Why 60 is the new 40: How healthy lifestyles are putting the sizzle in senior

Nov 17, 2011, 8:25 a.m.

Skydiving and whitewater rafting? Check. Volunteering as an English teacher in a foreign country? Absolutely. From extreme sports to new careers, the generation that once declared "Don't trust anyone over 30" is putting the sizzle in senior and redefining expectations for retirement and aging.

Thanks to a cultural shift in attitudes made possible by medical advancements and healthy lifestyles, 60 is decidedly the new 40. For many Americans, reaching 60 is an exciting and welcome milestone. Our kids are grown and gone, we're working less and spending more time with friends and family, and we're more active than we've ever been. Whether we're traveling the world or discovery new passions, our 60s are an exciting time filled with vitality and energy.

For many Americans, turning 60 is also an opportunity to be healthier than ever before. Twenty years ago, we were so busy working and raising a family that we had less time to take care of our bodies, exercise and eat right. Now, healthy lifestyles allow us to say, "Age truly is relative."

Ready to put a little extra sizzle in your life? Achieving balance in the five main areas of health--physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual--will ensure you're ready to tackle your next challenge--whether that's jumping out of an airplane or teaching English in a foreign country.

Physical. Regular exercise is essential to cardiovascular and mental health. Natural wear and tear on the joints due to aging, however, may make certain exercises, like jogging, painful. Try cycling on a recumbent bike or swimming. Be sure to incorporate resistance training, core work and balance exercises into your routine.

Emotional. As we age and our hormonal balances change, it's natural to experience shifting emotions. Laughter is still the best medicine for staying balanced and energetic. Retirement, children moving far away, or the unexpected loss of family and friends are major life changes that can trigger depression. If you are struggling to find meaning and joy in life, counseling may help.

Mental. Keep your mind sharp by exercising your body and your brain. New challenges will keep your mind feeling young, and regular physical exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells while whipping older cells into shape.

Social. Thanks to instant communication, it's easier now than ever to stay in touch with family and re-connect with old friends. Regular social interaction stimulates brain cell growth and enhances well-being, reducing the risk for chronic illness. In addition to maintaining old friendships, make an effort to make new ones through volunteer work or travel.

Spiritual. Do you view change as "danger" or "opportunity"? Scientific studies show that individuals with spiritual balance in their lives are more likely to live longer, be healthier and effectively manage stress. Whether you are active in your local church or synagogue or find balance through daily meditation, when we fill each day with mindfulness, compassion and loving kindness, we are spiritually open to new opportunities on our life journey.

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