If active aging is your goal, then eating right, getting enough physical and mental exercise, and keeping your stress levels down are all central to success. And just how successful you are depends a great deal on your physical abilities, psychological state, and the behavior patterns or habits that influence the day-to-day decisions you make.

Over the years, changes to your body, personal relationships, professional life, and income can be humbling as you start to realize your limitations and lose the need to prove yourself to others. You may hesitate to try something new or try something you haven't done in a long time. According to New York psychotherapist Nicole Breck, LCSW,  having confidence in yourself and maintaining your self-esteem is half the battle.

"There is a certain amount of freedom in realizing that you're trying something for yourself if you don't have any expectations about success or failure and just see that the importance is in the doing," she says.

The other half of the battle, she adds, lies in what is known as self-efficacy, or the belief that you can actually carry out the steps required to reach your goals, that you will succeed at what you try to do. It's what motivates you to bounce back into the game.

"You may know you're capable of learning to knit or trying aerobic exercise," she gives as an example. "The question is, are you motivated enough to sign up for a class and stick with it?"

If you are bored or lonely, but lack the interest or energy to participate in an exercise program, join a club, start a new hobby, learn a new skill, or look for a job, you may need to adjust your expectations, look for programs specifically designed for older adults, or spend some time figuring out what's holding you back.

"Success doesn't mean being the best at something," Breck says. "It means you've reached your goal."

Local hospitals, libraries, and community centers often sponsor classes, programs, and activities for older adults. By engaging in some of these activities, you may meet new people who are interested in and trying to stay involved in many of the same activities as you.

"Self-efficacy is to old(er) age as resiliency is to childhood," Breck explains. Resiliency means succeeding despite hardships; self-efficacy comes from the knowledge that you've succeeded in the past and will do so again.

"Rather than shrug your shoulders and say 'I'm just too old,' turn that thinking around to say 'Why not?' she advises. "You have the time, you might have fun and, at this point, it is more important than ever to ask yourself: If not now, when?"



Nicole Breck, LCSW
New York, New York

Robins, R. and Trzesniewski, K. "Self Esteem Development Across the Lifespan" Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2005 14(3)