By Susan Williams, Founder of Booming Encore
Have you ever found yourself sitting alone on the couch with absolutely nothing to do?
Depending on the time it was in your life – you may have thought this situation was a blessing.
But when it comes to aging – these three activities are proving to be quite detrimental to your health if they become a permanent situation.
Sitting Too Long
Sometimes called the “sitting disease” or “the new smoking“, staying sedentary for too long of a period of time can be a serious health risk – especially for older people.
In an article published by Time, they shared that on average people over 60 spend two thirds of their day sitting (that works out to about 9 hours a day). This inactivity can increase a person’s potential to develop a disability, become overweight, increase risk for a heart attack, affect your mental health, decrease your life expectancy and increase your risk for kidney disease and more.
Having some alone time when you want it can be amazing. It gives you some time to think, reflect and just quiet the world around you. But this type of time alone is very different than social isolation and loneliness.
Sadly, loneliness is becoming a serious epidemic – especially for older people.
According to a study completed by the AARP, more than 80 million people aged 50 and older suffer from isolation and they stated that the health risks of prolonged isolation are equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
In an article titled “Why You Should Treat Loneliness as a Chronic Illness” published in Everday Health, they shared that loneliness can have the following impacts;
“Studies show that loneliness increases the risk for early death by 45 percent and the chance of developing dementia in later life by 64 percent.”
Basically, as humans we are wired for connections with other people and when we don’t have them both our physical and mental health suffer.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What makes you feel like you’re alive?
Purpose is defined as; the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
A research paper titled, Sense of purpose as a psychological resource for aging well, found that;
“participants who scored higher on sense of purpose reported lower levels of functional disability, performed better on cognitive tests (episodic memory and speed of processing), and reported better self-rated health and fewer depressive symptoms.”.
Think about it. If you don’t have anything to look forward to or feel like you’re not really contributing to anything worthwhile you could see how this could cause some problems.
Many people find as their kids leave the nest or they retire from their jobs, they lose their identity and their sense of purpose which is so critical to your ongoing mental and physical health.
So what can we do to help keep this triple threat from becoming issues for us?
Here’s just a few things we could possibly do;
Just Keep Moving
The old adage “use it or lose it” comes to my mind. If we want to stay physically healthy and active, we have to stay physically healthy and active.
Start by being mindful of how much you’re sitting every day.
A friend of mine used an egg timer when she was using her computer. Every 30 minutes she would have it go off and then get up and take a brief walk.
Also, we often think that by keeping ourselves active we have to go to the gym or do some formal form of exercise. When in fact, just even doing household chores can keep us moving. Vacuuming, mopping, gardening – all things that take some energy to do. Even parking further away in a parking lot or taking the stairs rather than an elevator can help. I remember a physician once telling my husband that he could watch as much TV as he liked as long as he was moving while he was watching.
The key to this is really quite simple – just sit less and move more.
Develop Your Social Network Now
Years back, so much of my social network was built around our kids activities. Between my work schedule and kids sports, the hockey arena or soccer field was pretty much the extension of my social interaction.
As the kids began to move on with their lives, I began to realize that our social lives were leaving with them. I consciously started to develop my own friendships. It took some time but I’m now in the fortunate position to have quite a number of close friends that I see, talk and visit with quite frequently.
The key is to build your social network before you actually need it.
Sense of Purpose
Whether it’s continuing to work, volunteering, helping your family, being part of a committee – having something to do that matters to you makes you feel engaged with the world around you. This is the stuff that makes you feel connected and gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Are you not sure what your purpose is? Here are some resources that may help you get started;
- Do You Know Your Life’s Purpose?: In Adam Leipzig‘s TED Talk on How To Know Your Life’s Purpose in 5 Minutes, he shares that the people he knew that had figured this out were able to answer 5 questions
- How to Read the 3 Signs Telling You Your Purpose in Life: An article in Entrepreneur providing some guidance on things to look for to help you find your purpose
- How to Find Your Passion in Retirement: A Forbes article with some suggestions on how to find your passion in retirement
As cliche-e as this sounds – knowledge is power. So given that we know these three issues are potential risks to aging well, we can be proactive and take action now to deal with them before they become problems.
This post was reprinted with permission from Susan Williams. Susan is the Founder of Booming Encore – a website and social media network dedicated to providing information and inspiration to help Baby Boomers create and live their very best encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and personally tries to embrace Booming Encore’s philosophy of making sure every day matters. For daily updates to help you live your best encore, be sure to follow Booming Encore on Twitter and join them on Facebook.