Here’s the reality of being 60-something: You have less time than ever before to make your life the best it can be. This is not meant to be a downer. In fact, it’s the opposite—a call to action: take charge, face your fears, leave a legacy, protect your health.
You can do it! Simply ask yourself, “What do I NOT want to regret when I’m looking back on my life?” Here are some thoughts to get you started. (You can add to the list as it suits your personal needs.)
If you’re in your 60s, consider the regrettable ramifications of the following things.
Holding on to a grudge
Someone once said that holding on to a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. It hurts you more than the offender. Need proof? Researchers at Hope College discovered that when study participants thought about their enemies in “unforgiving ways,” the stress response—sweating, heart rate, blood pressure—increased. And Tina Tessina, Ph.D., psychologist and author of The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty, adds, “Forgiving doesn’t mean it’s okay that the other person did what she did; rather, you’re saying, if only to yourself, ‘ I release you from this resentment.’” Big diff.
Postponing an estate plan
Granted, it’s one of the less fun things to do in life, but the experts at Legal Zoom, say, “Aside from the many legal benefits, planning your estate is truly a selfless act. If you are without a plan, you leave your heirs wondering about your wishes, which can lead to problems and infighting. When you take the time to plan your estate, you remove that burden from them by letting them know exactly what you want.” It doesn’t matter if you’re single, have minimal assets, whatever, put a plan in writing.
Deciding it’s too late to make new friends
If you’ve reached your 60s, you already know that friendships often change during life transitions—a new job, having kids, getting divorced or widowed, relocating. But you’re never too old to make new pals. Look for people who seem interesting in your tennis class, at volunteer functions, with common hobbies and strike up a conversation—ask a question, make a comment. Someone has to initiate. It might as well be you. Next—a coffee date or a walk or a knitting session together.
Ignoring medical tests
No question, good genes help with healthy aging. But you still have some control here. Make sure you ask your doc when and how often to have these screenings: blood pressure, colonoscopy, PSA (prostate), mammogram, pelvic exam and pap smear, eye exam (macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma are common with age), cholesterol, vaccines (shingles, pneumococcal, flu shot, tetanus), and bone density. Of course, also ask about the frequency of tests for any specific ailments you suffer.
Letting fear rob you of what you want
Maybe you were raised by an overly anxious parent. Maybe you’re fearful because of a past traumatic event. Perhaps a therapist is the quickest route to overcoming this issue. However you choose to tackle it, make facing your fears a priority. “The saddest thing is to have regrets at the end of life about things you really wanted to do and didn’t because you were afraid,” says Tessina. “Use the chance now to try something you want. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose—but fear.”
Feeling too awkward to tell people how much they matter
If your family of origin was not particularly emotive, expressing feelings may feel totally alien. But it’s critical for this reason: “Not expressing your love to others ultimately separates you emotionally from them,” says Tessina. Forget the old excuse: “But they already know I love them,” and step up. It can be face to face or by a note sent to each and every person you care about, telling them how you feel about their presence in your life.
Thinking you’re immune to falls
According to the CDC, one out of three people age 65 and older fall each year, and if you fall once, you are at twice the risk of falling again. Know how to protect yourself. Ask your doc if any of your meds could be making you less stable; also ask if you might be Vitamin D deficient. Incorporate strength and balance exercises into your routine. Get your eyes checked. Make your home safe (add grab bars by the tub or shower, add more or brighter lighting in dim parts of your home, create unobstructed walkways throughout, and put up railings near stairs). And perhaps consider retiring those three-inch stilettos!
Finally, living by an outdated script
If you’re like most of us, you’ve been living by a script written in childhood that highlights your weaknesses: I’m too fat, I’m not a good enough daughter/mother/friend, I never finish anything I start. By the time you’re in your 60s, it’s time to rewrite the script—with YOU as the hero of your life. According to Tessina, there are three things you can do to feel better about yourself. Acknowledge with gratitude all the things in your life that make it good. Be generous to others, especially with kindness and thanks. Live by your personal ethics as a way to feel good and increase happiness. And finally, remember that if you think poorly of yourself, that’s how others will respond to you. If you think highly…well, you get the picture.
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