At what age are we considered “old”? A 2017 article from AARP says that people over 65 think that it’s closer to 74. Well, my husband is already 79, and I just turned 74! Luckily, we both get asked how we keep ourselves looking young. I am Asian, so sometimes that is considered a reason, but my husband is Caucasian, so what’s the better explanation? The secret must be something we are doing together. After some discussion, these are what we came up with as possible reasons.
1. Making Every Day An 8-Hour Day
After we married, he sold his business, I retired from teaching at the university, and we went on an 8-year honeymoon running around North America in an RV. We postponed settling down.
Excited, we could not shake the habit of lining up what we wanted to accomplish every day. For me, it consisted of an hour at the fitness center (we always selected campgrounds with one), an hour of cooking, 4 to 6 hours of visiting one or two landmarks in the area we were visiting, and journalling about them the rest of the day. He took care of keeping the RV clean and functional and playing sports.
When we finally settled down, we chose ViewPoint Golf Resort, a 55+ active community that would give us plenty of things to do. My day transitioned to this: 2 hours of social media and writing, an hour at the fitness center (including hot tub and sauna), an hour of cooking, 2 hours at clubs (I joined the computer, photography, karaoke, writing/editing, dancing, and poker clubs), an hour at the library, and an hour painting. My husband continued to have more sports-centric days but he joined me at the gym and library.
After dinner, we wind down by watching a mutually agreed movie plus a late-night TV show or reading books or magazines. During weekends, we prepare for the coming week by planning our meals, shopping for groceries, doing other errands, and going to church.
Thus, it was a smooth transition from working to “retiring.” Our weekdays remained as full 8-hour days, and our weekends stayed the same. But there is one key difference: The activities we immerse ourselves in are things we choose to do, not things we have to do.
2. Creating Special Days
Whenever we feel the need, we create special days that disrupt this routine. And it doesn’t have to be on the weekends. As a matter of fact, weekdays are usually better because there are no crowds at theaters, concerts, shows, restaurants, or travel destinations.
There are movies we must see in theaters, not just for theater popcorn but for the grand experience, especially during Oscar season. Classics at the Hale Theater have become part of our to-dos, along with occasional concerts or special shows at different venues.
To give my husband a break from my “excellent” cooking, we carefully research and pick exceptional places for both ambiance and cuisine to celebrate special occasions like birthdays, Easter, Mother/Father’s Days, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.
And travel sneaks in throughout the year. Day trips to parks are rites of renewal, especially during blooming spring days. Summer sees us road-tripping to the homes of our children and grandchildren (soon, a great-grandchild). Fall is the time for attending conventions or visiting new places to write about. And then we spend 3 months of winter in Mexico when Phoenix gets “too cold.”
3. Living With Lots Of Fun And Laughter
Socializing is a key part of corporate life, and we continued it in retirement. At ViewPoint, we not only have clubs, but we also love hosting dinners, get-togethers, and parties. In fact, we added a large sunroom so we can entertain better.
During COVID, I switched to the Pro version of Zoom so I could host more and longer sessions. Now that we can again meet in person, my mahjong sessions with friends have resumed. So have the Friday dinners with an alternating list of two other couples who join us. And on our birthdays and Christmas/New Year, we host bigger parties. These socials are venues for a lot of fun and laughter.
And there are other ways to feel giddy and laugh. Although the urban myth that children laugh more than adults has been debunked, still I keep the myth alive by being around little children. It is an absolute thrill to play with and try to think like our grandkids. In addition, we seek out younger (than us) souls to experience diverse interests and senses of humor. Finally, we have turned more and more to comedies like light action and rom-coms than his usual thrillers and my routine dramas.
4. Taking Care Of Health
I cannot emphasize this enough. In the first place, poor health will do the opposite of what we want: It will cut short our retirement days. And I believe there are several parts to this: exercise, nutrition, sleep, hydration, and looking well.
Exercise is key. ViewPoint has three fitness centers, one of which is just six houses away from us. My husband also likes to walk and hike. At times he succeeds in making me go with him. And at other times, I succeed in making him walk the mall with me (with shopping benefits!).
But what we put inside our tummies makes the most difference. Having been born in the slums of Manila, I have developed a grazing lifestyle that has always left me on the thin side. And since I am in control of the kitchen, my husband has gone with the flow. This lifestyle is based on three principles: portion management, diversity, and availability.
Eating behavior is complex and certain factors can make people continue eating despite being full. We practice portion management by capping our meals at 4 ounces of meat per person. So I make just the right batch. Even if my husband weighs more, he does not want more because his metabolism is slower than mine.
Diversity is important because craving results from boredom with the same foods. I have tried to learn how to cook those we have come to like. As a result, I can now make dishes from 14 cuisines and have developed a matrix of about 100 dishes in columns of chicken, seafood, vegetables, pork, and beef with preference for the first three. I use this in planning a week’s menu while adhering to a personal caveat: no dish can be repeated within a month.
Availability is as simple as it reads. I do not keep in the house food that is not good for us: candies, cakes, chocolates, sodas, and ultra-processed foods. What you don’t have you can’t eat, as my husband has discovered in his late-night forays. Instead, I have plenty of fruits and nuts.
And then, of course, there is sleep and hydration. My Fitbit tells me my sleep score when I wake up, and I deliberately slow my day when I did not have a good one. And I try to drink a lot of water plus a huge cup of chamomile tea with honey and vanilla at end of the day.
With these looking well will be a bonus to a longer life. But attention to a few more details enhances that outcome: colors that suit your complexion, cuts that complement your body type, hairstyles that complement a face type, accessories that finish a look, and make-up that highlights or hides.
5. Living With Purpose
But it’s something much deeper than the physical that will truly make the difference. Mental and spiritual health is sustained by living life with a purpose. Early in life, I thought that being useful was enough. Writing for TravelAwaits, for example, is satisfying because I can help other travelers in the same way I viewed the jobs I chose before.
But helping others and not getting paid for it is far more fulfilling. You give not only your time and talent for free but even share some of the treasure you have saved. There are so many who need help, who cannot provide for themselves, or who need just a little push to make their lives better.
My first volunteer activity was at the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) to help small businesses that are just starting out and did not yet have the means to pay for advice. Good tips can put them over the hump. My husband volunteered as a CASA, a court-appointed special advocate, who tries to save children from the grip of highly dysfunctional families and the trap of easy money, crime, and incarceration. Some focused attention is all they need.
My desire to meet Filipinos in America led me to fellow alumni of the University of the Philippines. We founded the UP Alumni Association in Arizona, and today we are supporting at least two scholars in the Philippines to graduate and help the country. We have even become a chapter of the national UP Alumni Association in America which is able to support more students.
In other words, looking and feeling young comes from a full life borne out of an openness to diverse experiences. Have full days, create special days, and fill them with fun and laughter. And don’t forget to take care of your health and live a life of purpose.