It’s never too late to bliss out
Stress reduction and aging well go hand in hand, no matter how old you are now. “You can make changes at any time,” says Ronan Factora, MD. “There’s no right or wrong way as long as you consider all the factors – physical, mental and social activity.”
Start with taking a simple assessment of your health: How is your weight, your mobility, your memory? The answers will give you a clearer picture of your capabilities—what you can do right now, says Dr. Factora. Then ask yourself: What do you want to do? “Think about your purpose,” he says. “Who do you want to be for the rest of your life? You have so much more time. How are you going to spend it?”
If you’re still working, it’s important to develop hobbies and social contacts outside of work, to set the stage for later on when you have more free time, Dr. Factora says. If you’re already retired, it’s not too late to use your leisure time to try something new or to go back to doing things you used to enjoy. “Pursue another degree, take a free class, learn an instrument,” he says. “Pick up new hobbies. Follow your dreams. It’s never too late to learn.”
Working or not, it’s important to relax. “Pay attention to your leisure time, the time you spend for yourself,” he says. “Yoga and other exercise take your mind off things.”
Dr. Factora is a Staff Member in the Department of General Internal Medicine, Section of Geriatrics, within the Medicine Institute. He also serves as Co-Director of the Aging Brain Clinic.
Many of his patients, who are 65 and older, have lost loved ones. “These are big stressors,” he acknowledges. His advice: “Make sure you do have a pretty robust network of family, friends. You need people to fill in the gap after the loss.”
An expanded social network does a lot to reduce stress, says Dr. Factora, who encourages his patients to go to a senior center or community center to meet people. Focus on physical activity, engaging the mind in discovery, interacting with others, and doing things that are challenging to you, he says. “Golf, go dancing, play cards, meet for coffee to talk about the news.”
But whatever you do, avoid sitting in front of the television for long stretches of time. “It’s detrimental because you’re sedentary, the brain is shut off and you’re no longer socially active while you’re doing it,” he says. “It’s a lot better to get out of the house and do things.”
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