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2 benefits of a big, hairy a** goal as we age

Goals have a significant impact on what we do each day, how we live, and how we feel about ourselves. They can be both motivating and disheartening. Motivating when we achieve the goal we set. Disheartening when we under-achieve or miss the goal altogether. Without goals we can become rudderless and life can lack real purpose and meaning.

What’s this got to do with becoming older?

The importance of goals

When thinking or planning for later life, setting goals is as important as our younger years when we often set goals associated with things such as sport, career, or money. Whilst establishing financial goals is important, money alone does not buy happiness.  Ease, comfort, and security perhaps.  But not happiness.  Goals about other aspects of our life give us something to get up for each day – to work towards so that there’s a sense of achievement in our lives.

As I’ve said previously, it would serve us all well if we eliminated the word ‘retirement’ from our vocabulary. Whilst most people do want to stop working at some point, setting ambitious personal goals to coincide with the event is not usually built into people’s thinking.

Crashing age stereotypes

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet a vibrant, active 65 year old woman, Astrid, who had walked the infamous Camino track – a walk of 780km from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to the stunning cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  The walk takes up to 5 weeks. Astrid shared how many people were either surprised she’d done it, or considered her “too old” to be embarking on such an adventure.

Clearly, age stereotypes and ageism contributed to people’s perceptions of what’s OK and what’s not OK for someone with grey hair and some wrinkles.

There’s more to this story.

Astrid, had a big goal with a plan.

First, she had to wait a year so that her foot surgery and hip injury could heal. Then Astrid worked with a trainer 3 times a week to align her body and strengthen her legs. She joined Weight Watchers to lose 15 pounds to reduce the load on her joints and made a deliberate decision to only carry a day pack for the duration of the walk.  Her heavier luggage was transported to her accommodation each day. And, throughout the walk, Astrid chose the road less travelled in order to enjoy the quieter paths and nature.

Astrid chose a big, hairy a** goal (BHAG).

Benefits of goals as we age

The benefits of a BHAG are twofold:

  1. Ambitious and less ambitious goals contribute to a more active and healthier life. Without them we risk falling into the trap of building our lives around meal times, coffee & cake breaks, TV viewing, holidays, and medical appointments.
  2. By setting goals that are challenging we defy ageism and age stereotypes. Attitudes and beliefs about what older people can or should do are outdated. Longer lifespans require us all to re-think what we do with our lives and be more ambitious and confident about what we can do in our later years.

SMART goals

These are the 5 keys to goal setting.  Make sure your goals are:

Specific: We’ve all heard of the bucket list. It’s a list of the things we want to do before we die. Interestingly, it’s become so much a part of our vernacular, even younger people talk about their bucket list! Goals can be a bucket list. However, the goals for living will influence what we do in our daily lives.  Whether that’s learning to fly a glider or volunteering. If volunteering is a goal, what type of organisation would you seek to work with? One associated with children, the environment, mental health, older people, the homeless, or refugees? The options are endless. Check that your goals match your current interests or are associated with an area you’d like to know more about.

Measurable: Ensure that you have a sense of achievement by putting measurable goals in place.  Simply thinking, ‘I’m going to volunteer’ is noble.  However, you may want to establish a goal of volunteering for a certain number of hours or days per week.  Alternatively, you may choose to work as a volunteer to raise money for a charity. Set a goal of how much money you’ll raise. When you’ve achieved the goal … reward yourself.

Achievable: Ambitious goals are great. And, they may take time to achieve. So, break the BHAG into smaller goals. Imagine trying to eat an elephant. The only way to successfully do that would be to eat it one bite at a time. Big BHAG’s are the same. One step at a time.

Realistic: Ensuring the goal is something that you can actually do is essential. Whilst you may have dreamt of flying to the moon, becoming an astronaut is probably unrealistic.  However, parachuting may not be. Going back to University may be something you’d like to do, however fees may make it prohibitive.  Look for a course via a free MOOC (massive online open community) or attend University of the Third Age instead.

Timely: Set a timeframe for taking action and then completion. All talk, no action leads to a lack of fulfilment and a sense of failure. The action may be as simple as researching which volunteer organisation you’d like to work with. When will you do this? By what date will you have made your decision? Then, when will you fill in the application or call to get on their list? When will you follow up? If not successful, which charity was #2 on your list? When will you fill in that application? And so on. Importantly, be realistic with setting timelines and deadlines.  Don’t make them too short, nor too long. Diarise the actions, or write a list and tick each item off once done. Each tick is another step towards achieving your goal. Another bite of the elephant.

Goal ideas

Ambitious goals might be:

  • Climbing to Everest base camp;
  • Hiking the Kokoda Track;
  • Sailing around the world;
  • Learning a new language;
  • Studying again.

Less ambitious goals, but equally valuable, could be as simple as:

  • Volunteering a certain number of days or hours per week;
  • Participating in a community-based activity such as walking or a cycling group;
  • Taking up a past hobby or interest such as a musical instrument or painting;
  • Ensuring that some time is spent with younger people each week/fortnight/month in order to benefit from the youthful energy and enthusiasm that those younger than us bring to a conversation and relationship.

By building on current interests, or exploring new activities, we expand our friendships, bring purpose and meaning into our lives, and increase our chances of a happier, healthier life – right up until the end. And surely, that can only be a good thing.

What are your BHAG’s?

 

Photo by Gautam Arora on Unsplash

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Do this ONE thing for a longer, healthier life

Longer, healthier lives already exist. However, we don’t necessarily all age well with few pains and no concern about our physical or mental wellbeing.  In fact, physical and cognitive decline are a significant worry for many as I wrote about here.

Now, we could wait for the miracle anti-ageing pill being researched and tested by Dr David Sinclair at Harvard University, however, it’s ten or more years away. And whilst billionaires such as Paul Allen and Sergey Brin co-founders of Microsoft and Google respectively, invest millions in anti-ageing research, there’s nothing available that will make a difference to our lives today.

Our lives are longer today than at any other time in history thanks to progress in medicine and healthcare. Although some seek to defy the natural physical processes of ageing with Botox, plastic surgery, or beauty products, others simply aspire to age well. The idea of occupying our bodies into decline via a nursing home to death appeals to … well, no one actually.

However, there is one thing that we can all do today that makes a significant difference to how we age.

That one thing?

Weight-bearing exercise.

The benefits

Of course some exercise is better than none. However, research undertaken by exercise physiologist Dr Tim Henwood with older adults, including one study that involved residents of an aged care facility with an average age of 86 years old, found that there were numerous advantages associated with a tailored weight bearing exercise program.

Benefits revealed in Dr Henwood’s research included:

  1. Improvement in overall health and wellbeing;
  2. Enhanced sleep;
  3. Reduced symptoms of disease associated with physical and/or mental decline;
  4. Better bone density;
  5. Reduced falls; and,
  6. Greater general strength and ability to be independent.

With falls a leading cause of injury for those aged over 65 years, it’s worthwhile considering what activities can reduce the likelihood of these occurring. Weight-bearing exercise is one proven way to make a difference and have an impact on falls prevention.

However, there’s another advantage. Social relationships and connection.

Bonus of weight-bearing exercise

Loneliness is a significant issue for people as they age and is now being equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. By undertaking a weight bearing exercise program with an exercise physiologist or suitably qualified personal trainer at a gym or facility that knows and understands older bodies, a person is able to informally meet and connect with others.

Another advantage of a gym is the opportunity to meet and speak with people of all ages. To build relationships inter-generationally.

3 tips for selecting a trainer and gym

When embarking on a new weight-bearing exercise program there are 3 essential factors to consider:

1.What qualifications do the exercise physiologists (EP) or personal trainers (PT) have to train older people? Ask.

Whilst working with a young, enthusiastic, optimistic young, good looking man/woman might appeal, if they don’t have the right training they could cause minor injuries such as strains or pains that are inconvenient and mean you can’t exercise at all for a period of time. This type of experience could also reduce your interest or desire to continue.

2. Who does the EP or PT currently work with who is older? Ask for references and speak to some existing clients.

3. What initial testing do they do to design the program? Is it free or does it cost money? How much?

4. How do they manage, monitor, and develop your program? If finances are a consideration, you could ask for a new program once a month. In between sessions you could work independently either at the gym or at home.

In the early stages you may not be lifting the types of weights these ladies seem to do with relative ease. Sometimes specific exercises utilise our own body weight and that’s challenging enough. Over time, who knows? We might become a weight-lifting champion.

In the meantime, it’s just about starting.

Make an enquiry.

Speak to friends.

Go to a gym.

Make it a social occasion and a regular part of the week. It really is one of the best things we can do to enable us to age well.

Note: If in doubt, seek medical advice prior to undertaking physical activity if you have health issues or any concerns about your ability to do this type of exercise

Image credit: Photo by Parvana Praveen on Unsplash

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Over 50 paradox

The 5 paradoxes of ageing & stereotypes

Ageing is the opposite of the term WYSIWYG: ‘what you see is what you get’. What you see is not what you get. Often there’s a chasm between outdated stereotypes of the over 50’s and their actual lived reality.

Invariably, when we think of an older person we see grey hair, wrinkles, and a stack of stereotypes often associated with ageing. For example, people over 50 are often considered less capable with their technology use, less fit or able, or someone with a poor memory, or simply “past it” when it comes to working or being employable. In fact, being over 50 is often associated with loss: loss of hearing; loss of eyesight; and, loss of memory.

The reality of the over 50’s

People over 50 are fit, healthy, technology literate, and keen to maintain some type of either full-time or part-time employment. In a study we recently conducted comprising in-depth interviews, small group discussions, and a survey of 500 baby boomers technology was generally not an issue – particularly for the younger baby boomers (between 50-65 years).  In fact this generation use technology for news, movies, staying in touch with friends (they’re big Facebook users), emails, games, and messaging. However, there are paradoxes.

5 paradoxes of ageing

Our study,  revealed these paradoxes:

  1. Whilst we might see a person with grey hair and wrinkles, according to our survey, baby boomers consider themselves at least 3 years younger than their actual age. In conversations with this age group they often say that they feel 10-25 years younger!
  2. On working … the paradox is that baby boomers often want to work, however, they want greater flexibility (potentially part time), and potentially less responsibility.
  3. The greatest paradoxes exist in the area of health. For example, over two-thirds of respondents rated their health as good/excellent. Yet, the majority also suggested that they were slowing down and experiencing poorer eyesight.
  4. Over half of our sample reported arthritis and aching knees. Similarly about half of this sample stated that they experienced forgetfulness and were concerned about dementia/Alzheimer’s.

“The only thing I hate about getting older is that your health starts to deteriorate, and that to me is the most important thing – having good health.” (Female, 50-64)

  1. Nearly everyone in considers diet and exercise as essential for healthy ageing, yet:
  • Only 20% of respondents had a fitness monitor (representing a huge opportunity for                                       the fitness monitor market);
  • None indicated that they undertook resistance training or did weight-bearing exercise                                  (crucial to healthy ageing, particularly for bone density and strength).

Forget the age stereotypes

The lived experience of a baby boomer is generally quite different to perceptions. The opportunity lies in delivering products and services that meet the needs of the over 50’s. However, when it comes to marketing don’t sell to ‘old people’.  Outdated stereotypical views of the over 50’s limits thinking and stifles creativity (e.g. Cliched images of silver-haired couples on a yacht or a couple strolling hand-in-hand on a white sandy beach are over-used, corny and misleading).

This age-group is varied and interesting. Don’t miss the opportunity.

If you’d like to know or understand more, please drop us a note at livinginsights@threesistersgroup.com.au with your details.  We’ll get in touch to arrange a time for a discussion about your challenges in reaching this significant market segment. We’re committed to changing ageing. We look forward to speaking with you.

 

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Intergenerational job sharing. Dreaming?

A recent report by PwC reveals that increasing employment rates of those over 55 years could add $78 billion to the Australian economy with 83% of this gain attributed to better employment of the 55-64 year olds. What are the implications of this?
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What if …

we measure ourselves against ourselves and not against an external benchmark of what’s considered ‘normal’. What if we acknowledge that wherever we’re at with our health, physical fitness, parenting, caring, work, or any other aspect of our lives is great. The difference it can make to our attitude and our success can be profound according to Dr Dave Alred who spoke at a conference I attended recently. This is what I learned ..

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We all know that eating well and exercising are important for good health and to age well. We do actually know this. What happens if we know this and we don’t do anything about it?
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The other day I was walking down the street and I noticed someone wearing a t-shirt with this slogan:

“It took me 60 years to be this good looking.”

I smiled.

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Do you want to live forever?

The pursuit of youth and desire to remain young niggles.  Just yesterday a friend and I were walking through an area filled with young people.  We admired their youth and talked about the beauty of youth in our own children.  In almost the same breath we both agreed that we love being exactly our age (we’re both baby boomers), despite our grey hair, wrinkles, age spots, saggy knees, and the increasing appearance of veins in our legs.

So, when I read or see stories about David Sinclair’s pursuit to develop an anti-ageing pill I become a little annoyed.  When my 12-year-old daughter saw the story in the Good Weekend recently, she had this to say:

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