If “gratitude” is one of those words you regard as too spiritual or “new age-ish”, it’s time for a serious rethink especially if you intend to age well both physically and mentally.
It’s actually all about the 'attitude' part in GRATITUDE. Your attitude is observable by others and they react accordingly. When you pull up to the drive-thru at Dairy Queen and the young woman at the window has made a mess of your order, she might understandably expect you to be ill-tempered. When you smile unexpectedly instead of growling at her, she feels better, is grateful and is more likely to pass on your sense of well-being. The impact of gratitude is far reaching. It can be contagious in the same way that random acts of kindness and forgiveness are but gratitude definitely has the greatest impact on you.
The positive psychology movement has much to offer, even if you are a bit skeptical. It has been scientifically proven that those who score higher on the gratitude scale tend to be in better moods, have a better quality of sleep, experience less anxiety and less depression. Appreciating the good in our lives actually causes a change in physiology by balancing the rhythms of our heart and nervous systems which leads to beneficial changes in our immune systems and hormonal equilibrium. Interestingly, the same principles apply to older adults as to the young.
A healthy sense of gratitude deepens our capacity to live well--- both physically and mentally, however, it requires awareness and attention. This often translates into slowing down, being mindful, observing carefully, and truly celebrating your life as you live it. It involves being satisfied and being accepting of life as it plays out.
Instead of lamenting older age, try to think of the experience it represents! It’s much more positive to say I have 69 years of experience than saying I am 69 years old. Being grateful that I wake up each morning is a gift which I appreciate.
Fortunately, learning how to be more grateful is one of the easiest skills to learn if you’re willing to practice. Science has proven that even these two simple exercises will make a difference in your life. It’s worth a try.
Find a little notebook which you entitle “Gratitude Journal”. Every night before going to bed enter from 3-5 things that you were grateful for during the day. You need to do this for about 6 to 8 weeks.By focusing on the positive, you will feel the difference. It will help shift you into a healthier, happier mindset.
Think of someone in your life who has had a positive impact on you. Identify some of the qualities that this person has and focus on how grateful this made you. This person’s kindness and help contributed to a positive feeling in you which affects the way your brain fires new neurons and develops neural pathways. If you try to emulate some of those character traits, your sense of gratitude can expand equally.
Gratitude has everything to do with your outlook on life. How well do you observe and appreciate those small, positive details of your life?
Opportunity surrounds you everywhere as long as you can spot it! If you subscribe to “out of the box” thinking, it will be easier. This kind of thinking requires creativity and, by this, I am not referring to becoming a painter or performer. Creativity is a skill that anyone can learn at any age.
In a fast-paced world amid rapid change, individuals tend to ignore the immediate and the present. They live in the future of deadlines and appointments. A wonderful way to overcome the natural propensity for being on top of everything is practicing mindfulness; it represents an understanding of living in the moment, a task that requires effort unless repeated regularly. If we can train ourselves to focus on the present, it helps slow down the outside world and provides time to reflect. Reflection is an activity that is critical to almost everything undertaken, especially when spotting opportunity.
Ideas spring both from within and from the outside world. If you have ever spoken to a child who hasn’t yet attended school, you’ll find that their imagination is resplendent with original thoughts. They are exploring the most basic concepts with awe and wonder. They are in constant “discovery mode”. It is this state of mind that we all need to adopt when looking for opportunity. We have to adopt a beginner mindset to break down the complex and come up with something new and untried.
Sometimes, it’s easiest to think through your day and journal it in its entirety----the good, the bad and the not so bad. Identify what has been frustrating or disappointing; it could be with a person, a process or a product. In order to turn this negative thought into a more optimistic message to yourself, can you think of creative ways in which you might remediate the problem? Sometimes the craziest idea is doable although it might need massaging to make it a reality. This could be the start of a new opportunity.
Another way of trying out new ideas is through association. Let your mind wander and write down any thought that comes to mind that is associated with the original idea. Take post-it notes and just let it flow; then rearrange or chunk them according to the subject matter, feasibility, innovation. Think of the absurd, the challenging, the unusual, the seemingly impossible. Very often, the most brilliant solutions come from making associations.
The idea doesn’t always need to be original. It can be a solution to an existing management problem, a manufacturing issue, a human resources issue or a customer relations issue. The most brilliant solutions come from turning ideas on their head and coming at solutions from another angle altogether. The birth of Airbnb comes from thinking about hotel accommodations without any hotel. Anything goes.
My favourite means of spotting opportunity comes from random encounters with people. It can be the passenger next to me on the plane, the pharmacist in the local drugstore, or my child’s homeroom teacher. Conversations spark creative thinking and I often find that I can come up with new ideas. Being in a certain place at the right time is pure and utter coincidence but it sometimes is a way of making disconnected ideas gel. Every meeting, conference, intentional or unintentional encounter is an opportunity to find a positive connection that moves you forward if you are of an entrepreneurial (learning, discovery) mindset.
Whether you think so or not, you are always part of the opportunity spotting process. Make sure personal biases and preferences don’t act as a block. If you have an aversion to online activity, force yourself to participate. Who knows, this may result in finding opportunities which you typically wouldn’t consider. Most importantly, stay positive. A pessimistic mindset focuses on and finds failure. An optimistic perspective looks for and finds opportunity everywhere.
Following a recent TV interview I found myself reflecting on the implications and challenges of finding oneself on an entrepreneur’s journey post first career. I was invited to be a guest on the show, “Ottawa Experts”, hosted expertly by Barbara Balfour. As callers reached out with questions, I was struck by how many people were struggling to find their feet following retirement. Several young people and spouses called in to the show to ask for advice on behalf of newly retired parents or partners. They expressed concern as they watched a growing despondency in their loved ones as retirement began to take root.
Again, it became clear to me that “retirement” as we once knew it is a double-edged sword. If you are lucky enough to have a healthy pension, your new found freedom can be intoxicating----you might travel, indulge in hobbies, volunteer for favourite charities or maybe just enjoy sleeping in… or not! For some people that level of open time can feel daunting, aimless if not overwhelming.
For others, the daydream of endless hours of relaxed time simply isn’t possible for financial reasons. The idea of countless years without a steady income can take on a nightmare quality as panic about how pending unpaid bills begins to sink into reality.
If unlucky and you have lost a needed job in later life, you may struggle to find meaningful, let alone, any work. In many cases looking for a job can take more than twice as much time as it does for younger counterparts. It doesn’t help when job experts say that ageism isn’t the reason people aren’t getting hired; “its about your attitude, not your age”. This is a refrain I’ve heard numerous times. It makes me want to take those experts aside and explain that a negative attitude results from searching for five years and watching less qualified candidates take roles you were chasing.
This is when I remind myself of some core principles of an entrepreneurial mindset. There is power in patience and in perseverance. Whether searching for work out of necessity or trying to find your footing post career, perseverance and patience are required.
Once I decided to find another venue to put my energy into, it took years before the idea of building an organization that could help older adults reinvest their passion with purpose came to me. I tried all kinds of things, from travel and volunteering to volunteering that involved travel. It took more time still until I could rally the resources to get started; then more time in development and piloting processes and programs.
Now on the cusp of a formal launch as a membership organization, I need patience as we develop an offering and build a sustainable membership program. I need to persevere in the face of learning all kinds of new “stuff”. Building a website, learning how to use social media, finding free images to put on blogs and in ads, understanding how to use our membership site to take full advantage of it. I never needed to know these things before but I do now which means I often have to remind myself how exciting it is to be learning new skills, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.
Whether the work is in rebuilding self-confidence that has been eroded by rejection or about putting personal power behind an idea that you held for years, you will need both patience and perseverance.
Tips for Building Perseverance
Find moral support from friends and/or family. Starting anything new requires commitment, loyalty and all kinds of support.
Engage with others who are experiencing similar challenges.
Set realistic timelines. If you are not sure how much time it will take to get something done, talk to people who have done it before or read about the experience of others.
Make sure you have the needed resources. It can be very disheartening to start something and not be able to finish it due to human or financial restraints.
Envision the challenges as part of the journey and enjoy yourself.
While living in a world that tends toward individualism, it is increasingly important to figure out where we “belong”, especially as we age. Many people, if and when they retire, lose a job, or have been unemployed for extended periods of time, realize for the first time how much they relied on their work colleagues as their most important community. What they fail to realize until much later is how much they had come to depend on these individuals or groups for friendship beyond the realm of work.
A common refrain from both men and women is that they experience a loss of identity and purpose on leaving employment and they never understood how much this would impact their sense of well-being, peace and comfort as they entered this next stage of life. An equally important consideration is the health factor and how loneliness, solitude and isolation affect mental well-being and the quality of our lengthened lives.
The term “community” refers to a group of individuals who share common beliefs or values, who support and encourage one another, who advocate for a common purpose and consequently experience a sense of belonging. Positive communities enable their members to discover their individual and shared strengths, promote self-awareness and harness the synergies of the collective; they are safe places where differing opinions are tolerated and respected. Positive communities work to foster a feeling ofauthentic connection among members by providing plenty of opportunities for interaction, learning, and possibility to achieve a goal.
Tips to avoid isolation and loneliness later in life:
Participate in a walking group
Volunteer to provide a neighbourhood service
Consider becoming a member of a faith community
Become a member of an interest group, book club, movie club, historical society or the Top 60 Over 60.
Although these activities are not necessarily communities, they may become communities if the right norms are created. For more information on the effects of loneliness and isolation, please see my blog, Linking Ageism and Loneliness.
As St. Patrick’s day approaches, I look forward to all the fun that follows. Green beer, green hair, green clothes and I’ve no doubt that someone, somewhere will be serving green eggs and ham. Best of all, we can hope for some of the luck of the Irish; perhaps a stray four leaf clover. But the truth is, if you are running a business or thinking about running a business in Ottawa, Ontario or anywhere in Canada, you’ve already accessed a fair bit of luck. If you weren’t born here, then you have been lucky enough to make your way to one of the best countries in the world, not to mention living in Ottawa, one of the best cities in the world to live.
There’s no question that luck plays a role in how you access available benefits, but location, place of birth and time of birth aside, if you’re waiting for luck to resolve your business challenges then chances are you won’t be in business for long. As much as entrepreneurial activity brings you freedom, it also requires lots of hard work and the ability to spot an opportunity or make the best of bad outcomes.
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell posits that it takes working at something for 10,000 hours before reaching expertise. What that breaks down to is that you will have to be in business for five years before you’ll have nailed the complexities of your own business. That, of course, presumes that the business, customers and the market remain static and unchanging during that period. Right. When was the last time a market remained static? The beauty and terror of globalization are that the movement of ideas is effortless. It’s no longer enough to figure out one way of doing things, you need to adopt a continuous improvement mindset. This isn’t about being dissatisfied, it’s about always staying open to new possibilities and new ways of doing things. In this way, you can avoid being blindsided by disruptive technologies. In fact, if anything, you are more likely to bring about the disruptive technology.
Tips for building luck:
Be open to new ideas: This involves deep listening. It’s not enough to pay lip service to new ideas. You have to really look at the possibilities, weigh the pros and cons and determine what would happen to the business if someone perfected the idea and entered your market.
Have a positive mindset: This is not about becoming a Pollyanna, but it is about taking a few lessons from an optimistic view of the world. Very few problems are resolved by wringing your hands and crying over the unfairness of things. You will feel better and are more likely to resolve challenges when you are in a positive frame of mind.
Learn resilience: When a block occurs take it as a learning opportunity. Every time you overcome a barrier you become better at it.
Embrace change: Change is always happening. It is inevitable and non-negotiable. Rather than fight it, embrace it. Look for the opportunities that come with change and take advantage of what they offer.
Use determination and focus: Nothing brings you luck like digging in and working hard. Build your vision, create a plan for achieving it, identify the opportunities and go after them.
This is about making your own luck; then when you succeed you can smile as people call you lucky.
The excitement of starting a business coupled with the demands of being an entrepreneur, family responsibilities and financial pressures can leave you too busy to even consider thinking about yourself. Before you know it, stress steps in and poor sleep leads to fatigue, fuzzy thinking, indecision and a whole host of other problems. Stress doesn’t only wear away at your health but it’s contagious and travels to employees and family members. Before things spiral, give yourself and your business a break.
A moment to pause and recentre can take as little as a minute of your time. Simply close your eyes and take a deep breath, counting slowly to four before releasing. Do this four times. If you want a little help with your focus, consider downloading the Headspace App for free. Headspace will walk you through short meditation exercises to help you stay in the moment and understand how the way we think impacts the way we experience the world around us
If you have more time, take a walk. You will actually be more productive if you take the time for a proper lunch break, especially if you move away from your desk to do it. Lunch time is also a good time to bond with coworkers and build rapport, but make sure not to turn lunch into a business meeting.
Socializing is another great way to relax and get your grounding back. Spend some time with grandchildren or go out for dinner with friends. Socializing doesn’t only relax you but helps mental health by increasing a feeling of well-being which in turn reduces the the risk of dementia and improves physical health by strengthening your immune system.
Quick Tips for Managing Stress
Do more exercise.
Take care of your body.
Get more sleep.
Encourage positive self-talk.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
Maintain connections with people who will love you no matter what.
Try relaxation techniques such as prayer, meditation or journaling.
Don’t underestimate the power of your mind. Nothing is fixed. You can increase your adaptive capacity.
This Valentine’s day give yourself and your business the gift of loving yourself.
The Top 60 Over 60 launches its first signature program.
In early 2018 a research project, ReSet, will be launched by the Top 60 Over 60 in partnership with the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation and supported by Ryerson University and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skill Development. The stigmatizing effect of ageism on older workers has a direct impact on productivity, innovation and the wellbeing of older adults and society. ReSet is a three module learning program designed to reduce internalized ageism and support participants as they explore their personal and professional potential.
The program challenges the youth centric beliefs that diminish the value and contribution that the older generation has to offer and introduces basic entrepreneurial concepts. ReSet is designed for people 55 and older who are approaching retirement age, or are in retirement and dissatisfied with it; or those who have been pushed out of jobs in later life and are now finding it difficult to re-enter the labour market.
ReSet will hopefully increase the confidence of older adults by framing their experience and knowledge as positive so that they, too, start to believe in themselves and their potential, possibly as entrepreneurs. As there has been little or no exploration of how self-directed ageism affects older Canadians’ view of themselves, we hope to gain a better understanding of the role of internalized ageism and identify gaps and challenges facing older workers.
The inspiration for ReSet originates with the Top 60 Over 60’s mission to provide support, advocacy and a learning community for entrepreneurial activity. Currently in its first phase of development, the focus is on de-stigmatising ageing and working with older adults as they explore and innovate later in life.
Volunteers will be needed for this research project which is currently undergoing the Ryerson Ethics Board review. For more information please see the ReSet tab on this website or contact Helen@topsixtyoversixty.com
It’s time to change misperceptions about our elders and the ageing process. It’s also time that we begin to own the problem and challenge it personally, with friends, family and in the workplace.
We tend to be unconscious of our own bias against older people, often thinking that the designation of “senior” or “older person” doesn’t refer to us but to “them”. In fact, most healthy people who are over 60 still consider themselves very much younger than their chronological age. The reflection in the mirror does not tell how we perceive our own ages.
Here are some ideas that will help build confidence and defy the notion of your “best before” date:
Don’t shy away from questions about your age. Embrace it and let whoever is interested know the actual number of years you have been around. Be proud of getting to this point in your life and avoid feeling less than adequate.
Change the question about age from “how old are you” to “what is your age”?
Interact frequently with children, youth and adults of other generations, including those older than you.
Move outside your comfort zone and feel the exhilaration of a new experience.
Role-model how satisfying this stage of life can be by talking about the many exciting opportunities you now have.
Foster awareness of ageing with young children so that they don’t fear it themselves. When children as young as 4 are asked if they want to grow old, they tend to reply negatively.
Invite longevity awareness in schools.
Redefine your life course by engaging rather than being enraged.
Take a later in life “Gap” Year or return to university or college to take other courses.
Try out new and different hair styles.
When you forget something, don’t refer to it as a “senior” moment. This just reinforces the misperception that older folks are more forgetful than younger people. Our brains are plastic but like hard drives in computers, they sometimes reach capacity.
I wonder how many of us realize that the impact of loneliness as we age is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes daily? Or that by the year 2050, 30% of Canada’s population will exceed 60 years of age? These realities have enormous implications for us as individuals and as a society.
Loneliness is extended solitude. Unlike solitude, however, which is often a conscious choice, loneliness usually results from some kind of loss --- personal, physical, professional or societal. Obviously, with age, we see friends and family pass away. What compounds this loss is the demise of the nuclear family. Children are as mobile as their devices and frequently live far away from their older relatives.
Add to these realities the once revered notion of retirement. Unwittingly, retirement often adds to a sense of isolation. Retirement was meant to be that time when we would be able to focus on travel, our hobbies or other enjoyable pursuits. Instead, retirement often signifies the loss of a network of colleagues and friends who are difficult to replace and who intentionally, or not, contributed to a sense of community. It is this sense of togetherness, unity, the social connectedness that is often missing post retirement and the resulting loneliness is one of the most significant contributors to failing health: specifically, heart disease, dementia and diabetes.
If our culture valued our elders for their numerous contributions instead of exclusively revering youth, individuals who once felt positively about themselves might feel more confident about engaging more in meaninful ways. It’s the diminished value that older people experience that makes them vulnerable to a loss of self-esteem, feeling positive about themselves and what they once were able to contribute to society. Their sense of purpose and meaning is questioned by a society that advertises remedies for aging instead of viewing older people as having something to offer.
Ageism (negative stereotyping based on age) is baked into our DNA the way sexism once was. It is so deeply embedded in our language and our psyche that even older adults have internalized the negative impressions that are inherent in ageist comments. We are unaware ourselves.
Ashton Applewhite expresses it better than anyone: “It's not the passage of time that makes it so hard to get older. It's ageism, a prejudice that pits us against our future selves -- and each other." Ashton Applewhite urges us to dismantle the dread and mobilize against the last socially acceptable prejudice. "Aging is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured," she says. "It is a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all."
To avoid the harmful effects of isolation consider the following:
Talk to Family and Friends: Reach out to family and friends every day, even if only by phone. Don’t be a reluctant to use technology to connect; virtual connections are also good for you.
Get a Pet: From small birds to big dogs, pets provide wonderful company.
Stay Fit: Get some exercise! Not only is it good for your mental health and contribute to your self-image, it can also involve social engagement.
Join a Club: Look for a club or Meet-Up of interest to you. Volunteer for an organization you find interesting.
Access Transportation: If you don’t have a car or access to transportation, reach out to your Local Health Integration Network and ask about transportation for the elderly (http://www.lhins.on.ca).
Start a Business or Not-for-Profit: if you can’t find a club or organization that you want to become part of, start one!
For one of the best TED talks and 11 minutes and 37 seconds that you might spend, I’d suggest listening to this.
When considering how to reinvent your later life, think of all the numerous possibilities that an aging population presents. The opportunities are endless with a little bit of imagination and the needed support to get started.
Here are a few general areas that will necessitate new ways of addressing issues for an aging population.
Housing and Transportation
The suburbs were built for a different era. Today we have concerns about carbon emissions and getting from the suburbs (or even more remote areas) to places of work, play, medical care and shops without further harming our fragile planet. None of us want to use our cars as frequently or unnecessarily. Add to this a burgeoning aging population and distance becomes an even greater concern for those who can no longer drive. What types/systems of transportation can we devise for our older friends and relatives?
How and where will we house those who are perfectly capable cognitively but may have physical disabilities? What new types of co-housing, mixed dwelling homes or communities can be established of mutual benefit to those who will need them. Nuclear families have been on their way out for decades and multi-generational living is no longer the norm in our culture. Additionally, Boomers who want to stay in their homes longer than previous generations will need increased help in maintaining their homes and gardens.
There are numerous innovative ways to cater to this growing market so that “aging in place” is possible. Designing new ways of living, commuting, and constructing for more seniors will be essential for successful longevity.
Health and Well-being
People often perceive older folks with a fatalistic lens of decline or deterioration. There are many ways of maintaining health that will involve a huge investment of informed trainers, physiotherapists, coaches among others. Strength and activity are key to aging positively. These activities need to begin sooner rather than later and are relevant to all generations. Today, we are far more concerned about how to maintain our well-being than in generations of the past.
Obviously with age, medical care and assistance will be needed at times. Access to facilities and services will have to be re-invented to accommodate the growing numbers of this older demographic. What new systems can be designed that won’t burden our already scarce healthcare resources? What new apps can be created to help monitor the well-being of seniors in crisis or in need, or simply to make their lives better? What types of homecare services are going to be available to maintain older people in their own homes? The Internet of Things will facilitate it all.
Education and Learning
Life-long learning isn’t just a buzzword. It has serious implications as people age, especially for those who care to remain active and relevant.
Municipalities and school boards offer continuing education that is often of interest to those who want to pursue courses of interest and hobbies. Universities and colleges are open to people of all ages and backgrounds, but if you have ever tried to register in courses as a very mature adult or wait on lines to register, you will realize that some of these services are unsuitable for older people. What are their needs as they enter this stage of life?
Training and retraining courses are on offer by organizations and as part of specialized programs but typically are intended for the more youthful. Where and how are the specific learning and skill development needs of older adults addressed?
Fashion and Design
How often do we consider the “age appropriateness” of a purchase? Is this due to an agist mindset or are there really differences in how we want to be seen and perceived? Whatever the response, there are endless opportunities to explore: new ways of fastening a garment, opening a can, designing furniture, creating patterns for clothing or any other product. The arts and culture provide numerous opportunities to be transformative at any age and for any age.
Both older and younger generations have a stake in creating new markets and making some of these changes available, accessible and affordable for an aging demographic. This presents an opportunity to find meaningful and purpose-driven work at every stage of life. Despite common myths that successful entrepreneurs are younger, it has been proven that older entrepreneurs are the most successful. Don't be distracted by age. Let us help you find your next venture!