You will often hear the term “baby boomer” these days. Baby boomers are the 1.6 billion of the world population born between 1946 and 1964 who are beginning to turn 73, many of whom have already retired.
A lot of us are baby boomers! We are now in our fifties, sixties and seventies, and bring to retirement a profoundly different experience to those of our parents’ generations.
What is the life expectancy for baby boomers?
Life expectancy for baby boomers worldwide average early 80s for men and mid-late 80s for women. Those averages are 10 years longer than life expectancy in 1960. And that’s the average! Many of us will live many years longer, with improvements in health care and quality of life extending our life expectancy.
We are the first generation to face a new ‘third age’, with an unprecedented expectation of a decade or two of relatively healthy life after retirement.
So what do we do now we are retiring? Do we play bingo, watch TV and pine for the good old days? If you said yes, then I’ve got bad news for you. To quote Tina Gilbertson from Psychology Today “Stereotypes of aging are camping out in your mind, and these ideas will affect how you age”.
In our youth obsessed society, older people can be considered irrelevant and aging seen as shameful.
Our culture’s aversion to aging has influenced the subconscious minds of our young and old alike. When you were young, you would hear people talking about how awful it is to be old and your age prejudice would be reinforced. Remember how you viewed older people when you were young? They were out of touch, irrelevant and definitely not cool.
When you find yourself in retirement, your subconscious mind recalls the stereotypes of aging that were sown in your mind when you were young. Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer said, “Whatever you put in the mind, the body will follow”.
So now that you are older, are your expectations of illness and physical breakdown becoming your reality? Are feelings of worthlessness or irrelevance creeping in now that you have given up your paid job? These experiences can be the result of your subconscious impressions creating a mind-body reality.
So what is your best retirement investment?
Your mind is the best investment you can make in your retirement.
By changing the way that you view aging, and view yourself, you can change the way that you age. By changing your thoughts, beliefs and language you can:
- Make yourself younger
- Live longer
- Look and feel physically better
- Retain a great memory and a sharp mind
- Keep fit, active and healthy throughout your long life.
So how do you change the way your mind thinks about yourself now that you are retired?
Begin by changing the words you use about yourself.
Instead of saying “I’m feeling like such an old person”, say “I’m feeling a bit worn out today”.
Rather than say “I’m looking older every day” say “I’m looking a bit dehydrated today”.
Don’t use the word “old” in relation to yourself. In fact ignore your chronological age and think about what you want to achieve now you have more time.
Refuse to dress like an old person. Avoid the use old fashioned words. Don’t view your life through your past achievements alone. You will become accustomed to thinking like a younger person if you live in the now.
People who continue to work throughout their lives have brains that function in the same way as younger people. Professors, artists, musicians that continue to be creative into their 90s have the same neurons as 30-year olds.
Let’s look at famous people who have or are living amazing lives well into their later years (note that I did not use the words “old age”).
Firstly, let’s consider David Attenborough. At 93 years young, Sir David is still travelling the world making documentaries that capture wildlife footage never seen before. And his voice, his books and his programs are iconic. Naturalists around the world, and you and I, love to hear the stories he has to tell us. And Sir David shows no signs of slowing down.
Dame Judi Dench is 84, still working and still one of the busiest actresses in film. When a filmmaker is looking for an actress to play a smart, relevant, gutsy lady who has plenty of life experience, they look no further than Dame Judi. Take a look at the way Judi dresses, her hairstyle. This is a lady who is not thinking about her chronological age… she’s too busy (and by the way has a new love interest to boot).
There are plenty of other examples (Mick Jagger, Anna Wintour, Oprah) who are living their lives without considering their chronological age. They don’t describe themselves as old. They know that their ideas are still relevant and they still have plenty to contribute.
There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age.
– Sophia Loren
Consider what will provide you with a sense of achievement in your everyday life. Find a part time job if you can. If you cannot continue with paid work, take up unpaid volunteer work.
Begin a project such as writing a book, starting a blog, learning a language. The added bonus of engaging your mind will make keep your neurons young.
Make new friends, preferably friends that challenge you to pursue new interests. They may be friends who are physically active and will encourage you to keep fit. They may be someone who will be keen to attend adult education classes with you. Or even friends that enjoy cooking and want to share their creations with you.
Change the words you use about yourself, change your expectations about how you will spend your retirement. Consider ways you can have new experiences, meet new people, bring creativity to your life.
You can make your brain younger, and as a baby boomers you can invest in a better more fulfilling life.