Life can begin, and can change significantly at any age, because of loss of a loved one, loss of a job role or the realization that the direction you were headed, was not working. Regardless of what led you to start life over, this process can be terrifying – and exhilarating. Starting over at 60 can actually be easier than trying to start over at a younger age, when your priorities and confidence were less mature than they are now. The alternative to not starting your life over is to make a choice to live the status quo and to ask yourself, “Is this good enough?”
Develop a Sense of Optimism
Change requires courage to look at yourself and your life with an objective, but critical eye. You can best improve and change your life for the better by emphasizing the positive features in your past, present and future. This is not to suggest that you forget your past, but it is important that you place it your past in context – because the future is the only thing you can control. Approaching it in a spirit of adventure and discovery, and embracing opportunities to learn who and what you are, can make a real difference. A 2014 study published in academic journal PLOS One showed that making a deliberate choice to focus on positivity plays an important role in your well-being as you age.
Evaluate Social Supports and Acquire New Ones
Social supports, which include -- but are not limited to friends and family -- are a vital source of resistance to stress. In addition, support networks are a context by which we determine our mood. Social support systems enhance health but there is a tendency for individuals in their 50's and 60's to lose some of these social supports. That's a serious risk, because social isolation - whether real or perceived - can increase your likelihood of premature ill health or even death. Some of your longtime friends will fall away when you're starting over, whether you're widowed or divorced, and this is perfectly natural. Your best response is to seek out new circles of acquaintance, online or especially offline, and reconstruct your emotional support system.
Maintain or Improve Your Physical Health
Preparation for starting your life over at age 60 should make your physical health a priority. Physiological changes after age 60 include a 15 percent decrease in the responsiveness of your neurological system, according Len Kravitz, Ph.D., in his article, "The Age Antidote," in “Age and Exercise.” Being or becoming physically active at age 60 does not prevent certain changes, but exercising continues to have preventative benefits. These benefits include a reduction in the risk of chronic and preventable conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes Type 2. Taking charge of your health can increase your sense of self-efficacy, which is a sense of motivation that comes from within.
Identify What's Important to You
As you start your life over at age 60, keep in mind that at this stage, you have more knowledge and experience than you had in your youth. You also have the opportunity to make different choices, based on your experiences and how earlier decisions made you the person you are now. Focus less on your age and more on possibilities that you can explore now when in your past, you could not or were too afraid. Consider that it is time for you to try out a new career direction, indulge a new hobby or live in an area that provides activities and opportunities that are important to you.
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- University of New Mexico: Age and Exercise
- Parade: Starting Over at 60 -- Two Best-Selling Authors Talk About Plan B
- PLOS One: Selective Control of Attention Supports the Positivity Effect in Aging; Laura K. Sasse, et al.
- Social and Personality Psychology Compass: Social Relationships and Health -- The Toxic Effects of Perceived Social Isolation; John T. Cacioppo, Stephanie Cacioppo
Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.