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Experience Life Article about "Fearless Aging"

April, 2016 issue of AARP Bulletin

New York Times article
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January 18, 2015
"I am so busy; I don’t know how I ever got everything done before I retired." Sound familiar? When I was working full time and heard my retired friends talk about how much busier they were now that they were retired, I thought, "Maybe there is a little exaggeration going on here. How can they have so much to do?" But now that I no longer work full time and live around a lot of retired people, I get it.

It is easy to stay busy. If I wanted to, I think I could fill every day with dining out, happy hour, a little exercise, and a meeting or two. Throw in some volunteer work, family time, travel, entertainment and an encore career, and my calendar would be bursting. Studies have shown that being active and staying connected are important factors in aging well. But is there more to taking care of our well-being than just being busy? What about the quality of the activities that keeps us busy?

Well, it turns out that just staying busy isn’t enough. The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College conducted research on how the quality of older adults’ activities affects their well-being in four areas-work, caretaking, education and volunteering. In Engaged as We Age: Just Do It?…Maybe Not! , researchers report that when people are engaged in an activity rather than just being involved, well-being goes up. For the study, involvement was defined as participation in an activity. Engagement was defined as the quality of one’s connection to an activity or role or the act of attaching psychological importance to an activity or role.

The study surveyed 850 people and divided them into three age groups: younger than 50 (26 percent of respondents), 50-64 (45 percent of respondents) and 65 and older (29 percent of respondents). One of the main findings of the study was that "Well-being appears to be considerably enhanced for those who are highly engaged (not just involved) in activities. The depth of engagement may be even more consequential for well-being later in life." Researchers also found that being involved but not engaged in one of the four areas studied "is about as good for one’s well-being as not being involved in the activity at all."

How can you engage more and improve your well-being?

  1. Clarify Your Life Purpose-Purpose is what gives life meaning. Richard Leider defines purpose as where our passions and talents intersect with a need. We feel more engaged in activities that align with our life purpose.
  2. Explore-Try something new. Take a risk. My mother always said, "Try it; you might like it" when she was trying to get us to eat new foods. It was sound advice then and it still is.
  3. Listen to Your Inner Voice-How do you feel before, during and after an activity? Do you look forward to it? Does it energize you and make you want to do it more? Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi talks about the importance of experiencing "flow", being completely involved in an activity, and its importance to happiness.
  4. Clear Some Space- It may be time to say no to some activities that aren’t engaging in order to free up time to find what is.

"Just do it" is great advice, but maybe "Just do it with heart" is better.

©2010 Ageinista L.L.C