Eight Essential Ingredients for Resilient Aging

Time to read:    2 minutes

Title:                 Eight Essential Ingredients for Resilient Aging

Author:             Gail Wagnild

It’s been more than 30 years since I began studying resilience and longer than that since I began collecting stories from wise elders for insight into healthy aging. I want to share with you what I’ve learned from those who are aging resiliently.

I’ve measured resilience using the Resilience Scale in thousands of people and as people get older, their resilience scores tend to go up. Why is this? Resilience has been defined many ways but one thing we do know about resilient older adults is that they have lived long enough to have been dealt at least a few poor hands and have learned through experience, help from others, and sometimes trial and error, to make the most of what they have. They learn, grow, and adapt positively. These are hallmark characteristics of resilience.

The following eight recommendations are three decades in the making and as I enter the last third of my life, I’m sitting up and taking notice.

  1. Have a reason to get up in the morning. Continue to have purpose, direction, and goals even if you are planning for early retirement or have retired. Living a meaningful life often has a strong underlying spiritual dimension and affiliation with a faith community.
  2. Stay true to yourself. Know what’s really important to you and those values and beliefs you will not compromise no matter what. This will guide all of your decisions and help you live with courage.
  3. Aim for optimal health by making healthy lifestyle choices especially in the areas of nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
  4. Learn to live one day at a time and deal with stress in healthy ways. Drama and extreme responses are not a part of a resilient life. Balance is key.
  5. Stay engaged and interested in life. Priorities change to be sure but don’t withdraw and retreat from life unless it is a temporary period for contemplation.
  6. Don’t give up on goals that are important to you and don’t give up on people you care about. Don’t quit period. Keep going.
  7. Stay connected to others and give back to your friends and family generously and compassionately.
  8. Recognize and celebrate the confidence that comes with knowing that you have gone through tough times before and can do so again. No matter our age, each experience leaves us a little wiser and this leads to a very resilient life.

The late actress Bette Davis said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies”.  And it’s true. But resilient people can show us how to play some pretty tough hands and become more resilient in the process.