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  • Writer's pictureKaren Herbert

5 Surprising and Fun Strategies to Thrive at Age 65

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

This is my 65th year. Here are 5 ways I'm making the most of my years, explained with selfies!

My mother was 64 years and 9 months when she died, and I was cognizant of that fact as my birthday approached. I wanted a memorable celebration, and I got one! With my intrepid sister as my companion, I sailed on a weeklong cruise that posted a birthday message any time I waited for an elevator. What a fun week of celebrating and being grateful to reach this milestone.

Jane Brody, octogenarian and Personal Health Columnist at the New York Times, recently gave the inside scoop on healthy aging and shared her philosophy on how to age better: “Our goal shouldn’t be to add years to our lives, but to add life to our years.” She gave this advice in 2022: adapt to your physical challenges, keep your gut microbiome diverse, take care of your cognitive health, and exercise regularly. I've added a few of my own strategies.

1. Challenge Yourself Physically

One of the main recommendations for good health in the "senior years" is exercise. I wanted to find an activity that didn't hurt my aging knees and hips, and swimming fit the bill. But I hadn't been swimming in decades. Before I got serious about swimming for exercise, I wanted to refresh my minimal skills.

The YMCA here offers adult swim lessons, and soon I was (slowly) doing laps. It's relaxing to be in the water, and I'm still slow. My advice - use goggles and a swim cap.

If swimming doesn't appeal, or you have mobility challenges, try chair workouts. I enjoy doing those too, either stretches or yoga. If you've played a sport in your youth, find a senior league and take it up again. So many possibilities!

2. Engage in Meaningful Work

When I was approaching age 62 and thinking about "retiring" from my trio of part-time jobs, I found the perfect job for me. Interviewing and accepting that position was the right thing for me to do, even in my 60s. Every day is different, and using my STEM skills is rewarding. The most important thing - working with college students is keeping me young.

In the Gas Chromatography Lab at work

Many seniors are creating a second career after retiring or losing a job. I've read about a teacher who now tutors, a secretary that now does funeral consulting, and a manager that became a personal chef. It may not be right for everyone to work a full 40 hours a week at this time of life. But "meaningful work" comes in many forms: gardening, hobbies, or volunteering.

3. Value Your Wellbeing

After years of being a "mom" with all my time revolving around family responsibilities, I am now focusing on Karen.

Shopping for clothes was never at the top of my list, but after decades of the mom uniform of sweats and tees, I found a style that suits me. If you are curious, it's the classic styles at Talbot's. It was a surprise to find a brick & mortar establishment in my small town and the customer service is excellent. And Talbot's has great sales!

Another way I value my well-being is by getting regular massages. I can't tell you how much better my old muscles feel after a hot-stone massage, especially my hip, which has a small tear in one of the muscles. The cost is a splurge, so I just schedule one every other month or so, but this self-care is worth it.

One more splurge that I enjoy - favorite treats. Life without chocolate, ice cream, or pasta would be bleak indeed. So give yourself permission to indulge on occasion.

(at Talbot's on Black Friday buying for me: a quick photo at the spa just before my massage; and meeting friends for the best frozen custard in the Midwest)

4. Explore the World

I love traveling! When you travel and get outside your normal environment - there is nothing like it! I've seen the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, and other global landmarks. I also enjoy traveling in the United States. Look around your state and think about a weekend getaway. If you are solo, I bet there are trips planned by your county Parks & Recreation Department.

Even just a trip by yourself to a museum or a zoo is an exploration. Finally, you can read all the information about the artist or the animal. ALL the information, without rushing after your children.

(on Orkney Island, Scotland; a heritage apple orchard on the Appalachian Trial; at the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana)

Maybe you enjoy the comforts of home. In Katherine May’s latest book, “Enchantment,” she describes how a simple series of actions helped her to discover little things that filled her with wonder and awe — and, in turn, made her feel alive again. “You have to keep pursuing it until you get that tingle that tells you that you’ve found something that’s magical to you,” Ms. May said.

5. Engage in Your Community

Guard against "mental retirement" by staying engaged in your community. While solitude can be soothing, isolation can also bring on depression.

Harvard researchers followed 724 individuals for 80+ years. They found that the #1 indicator of a person's happiness is "social fitness." I read about the study recently and took a quiz to find out if I was socially fit.

My results: You thrive being around others, and are comfortable in most social environments. You have found community in different realms of your life, whether it’s at work, with old or new friends, or around your neighborhood. Your strong ties help you cope with life’s ups and downs.

(With friends to try whitewater rafting; demonstrating with local activists; my book club)

My inspiration for thriving at age 65 is my high school typing teacher from the 1970s, Thelma Hartnett. I kept in touch with this amazing woman, who was still traveling at age 90. She also worked part-time at the school, contacting alumnae for the scholarship fund. Other activities in her ninth decade included playing golf, doing jigsaw puzzles, and ushering for community theater. Eventually, she had to slow down, but at my last visit when she was 98 years old, she was still writing letters to alums at her dining room table. Thelma made it two more years, passing away at age 100. I hope to do that as well!

Visiting Thelma Hartnett a few months before she turned 99.


Disclaimer: I received no compensation from any organization or company mentioned. I wrote about them because I'm a satisfied customer.

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1 Comment

Apr 13, 2023

Hi Karen, I enjoyed your commentary on being 65. Keep on keeping on! Barb Thayer

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