How to age happily, according to an occupational therapist

18 September, 2023
Family of 3 generations sitting around kitchen table

Our treasured occupational therapist, Kate Sheehan, shares her advice for ensuring you age joyfully, and the practical steps that can be taken to stay happy and healthy.  

Often people talk about ticking off those ‘bucket list’ activities, which often include adrenaline-fuelled activity or visiting wonderous places, but that isn’t for everyone, so we need to explore the common theme that underpins people’s motivation as they age. 

As we age, we often emphasise maintaining physical and mental well-being. Here’s how we can future-proof every aspect of our lives. 

 Maintain a healthy lifestyle 

Engage in regular physical exercise to keep your body active and strong. Incorporate a balanced and healthier diet and avoid excessive intake of unhealthy foods. Stay hydrated and get enough sleep to support your overall health. 

Stay cognitively active  

Keep your mind sharp by engaging in activities that stimulate your brain—reading books, solving puzzles, learning new skills, or engaging in challenging hobbies. 

Preventative healthcare  

Regular check-ups and screenings become increasingly important as we age, and in particular, always remember to look after hearing. 

Future-proofing your lifestyle changes 

You may recognise that your needs might change as you age, so be open to adapting your lifestyle. This may include adaptations to the living environment, diet, daily routines or embracing new technologies like installing a stairlift or a homelift that can help you remain independent. 

However, it is none of these points, despite their importance and relevance, that we think provides the theme or foundation of people’s motivations. Consider life in 2020 – 2021 and the implications of a global pandemic. There is little doubt that the long-term impact of Covid-19 within communities is a mental health pandemic. 

Certainly, some of the long-term mental health need is created by or exacerbated by the anxiety we all felt in varying degrees about the risk to our and our loved ones’ physical health, but also consider how it felt to have social interaction restricted and having said that we could no longer be free to choose what we did, whom we did it with and where we did it. 

Let’s consider what we missed: 

  • Meeting friends 
  • Playing/watching sports 
  • Going to the theatre or cinema 
  • Holidays 
  • Shopping 
  • Visiting family 

Ultimately, people find these things meaningful to them, and that is key to our happiness and enjoyment of life. 

Engaging in activities that are meaningful to us has both physical and psychological benefits. It enhances our well-being, improves our mental health, stimulates the mind, keeps us motivated and driven, and can help to keep us physically fit. It keeps us connected with friends, groups of people with the same interests, and society.   

There isn’t, therefore, one single ‘thing’ that holds the key to ageing and remaining happy; instead, engage in whatever is meaningful to you, whatever that ‘one thing’ is or ‘many things’ are, and make sure that they are the focus to ensure that our lives remain fun, healthy and enriched as we age. 

Whether caring professionally or looking after ageing loved ones, Kate Sheehan’s advice on caring for yourself as a carer, and having tough conversations with ageing parents, will provide a helping hand on your caring journey. 

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