Scientists, researchers and quick-fix lovers have long been on the hunt for a fountain of youth. But there's no magic pill required to create a vibrant present and an active retirement, according to "Master Class: Living Longer, Stronger, And Happier," a new book by Peter Spiers, the senior vice president of educational travel nonprofit Road Scholar.
"There are 40 million Americans 65 and older today; by 2050 that number is expected to double to 80 million," Spiers told Huff/Post50. "That's a lot of human potential that can be either wasted or realized."
Spiers looked to the most active post 50s and interviewed hundreds of men and women across the country to get insight on how to make the most of this "new life stage," in which "work has ceased to be the central focus of their lives," he writes.
"What continued to amaze me was how full and busy these lives are," Spiers said. "One person told me 'I'm so busy I need to retire from my retirement!'"
Through interviews and research, Spiers found these "masters," as he calls them, all engaged in activities that involve at least two "dimensions of the Master Way of Life": socializing, moving, thinking and creating. "[These are] the key elements of a holistic way of life that will bring you happiness, optimism and physical and cognitive health."
"I'm 57," Spires said. "But I'm thinking about things I can do ... now to sort of set myself up for a successful retirement. I played a musical instrument when I was a kid, but I've always wanted to play the guitar [and] in the fall I hope to begin lessons. I know it's a long learning curve, [but] I don't want to wait until I'm 70 to start."
Many of the 31 activities listed in "Master Class" -- like gardening and birding -- may seem like simple, well-trod territory. But, Spiers asks, what's wrong with learning from the past? "Boomers will no doubt put their own stamp on this stage as they have with every other stage, but why embark on a trip without a map?" he said.
And, Spiers continues, just because the activities look easy doesn't mean they are. "It requires some energy and willpower on your part," he said. "The concepts are easy but realizing, living the concepts does take some attention."
Take a look at the 14 activities Spiers enjoyed most in "Master Class," along with stories from the "masters" who are living longer, stronger and happier.
"I have over ten thousand names in my [genealogical] file and am hooked on not just the facts, but the story-writing. I reconnect with cousins I haven't seen since I was a teen. I meet new relatives online and in person, even fifth cousins, who I never know I had... There's nothing like knowing that you had an ancestor in the Battle of Saratoga..." -<em>Jean Benning</em>, 75
Cultural Immersion Travel
"I traveled with the Hershey (Pennsylvania) Community Chorus to sing in Wales. When you visit the valleys in the east it's like going back in time; people aren't attached to their computers and mobile phones. I started renting an apartment in the city of Pontypool for six months a year. Now I have a lot of friends there and even volunteer at a shop where the proceeds support cancer research." -<em>Judith Emmers</em>, 69
"I'm lucky enough to live across the street from a gym. I go over there two mornings a week and work out for an hour at 5:30 a.m., and then see a trainer for another hour. I also do water aerobics three times a week. I do it so I can keep doing the things I love, not because I love the exercise. I didn't start exercising until I was sixty-six." -<em>Corinne Lyon</em>, 74
"I spent my seventieth birthday in a hot tub six thousand feet up Mount Hood. I didn't want my kids to think they had to do something special." -<em>Carolyn Rundorff</em>, 71
"A group of us organized a trip along the Natchez Trace from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. We researched stops and places to stay, and every day one of us was the designated driver to haul the gear. You want to know the people fairly well before you set out on something like this. We covered 444 miles in less than a week." -<em>Bill Dunn</em>, 65
"We started the Canetti Literary Society in December 1981. [Elias] Canetti...had just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I have a Masters in Literature and had never heard of Canetti. So I thought it was a good time to read his work, and the best way would be to have a book club with other women who might be interested in reading good literature. We are still in existence." -<em>Anne Richtel</em>, 95
Volunteering As A Docent
"I'm training to be a museum docent at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The training to be certified is rigorous -- six hours a week for six weeks, then shadowing a certified docent, then delivering your spiel to two different staff members in two different areas of the museum." -<em>Therese Wilkin</em>, 63
"I began morris dancing in 1984 and long sword dancing in 1989. These forms are English and date back several centuries. I get exercise; a very close bond with a group of people of both genders and a variety of ages; the challenge of learning and performing a wide variety of rather complex and demanding dances; and the satisfaction of helping keep ancient traditions alive and growing." -<em>Robert Orser</em>, 79
"It is lovely to come to this physical and spiritual, scientific and creative body of knowledge at this point in my life. When I talk over the back fence with my gardening neighbors or give someone a bouquet of flowers from my garden, I know just how my grandmother and mother felt when they did the same thing." -<em>Ally McKay</em>, 68
Singing In A Choir
"We had one piece that we were doing at a festival, which we had only a short time to learn, and we rehearsed on the bus to Abilene. We were the last to perform, and our director was very nervous. We rehearsed one last time before going on, and everyone in the choir got every note right. It's a pleasure you can't understand if you haven't done it. It really keeps you going." -<em>Mary Roberson</em>, 70
"The best part of community theater is that no one cares about your politics, your religion, or your money. Everyone's on the same bus. I've gotten so much out of it. My closest friends come from there. The ones I depend on, the ones who have my back, come from the theater." -<em>Ellen Kazin</em>, 71
"When I retired I took several Road Scholar watercolor trips and subsequently read everything I could find on Winslow Homer... My wife suggested that I had uncovered so much material on Homer that I should write a book... The rewards are beyond my fondest dreams...I believe that has brought me as close to the Master as one can get." -<em>Robert Demarest</em>, 83
Learning A Foreign Language
"I started [studying Italian] when my husband and I were planning our first of four Road Scholar trips to Italy. I have found other people -- over two hundred of them, to be exact -- in an organization called Il Circolo Italiano on the Philadelphia Main Line, who come together to speak and promote the Italian Language and culture... They are the warmest people you would every want to meet." -<em>Jean Benning</em>, 75
Volunteering With Habitat For Humanity
"I wanted to do something in retirement that would give back to the community and to people in need, and this seemed to be an excellent candidate... The major reward is seeing families that are living in great need...partner with us in building first other people's and then their own homes, and then move into what in most cases is the first home they have ever owned." -<em>Robert Bond</em>, 75