5 tips for purposeful aging

Live—and age—with purpose

Does it feel like life is zooming by? Instead of focusing on living longer, let’s take a closer look at living purposefully. Research shows that engaging purposefully as one ages can elongate one’s life and may lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Purpose is a preventive health measure!

For insight, four 60+ folks shared their experiences. Joanne Dallaire, 68, Shadowhawk Woman, Wolf Clan, Omushkego, is an elder and traditional counsellor. Ron Cameron-Lewis, 74, is a lifelong dramaturge, professor of performance, and writer. Fredelle Brief, 76, has worked as a social worker, teacher, facilitator, and peace activist. Michael Brecher, 94, is a political science professor. Here’s how they live purposefully every day.

Look for the positives

What do people love about getting older? “It is daunting and exciting, both,” says Dallaire, “this interesting phase of life.” Instead of seeing life now by months or years, she views it in “decades and milestones.”

Feeling grateful for more time was what Cameron-Lewis emphasizes: “With each passing year, I am thankful.” Brief points out, “I love the perspective of my age.” And for Brecher, it is the love of and pride in his three children—watching them flourish and succeed.

Make your own decisions

“As of my sixties,” explains Dallaire, “I started to focus on myself. Just myself. Enough about everyone else!” She adds, “Aging has brought with it freedom.” Freedom about making choices on one’s own terms. “I really trust myself—I can get myself through anything.”

Be curious

Brief feels that her “sense of wonder and curiosity” have supported aging well. “All my life,” she explains, “I have been fortunate to never suffer from boredom. I can wait for a half-hour for a streetcar and watch people moving up and down the street, see the different shades of green, watch the changes in light, look for birds, and on and on, and if there are people waiting with me, I will chat with them.”

Stay busy

“I don’t have time to look forward to getting older,” reports Cameron-Lewis. “I’m still so active. I haven’t stopped to think about what’s ahead because I keep getting such interesting new opportunities; I embrace each one that comes along.”

Adopt healthy practices

“I am as active as I can be,” says Dallaire, “eat all the correct foods, drink lots of water, and splurge on what keeps me mobile.”

Brecher’s two non-negotiables are continued academic teaching and research and a daily physical exercise regimen that includes 90 minutes of working out in the gym and an hourlong afternoon walk.

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