08/09/2013 08:01 am ET Updated Oct 09, 2013

What Most 60-Year-Olds Just Don't Get


Much advice has been given to 20- and 30-somethings, but at 87 years old I think it's the 60-and-over set who could use a few life lessons.

And here they are:

You're not as young as you look. You're as young as you feel.

I have known grumpy, stick-in-the-mud 30-year-olds, and I have known incredibly adventurous 90-somethings. It is your attitude and optimism that define your spirit. Look at life as a gift and focus on what advantages you have, not what you are lacking. Be optimistic!

'Staying connected' doesn't mean being glued to the TV or that Smartphone.

Spend one day a week without TV or email. Don't fill your retirement with screen time. Socialization is a big factor in keeping your mind engaged, and reducing the danger of cognitive decline. Make an effort to reach out and dine with neighbors or friends; create a book group or coffee klatch. You will reap mental and social benefits, and it is much less depressing than a steady diet of "if it bleeds, it leads" TV news. A positive approach works wonders.

It's never too late for love. Seriously.

I should know. I married the love of my life at age 82. And yes, it was my first marriage. I would have never imagined, as a scientist in Tasmania that I would meet a retired neurosurgeon from Pennsylvania. But we met at RiverWoods, the continuing care retirement community where we both live, as colleagues on the Resident Council, and friendship bloomed into life-changing love. It is never too late.

Change happens, so choose your change.

A few things are certain -- death, taxes and, I would add, change. No matter what, your life is going to change. I know we all want to control our lives, but staying in the same house, shutting yourself off from company, and griping about the new neighbors with the loud kids, is not healthy. Go forward and embrace the change that you see in front of you -- plan what you want your retirement to look like. Travel, explore new interests, move to a retirement community sooner rather than too late, and make new friends. Look forward to your future. After all, some people don't have the future days and years that you have.

You may move slower, but that's a good thing.

Don't be fooled into thinking you can do what you once did. Everything's a little harder at this age, and takes longer. A harmless tumble at 30 can become a major injury risk after 60. If you're going to challenge your children or grandchildren at anything, stick to board games, cards, and trivia contests.

You can get back into shape no matter how old you are, if you do it right.

Sure, you're slower, but you can build stamina with a common sense approach to exercise. You'd be amazed at what your body can do. Remember, "slow and steady wins the race?" You're no longer the hare. You're the tortoise. Deal with it. A little routine activity, walking or other appropriate physical exercise, is good for the soul.

Look forward.

Memories are wonderful, but don't get stuck in reverse. Cherish the people and places you've known, but make new memories. Family relations will strengthen.

You can't take it with you.

Ditch the stuff that's tying you down -- donate it or dump it. De-clutter your home, your yard, your life. Part with unwanted 'stuff.' You'll feel liberated. Enjoy.

Mend fences now, before it's too late.

Got a feud going with a family member or a friend? Kiss and make up now, before one of you dies. Think I'm kidding? At your age, it's a real possibility, so take the first step, extend a hand, and apologize (even if it's not your fault).

Time is a friend, not a foe.

You've made it to 60, so appreciate the accomplishment and use all that experience and, yes, wisdom, to enjoy the next 10, 20, 30 years. Share what you know with others. Pass it forward.

Nancy Alcock Hood, 87, was born on Tasmania, an island state off Australia. She currently lives at RiverWoods Retirement Community in Exeter, NH. A biochemist, she worked for the Rockefeller Institute and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute before accepting a faculty position at the University of Texas's first Medical School. After her retirement and move to RiverWoods, she reconnected with a professional colleague, Henry Hood, a retired neurosurgeon also living at RiverWoods. Their friendship grew into love and, as she says, "the penny dropped" and they were married, her first wedding at age 82. Henry has since passed. Nancy keeps in daily contact with her sister in Tasmania via their iphone and Skype, and continues to travel the world.

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