Cassie Shortsleeve wrote in Silver Sneakers by Trinity Healthy that getting older is inevitable, but feeling older? That’s a different story.
On average, people older than 70 feel 13 years younger than they really are, according to a study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences. Among study participants who were particularly healthy and active, the gap between subjective age and actual age was even wider.
But beyond health status—which probably doesn’t surprise you—what other factors can influence our perceived age? To find out, we asked top doctors and the youthful SilverSneakers community to share the habits they’ve found work best for staying strong, sharp, and current as ever.
1. Hang Out with Older and Younger Crowds
Feeling younger starts with seeking out people who are at least a decade your senior—who will expose you to new health behaviors, attitudes, and wisdom—and young children and teenagers, who will remind you what it’s like to see the world through innocent eyes, says Katie Rickel, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in Durham, North Carolina. “When we find ourselves only spending time with our peers, we often grow accustomed to the same activities, beliefs, interests, and culture of a single generation.”
2. Embrace Newness and Change
Traveling, ballroom dancing, painting, and volunteering are all some of SilverSneakers community member Joyce Fisher’s hobbies. Her philosophy: “Never say no to (almost) anything.”
Experts agree it’s a good motto. “When we learn a new activity or change up our routine, our brains need to rewire themselves to assimilate the novelty,” Rickel says. New synapses—which neurons use to communicate with one another—form and learn to fire in different patterns, she says. “This phenomenon helps promote brain health and rejuvenation.”
Even small, seemingly unimportant changes, such as driving a different route to the supermarket or reorganizing the cabinets in your kitchen, can make a difference. Read more