The Ageless Attitude
New Possibilities at Any Stage of Life
Written by Susan Burnell
Americans 50 and over are setting their own trends. Eager to plan a new course for themselves, they are focusing less on aging and more on living. This ageless attitude includes maintaining health and financial security, connecting with friends and family, giving back and actively enjoying life.
Take, for example, the attitude of 60-year-old Americans surveyed by AARP in 2006. While substantially satisfied with their lives, a majority of these individuals are optimistically making plans to create an even better future. Only 1% considered age a barrier to achieving their goals.
Life is seen as a continuous progression, and reinvention is a common theme for everyone 50 and over. They continue to seek new changes and challenges as they move into the next phase of their lives, feeling motivated to take better care of their physical health, spend more time on interests and hobbies, and volunteer to give back to causes they care about.
Healthy Habits and a Sense of Purpose
Those with this ageless attitude understand very well the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. More than 90% of 49- to 59-year-olds surveyed in December 2009 by AARP said they thought it was extremely or very important to eat right in order to stay healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep and regular exercise, reducing stress and having a yearly physical or check-up were also ranked near the top of the list.
Exercises designed to help busy adults maintain their active lifestyles and overall well-being are gaining popularity. “Incorporating functional strength training into an exercise program will help improve balance, agility, dynamic flexibility, strength and endurance to enhance older adults’ abilities to safely and effectively perform their various activities of daily living,” says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., FACSM, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
In addition to diet and exercise, social networks and a sense of purpose are among the essential ingredients for longevity, based on research focused on Blue Zones—those regions around the world whose residents have the longest life spans. The recent AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project engaged residents of an entire city (Albert Lea, Minn.) to make life changes based on these principles for health and longevity.
Gil Yanuck, 69, isn’t so much retired as he is reinvented. “Growing and learning are a part of my lifelong journey, so I’m always looking out for the next adventure,” says Yanuck.
When he’s not shoveling snow, tending his one-acre lawn, or teaching his grandchildren how to hunt, fish and fix things, the Carson City resident is a highly sought-after volunteer. He’s on the boards of the Carson-Tahoe Regional Hospital and Carson City’s Chamber of Commerce, represents Carson County on the Nevada Board of Wildlife Management and volunteers year-round directing AARP’s Tax-Aide Program in northern Nevada.
In 2009, Yanuck was recognized by AARP with its Andrus Award for Community Service, which honors individuals who have made positive changes in their communities. “Gil is one of those extraordinary leaders who draws on a lifetime of experience to give back,” says Bonnie Speedy, vice president and national director, AARP Tax-Aide. “I admire him for his ability to energize people.”
Yanuck recalls his own 18-hour days in the aerospace business when he addresses executives who say they’ll wait until they retire to volunteer: “Look at the groups you already support financially. Then ask whether there is an opportunity for them to improve their operations. The best way you can help them do that is as an active volunteer.”
Education can make active lifestyles more achievable and more rewarding. One of the most dramatic changes in the 50 and over population of the future will be their level of education, reports the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Foundation for Health in Aging. Education is closely related to lifetime income, and people with more education generally are in better health and at lower risk of disability.
People 50 and over are going back to school or entering graduate school, learning a new language, and taking or teaching classes. They’re pursuing deferred dreams and making bold changes to accomplish them.
People with higher levels of education are also more likely to actively engage in retirement planning, according to a 2008 online survey conducted by Harris Interactive®. Among the 90% of U.S. adults who plan on retiring, most still contribute to their 401(k), have an IRA or invest in the market, the survey found.
“When they contribute their time and skills, individuals in their 50s and far beyond are bringing
fresh energy to the community as they continue to learn new things about themselves. The experience
gives them a sense of connection and satisfaction that enhances their own quality of life.”
Emilio Pardo, Chief Brand Officer, AARP
So what are fit, educated, financially savvy individuals with an ageless attitude looking to do next?
For those who stay in the workforce, creative approaches abound. Entrepreneurship is an attractive option for many and is growing among people 50 and over, reports AARP. In the future, many solo businesses will be started by people who take early retirement from their previous career. Nearly one-quarter of the clients utilizing the free entrepreneur education and small business services of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) are age 55 and over, the association reports. AARP also offers resources for starting a business.
For some 50 and over, finding a new job can pose some challenges. Facing competition from younger generations, these ready and able workers are wisely looking at areas in which demand is growing, like healthcare and government, and targeting companies that value the wisdom and experience older workers bring.
In addition to its programs that help match older workers with employers, AARP works to dispel workplace myths that can affect hiring decisions. It has commissioned studies including the 2005 Towers Perrin/AARP report, which found that older workers are actually more motivated to exceed expectations than their younger counterparts.
Whether they are in or out of the workplace, older adults are lending their business experience and other skills to serve community needs. To help find such opportunities, AARP offers a Virtual Volunteering Resource Guide and community-based programs in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
People with an attitude of agelessness naturally gravitate toward involvement and activities that make a difference, says Emilio Pardo, AARP Chief Brand Officer. “When they contribute their time and skills, individuals in their 50s and far beyond are bringing fresh energy to the community as they continue to learn new things about themselves. The experience gives them a sense of connection and satisfaction that enhances their own quality of life.”
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