about the future. Do what you can do today. Make the most of the present.
3 Treasure, Maintain and Seek Out Friendships
Number three is to treasure, maintain and seek out friendships. The middle part of life, when people work, raise children and care for sick family members, becomes extremely busy.
So much that you may not see friends as frequently, you may give up social activities—even activities that are good for your health or that you enjoy.
Getting the most out of life in your 60s means spending time with treasured friends. Your children and grandchildren will grow up and go on with their lives.
If you are married or have a partner, you or this person will eventually be the first to die. And then, who will you spend time with for companionship and activities?
Only the people with whom you cultivated relationships and established interests. Make an effort to build friendships with people 10 to 20 years younger than you—they will keep you young. Additionally, people 10 to 20 years older than you—they have wisdom to share if you ask.
Good friends will be the people at your side during the best and worst times. Dedicate time to cultivating and making friends for life.
For more on friendships, listen to my podcast interview with Dr. Jeffrey Hall of the University of Kansas, who shares his research about how to make friends at any age. Listen to Episode 53
4 Accept Responsibility for the Present
Number four for getting the most out of life in your 60s is to accept responsibility for where you are and create a strategy for where you want to be. For example, you may still be working and realize that you haven’t saved enough money for retirement.
What now? Health issues may be preventing you from participating in activities you enjoy. Facing these realities may be unpleasant or uncomfortable.
However, the only way to get where you want to go is to develop a strategy for change and make it happen. So it’s no surprise that it took you years to get where you are today.
Likewise, it might take years to make significant changes. The aspect of time is why you must act today.
If money for retirement is a concern, how can you save more or spend less? Do you have a financial planner who can advise you? Do you keep a monthly budget, so you know exactly where your money or income goes?
If you have health concerns, what do you need to learn about making changes? When was the last time you saw your doctor to ask for concrete recommendations about managing or improving your health?
How often do you exercise? I get it. Behavior change and habit change can be the pits. The alternative is to do nothing and let things stay as they are or worsen. Is that what you want?
Will being in denial help you arrive at getting the most out of life in your 60s. Probably not.
The other consideration, even if you are perfectly healthy, is recognizing the possibility of an accident or unexpected event. Here is an example.
A perfectly fit and very active friend was doing yard work and had an unexpected fall. Unfortunately, this fall resulted in a physical injury requiring surgery and a year of physical rehabilitation to recover. Can you imagine losing a year of your life in your 60s or beyond to an accident that will take 12 months and a lot of effort to recover?
Even though we all think we’re invincible, the aging body tells otherwise when it doesn’t recover as quickly as it did in our 20s and 30s. The body experiences wear and tear.
Eventually, it wears outs. But you can do many things proactively when young and in middle age to stay healthy and fit.
So realize that there are stages in life where we can miss opportunities if we don’t make a plan, whether this is a financial plan, a plan to remain healthy and fit, or a plan about where and how to live.
Because some plans take years to put in place or time to see a result. The older we become, the less available time we have to reach our goals. So, accept responsibility for your life today. Create a strategy for change.
5 Achieve Personal Freedom and Mastery
Number five for getting the most out of life in your 60s is to achieve personal freedom and mastery over your life. What does this mean?
There are a lot of definitions of personal freedom. For some, it means controlling your body and making medical decisions. For others, it signifies religious freedom or the right to own and carry a gun.
When we relate freedom to living a good life, it might mean being independent and not relying on others for basic needs. You pay your rent or mortgage, buy the food you want to eat, do laundry, clean the house, and drive to where you want to go.
A sense of freedom can mean that you are strong, healthy, and able to care for yourself financially so that you don’t have to rely on another person. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of women get themselves into trouble.
A desire to have children and stay at home to raise children prevents women from earning income and saving for retirement. This type of caregiving places a woman’s financial future at risk.
There is no guarantee that marriage will last a lifetime or that your husband will financially support you if your marriage ends.
Not being naïve about time out of the workforce to raise children or care for elderly parents is very important. Having a sense of freedom and being self-reliant reinforces accepting responsibility for actions and outcomes.
A side topic about this is to monitor what you see and hear in the news and online. There is a great deal of misinformation that is misleading.
The media does not present balanced information for both sides of an issue? If you don’t believe this, watch your favorite news channel and the “other” channel.
You will see two sides of information bias. So consumers must be discerning to determine what is honest, factual, and accurate.
Relying on information from incorrect sources or sources that only seek to sway your emotions can lead to more worry or making bad decisions. It’s up to you to see the pros and cons of all information.
You’ll find that you are in a more balanced state of mind when you do this. Instead of accepting important information or life-changing at face value, learn to ask questions to confirm the facts so that you have the freedom to decide.
6 Balancing Needs Versus Wants
Let’s return to getting the most out of life in your 60s with number six. One of life’s most challenging things can be balancing our need for things.
By things, I mean the idea of consumerism, a desire to buy something, or a strong pull to go shopping every week.
If you watch television or listen to the radio, you probably see and hear a lot of commercials for products or services. This is because advertisers and marketers aim to make consumers believe that a person’s happiness and well-being depend on many material possessions. They want you to believe that having stuff will make you happy.
In reality, having many things can clutter your home and may not make you happy. Again, it’s the idea of the latest cellphone coming out and a person having to rush to the store to get a new iPhone or Android device.
Much of buying happens on credit cards—which is not money you have in the bank. If you think about it, every time you use a credit card, you take out a loan against your paycheck, checking account, or savings account that you have to pay back.
How often do you get your monthly credit card bill in the mail or by email? You see the balance and wonder, what on earth did I buy? Wouldn’t it feel so much better to get that statement and see a low balance which means you have mastered control over your spending habits?
What’s More Important? Having Things or Personal Freedom
A great place to see need versus want may be gained through the activity of going through your clothes closet, garage, or other areas of your home where you have a lot of stuff. We talked about personal freedom and mastery in the first part of the program.
Not having a lot of things can support the idea of individual freedom. What if you started to give away all the things you don’t use or wear every month?
How many clothes or shoes can you wear? What if every time you bought something, you gave an item away?
How many of us think of not replacing something, like a cellphone or a car, until it breaks down. Imagine how much money you might save for retirement so that your ability to choose what you do and when you do it grows exponentially?
Balancing a need for things can be difficult if you spend time with people who constantly buy and buy. When you look at caring for elderly parents, there may be a day when living at home is no longer possible due to the inability of parents to care for themselves.
Living in 400 Square Foot Apartment
The day may come when aging parents must move to a care home. This may shock you, but the size of an average apartment or room in an elder care community is about 400 square feet.
This includes space for a bed, clothing, and personal items. What if today, you had to give away or downsize your belongings into a 400-square-foot room and be happy with the things you took?
Could you do this? It’s something to think about.
Years ago, I had a client named Janet. I became her guardian. The first time I met her, she was in a nursing home, where she lived until she passed away. Her story is in my book, The Caregiving Trap.
The one thing that stood out to me about Janet—there actually were many wonderful things—but one in particular that I remember to this day.
After she passed away, I went to the nursing home to pick up her belongings. Everything she owned was placed into a small cardboard box that was left sitting on her bed for me to pick up.
Looking at the box and the small mementos of her life saddened me because my thought was. Here was this remarkable woman, and all that was left of her life were the items in this small cardboard box.
Valuing Things or Experiences
So, getting the most out of life in your 60s or really at any time of life may be less about the things you buy and more about the experiences you have with the people in your life. In the end, what will you remember and cherish about your life?
If I had to guess, probably not all of the things you bought during your lifetime but the experiences and people you love. Just as adult children have to clean out the homes of their elderly parents, someone is going to have to clean out and get rid of your stuff.
My suggestion is to do it now. There are plenty of people out there who might be unable to afford things in your home that you no longer need.
If you’re not using them, do something good. Give them away. Donate them. It doesn’t matter if you are thirty or sixty, too much stuff can reduce your personal freedom and result in more things you must care for.
7 Avoid Excess
Excess doesn’t mean excess stuff in your home but participating in activities to excess. Smoking cigarettes, drinking, or overeating can result in being overweight or other problematic health conditions. Addictions to shopping, gambling, or other harmful behaviors can cause lifelong problems.
Caregiving can be an addiction when a person takes on caretaking behaviors. For more on caretaking, listen to The Caring Generation Podcast Episode 115 How to Stop Being a Caretaker.
How do addictive behaviors begin? Many times, addiction becomes a coping behavior or a stress response.
In some cases, opiate addictions result from the experience of trying to manage pain. Pain or stress results in addictive behaviors which intend to help a person think less about unpleasant aspects of life. This behavior eventually becomes destructive to health and relationships.
If you have an addictive behavior, identify it, admit the problem and seek help. Overcoming addiction can require participation in a treatment or 12-step program. Then, recognize the stressor that brings up the desire to eat, drink, smoke, spend money, gamble, or something else and take action before engaging in these self-destructive behaviors.
8 Be Kind
Number eight for getting the most out of life in your 60s is to be kind. Learn from the situation when something doesn’t turn out like you want or expect.
How do you respond? Do you judge yourself or other people? Do you become a person that you don’t like?
If an interaction with a person doesn’t go well, avoid seeking payback or a desire to get even. These actions hurt you more than the other person.
Albert Einstein is one of my favorite people in the world. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from this man of genius. “Weak people, revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent people ignore.”
One of life’s realities is that people make mistakes, often unintentionally. How often have you made a mistake that caused someone a problem?
What did you do? Did you apologize? Did you learn from the experience?
When you think about it, making mistakes is a learning process that supports getting the most out of life in your 60s. How many people do you run across who seem to know everything?
No one can know everything. These people have had an experience that made them judgmental, and opinionated, maybe they felt criticized by others, and as a result, they have become closed-minded.
Being open-minded is the path to getting the most out of life in your 60s. Life gets a little smaller when you stop becoming curious or asking questions because you think you know it all. You give up the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience.
Think about this. Other people may not want to be around you if you have a closed mind, a sour attitude or if you are negative. Here is a Zig Ziglar quote, “there will always be people in your life who treat you wrong. Be sure to thank them for making you strong.”
This brings us back to the idea of maintaining and treasuring friendships which is significant if you want to have people to enjoy life with after the age of 60 or really at any point in your life. I realize that paying attention to all of these actions, this may seem like a major life project. Well, it can be.
The point here is that you only have one life. Make it what you want. Seek to live a good life that is personally satisfying and personally fulfilling in the way this means to you.
Are You Interested in Learning What it Really Takes to Care for Aging Parents? Check Out Pamela’s Online Caregiver Program.
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