Let's face it, midlife can be stressful. In fact, there is evidence that shows that life satisfaction takes a serious hit in midlife. These tend to be the years that involve raising children, working, paying off debt and trying to keep your head above water.
When those stresses lessen, research shows that life satisfaction begins to head back up the U-shaped curve. Aging is not something to dread the way it's often made out to be in the birthday card aisle with black balloons and "over the hill" jokes. In fact, getting older opens up new opportunities.
We've found answers to some common questions people have about aging — not just to help you cope, but to help you thrive in this next stage of life.
What's one thing I can do to stay in good health?
Develop a walking practice. Harvard Health calls taking regular walks the closest thing we have to a wonder drug in this help guide dedicated to walking. You can do it almost anywhere and it doesn't require any special equipment. The guide says that walking for two and a half hours a week, or 21 minutes a day, can cut the risk of heart disease by 30%. Walking could also reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer as well as lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
There are mental benefits to walking, too. Shane O'Mara, neuroscientist and author of the 2018 book "In Praise of Walking," has pages of research about how walking not only boosts mood and helps curb depression, but also helps our cognitive function. As we walk, we make "maps" of the world around us, and this helps us in numerous ways, including improving our memory.
In addition to staying active, it's important to keep up with regular health screenings. Learn about nine health screenings to consider as you age.
How do I prepare for my financial future?
Save as much as you can for retirement. In the 2019 report, The State of American Retirement Savings, the Economic Policy Institute found that most families, even those approaching retirement, had little or no retirement savings. Retirement wealth, or the amount people have saved, hasn't kept pace with the reality of an aging population.
If you're getting closer to retirement and need to catch up on your retirement savings, check out these tips for financial planning.
How do I get the most from my career?
Focus on the choices you have. There is a pervasive idea that our work begins winding down as we get older. What if, instead, we realized that getting over the hump of midlife opened the floodgates of possibility for our work and our career? In an article for Forbes, executive coach Erika Andersen suggests that, "when you don't have so many things and people clamoring for your attention on a daily basis, you can think about what you'd like the rest of your life to look like. Get clear about what you love and what you're good at, and make a life that you truly want to live."
For many of us, getting older means we have the luxury of choice for the first time. It could be a choice of job, choice of professional development opportunities or choice of building something new. Focusing on choices — versus focusing on outdated beliefs about what it means to get older — can help you create the golden age of your career.
How do I keep a positive attitude?
Cultivate resilience. New Mexico State University (NMSU) offers this quiz to test how much you know about aging, designed to dispel myths. One of the biggest myths is the idea that aging is a process of decline. NMSU suggests that instead we think of it as a process of "becoming."
NMSU cites the work of Lynn Peters Adler, founder of the National Centenarian Awareness Project. Adler has been working with centenarians for 25 years. One of the most common traits she's found among people who live to be 100 years old is resilience, or a "remarkable ability to accept the losses that come with age but not be stopped by them."
Resilience means that you keep moving forward, keep springing back up from disappointment and loss, and keep standing strong.
How do I make life feel meaningful as I get older?
Safeguard your most important relationships. In surveys about what makes life meaningful, Pew Research has found that Americans are most likely to cite family relationships as one of the greatest sources of meaning and joy in life.
Whether it's a relative or a friend who has become like family, hold on to those relationships and keep investing in them, decade after decade.
Interested in more tips about getting older? If you are among the one in seven adults in the United States caring for aging parents, find out how you can take care of them without neglecting your own health and well-being.