It’s a simple concept – and certainly not new – that finding balance in your life after 60 may be one of the most important things you do to prepare yourself for the years ahead.
You may think that most of your challenges are behind you, but the natural progression of life dictates that unexpected things will happen to you as you age. Few people are ready, as they reach 60, for the onslaught of physical and neurological changes that confront them.
These challenges may come quickly, or take several years, but you will not be able to ignore them. They will interfere with your well-being and disturb the sense of balance that you have nurtured over the years.
Here are some of the changes (not counting infectious diseases), according to the AARP, that you can expect as you move toward your 70s and 80s:
You may experience changes in the ear canal and eardrum, resulting in hearing loss. This happens to about 45 percent of people over 60, rising to 68 percent among those over 70. The ability to hear high-frequency tones is usually the first to be affected.
You might find it harder to see in dim light. People over 60 need three times as much light to read as 20-year-olds. After age 60, the incidence of macular degeneration increases.
The risk of heart disease rises with age: It’s the leading cause of death for people 75 to 84.
Rates of cancer increase with age, with the majority of cancer cases occurring in patients older than 65.
You will think your body is conspiring against you. You begin to experience aches and pains that were never there before – colds that won’t go away, shaky hands that interfere with even simple tasks and heart palpitations that frighten you.
When you get a medical check-up, doctors tell you that these changes shouldn’t surprise you – after all, you are getting older. Due to a weakened immune response, you can expect these problems more frequently.
As these challenges escalate, you begin to accept that losses might be your new normal. However, recent research assures us that not everything is bleak after 60, and that more positive changes, both physical and psychological, might be on the horizon.
Here are some facts you may or may not have heard before:
- If you’ve been active all your life, your bones, joints and muscles can stay in reasonably good shape during your 60s.
- An older heart can pump about the same volume of blood with each beat as a younger one can.
- Allergies, which result from an overactive immune system, are probably a thing of the past, because your immune system isn’t as sensitive.
- Sex in your 60s can be better than ever: You’ve got more time and fewer distractions.
- While many older people in their 60s start to worry about Alzheimer’s, the risk of developing this disease is fairly low in your 60s.
Recent research shows that many aspects of the brain are plastic and can be altered even in adults. The brain is constantly adapting, and neurogenesis – i.e., the growth of new brain cells – can continue well into your 60s and beyond. Thus the capacity to learn new things stays strong, according to geriatric researchers.
Studies show that older people are the happiest demographic, and they are significantly happier than their middle-aged counterparts.
This may be due to a learned ability to deal better with hardships and negative events. Also, being older has made them more uninhibited and less concerned about pleasing others.
As you age and experience new things, you are better able to differentiate between what matters, and what doesn’t. You are better at identifying the things that are within your control, and the issues that are best left to others.
At this stage you have finally learned to worry less and appreciate more. Now that you know what is important to you, it is an excellent time to pursue dreams and passions that you have put on hold.
You know what you are capable of. As a result, you set realistic boundaries and you stop selling yourself short. You are no longer so afraid to fail, and are now able to start taking the chances and risks that you hesitated to take in the past.
This stage results in a sense of inner freedom, allowing you to express yourself authentically – something you have always yearned to do.
If there’s a message in this anywhere, it would be that age has given you the perspective to appreciate that there are losses in life, and that you are strong enough to accept them. Age has also provided you with unique benefits that can only be derived from living a long time and gaining wisdom.
Somewhere between the pain of loss and the certainty that comes with knowing that ‘when one door closes, another one always opens,’ you will have learned how to strike a balance.
How do you approach the positives and negatives in your life? Do you tend to keep score, thinking, “Well, this bad thing has happened, now I’m due for something good to happen for me”? Join the conversation about reaching a point of balance in your life!