No one stays young forever. Instead, we’re all surprised at the age that we currently are (assuming that we’re older than 25) and thinking back 5-10 years when we thought we were starting to get old, but now we realize we weren’t old at all. I know it’s not just me, because I hear it from everyone, at all ages!

While no one stays young forever, there are people who get old, and others who have simply lived a lot. We all know the second group when we meet them. They are the ones that we love to get to know and who inspire us. In 12 years of practice, I have gotten to work closely with both groups, and the people who are enjoying life into their 80’s (and beyond) have some common characteristics.

1) Attitude

We all know that attitude makes a difference, but do we really live that out? These people do. They don’t focus on regrets and what ifs and what they used to be able to do. They are focused on what they can do and living life now. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have regrets and don’t miss things, but they don’t focus on them.

One of my favorite role models is an 85-year old woman who was going through a lot of hard stuff, but said to me one day, “Every day is a good day. I refuse to let it be otherwise.” (By the way, she was in the midst of planning a 5 week trip to Europe at the time.)

Action: Good attitude is a skill that can be learned. A great place to get started is Shawn Achor’s TED talk, “The Happiness Advantage“. It’s short, lots of great takeaways and also, he’s hilarious. His book by the same name is also great and goes into more detail.

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Random photo of me hanging out.

2) Engagement

Another facet shared by the ageless is that they are engaged with life. They are learning about new things that interest them, they are connected with the people and the world around them. They sometimes have a difficult time fitting a PT appointment into their day around all of their other activities. They are not sitting at home watching life pass them by. They are always curious, always asking questions, always exploring. They are also better at being present in the moment and engaging with the people or activity at hand.

Action: Try something new this week. Maybe a different food. Turn down a road that you’ve never taken. Or take a moment to take a deep breath. Notice something that you like about where you are as you read this. Then, notice something that you don’t like.

3) One Movement to Rule Them All

We all know that movement is important. People who are living independently well into their 80’s and getting around well in their homes and communities definitely share the trait of being active. Not all activity is created equal, however. It is good to push ourselves with our physical activities, because that’s how we grow. However, letting ourselves get too beat up can haunt us later. Activities that we enjoy are going to keep us engaged and participating much more than things that we do because we “should” do them. Variety of movements allows us to try new things, use new muscles and keep from getting bored. People that I have worked with may ride bikes, dance, do yoga, etc.

But there is one exercise that they have in common, and it is…

(Drumroll, please!)

Walking.

Yep. Simple, plain old walking. Often, they have walked 2-3 miles a day for decades. Out of all the available movements to do, I make sure to make time to walk more, even if it’s the cliche “park the car farther away” trick. Walking outside in new areas, on varied surfaces is best, but any walking will do.

Action: Go for a walk!

We all fear aging to a certain extent, but another word for “aging” is “living”. People who do it well don’t suddenly learn how to be awesome, inspiring 85 year olds (after all, they’re as surprised to be 80 as we are to be whatever our current age is). They have been practicing learning and living and growing and improving their whole lives. We can learn from them and live more now.

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