Ever wondered what the recipe is to a long, healthy and happy life? Well, as it turns out, there isn’t a one size, fits all approach. In fact, the varying degrees of life advice from old people all around the world is a shining example of just how many options there are to live your best and most satisfying life.
Of course, some may be a little more unorthodox than others. From the late supercentenarian, Susannah Mushatt Jones – who attributed her 116 years of age down to a daily serving of bacon to Ephraim Engleman, the doctor who worked right up until 100 years of age, discounting the need for exercise, vitamins or “going to a lot of doctors, either.” There are all sorts of pearls of wisdom out there.
If you’re looking for life advice from those who’ve been there and done that? Keep reading…
Never give up on your dreams
Starting off with a proverbial bang – and it may sound incredibly cheesy – this is a classic piece of life advice. You may even be reading this with a resounding nod. Because, let’s face it, we’ve all pondered at some point what could have been if we had the confidence to really go for our dreams.
But the great news? It is never too late. Take 70-year-old Diana Nyad – the inspirational woman who overcame much adversity and – who, at the age of 64 years old became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage for protection. A key piece of life advice from Diana? “We should never ever give up; you’re never too old to chase your dreams.”
Need further proof? Great-grandmother, Georgina Harwood, decided to up the ante once becoming a certified centenarian. How so? By celebrating such an occasion with a skydive, shark dive and hike up Cape Town’s Table Mountain.
While we’re not suggesting that every dream needs to be of such a high calibre, it does shine a light on how at any age if you put your mind to it, you can achieve something you’ve always wanted to. As 75-year-old Motivational Speaker, Les Brown simply put, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
Try to keep active
One of the most sage pieces of life advice from those who’ve lived it and learned it is to keep moving. Whether it’s a walk, run or hike up a mountain, it can be crucial to living a longer life.
Studies show that exercise can boost life expectancy. It can also help you to age at a slower pace and live a healthier, more vigorous life. Further research also highlights that a lifetime of exercise can help to defy the ageing process. From an increased immunity and muscle mass to possessing cholesterol levels of a young person.
But it’s never too late to increase your steps and get moving.
An inspiring example of this is 99-year-old war veteran, Captain Sir Thomas Moore, who raised a staggering £15m for NHS staff after reaching his goal of walking 100 laps of his garden during the pandemic. Showing just how much our bodies are capable of when we put our minds to it, it highlights that even in the most unprecedented and challenging of times, it’s important to keep going.
As the late Susan O’Malley – author of the 2016 book Advice from My 80-Year-Old Self – found when compiling an abundance of essential life advice from older people, it’s important to “appreciate your body, especially when it’s working.
Think positive thoughts
Studies show that those who employ a greater sense of optimism are more likely to live longer and achieve something called “exceptional longevity” What does that mean exactly? Living to age 85 or older. Interested? The study also highlighted that people who had the highest optimism scores had a lifespan of roughly 9% longer than people with lower scores.
With an exceptional amount of negativity seemingly suffocating us at times, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism or a general expectation that good things will happen, but the benefits speak for themselves.
From the ability “to regulate emotions and behaviour and bounce back from stress and difficulties more easily,” the research also showed that optimistic people tended to have healthier habits which could extend their lifespan.
One way to try and inject some instant positivity? Take a leaf out of Dr Manfred Diehl’s book. As a professor of human development and family studies at Colorado State University, his focus lies on successful and healthy ageing. Try these positive emotion exercises to kick things into optimistic gear
Make the best use of your time
This can be tricky because if you’ve reached a certain time in your life, you may not be sure of the best way to utilise your time. Old habits and lifelong commitments can pose a problem. If that’s the case, how do you go about changing this? Confused? Great. That’s an excellent place to start.
The first step in assessing how to make the best use of your time is to see what else you’re dealing with, right? So, pick up an organiser, jot down all the activities, events and commitments you’ve signed up to and see what you’re left with. The rest is down to you.
That’s not to say it will be an easy task. With so many distractions around us, life can be, well truly and utterly exhausting. But the good thing is that you get to decide which path you want to go down. Whatever it may be, from picking up a new hobby, meeting new people or making adjustments to your home life, it’s important to set goals and work in ways in which you can achieve these.
85-year-old, world-class record-breaker athlete, Flo Meiler is a great example of this. Deciding to take up track and field at the age of 60, after watching the pole vaulting competition at the Senior Olympics, she had a thought, “They weren’t pole vaulting very high. And I said to myself, you know, I think that I could do better than that.”
Not into Pole Vaulting? No problem. Find out what you want to do with your time and take the necessary steps to make it happen. Channel Flow when you channel life advice. Why not you? Why not anyone? Life is what you make it, after all.
Take time for yourself, every day
From social commitments to home life and everything else that sits in between, the day can come and go without you even taking a moment’s thought for yourself. But it’s important to slow it down and schedule in some “you time” every day. Why? The benefits speak for themselves.
Not only can it refresh and re-energize your mind and body, but it can also improve your self-esteem and give you a more improved sense of purpose over time. And don’t ever let age put you off indulging in “you time”, as well as remembering that self-care can come in many forms – even in the way you get dressed every day.
As Albert Einstein once famously said, “I have reached an age where if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.”
It’s important to remember that taking time for yourself isn’t a competition and doesn’t always have to be a huge new venture. Sometimes it’s a moment to put your feet up, pop on your favourite guilty pleasure, whether it’s a TV show, song or opening up a chapter in a book. You may even decide to sink into a luxurious bubble bath. That may very well be the best use of your “you time” at that moment.
Embrace your individuality
Hands up. How many of us have spent time questioning our identity? Our quirks, our habits, our emotions, behaviours and thoughts? We thought so.
Embracing your individuality and owning yourself is largely about acceptance. And it can often be a struggle to get there. But it’s important to know that it’s not just about accepting and loving the parts you like and admire about yourself. It’s also to do with the parts you may not be so keen on. The parts that you worry might hold you back or stop you from achieving what you think it is you might want.
It can be a long road but a crucial piece of life advice is that once you stop focusing on your perceived weaknesses and instead realise that these are the exact things that make you the complex, unique and wonderful individual you are, the more fulfilled and rich your life will be.
“The things that make you unique, the things your mother wants to change about you, the things that make you so different from those you go to school with, are the very things that will bring you success, happiness and a modicum of real fame. The things that will make a difference to the world. The things that will give you a richly textured and deeply happy life.
You are not weird, you are actually quite special. Keep it up, do not swerve from your ideals, and…do not despair!”