People over 50 have been through a lot – good and bad – and have learned a lot along the way. This acquired wisdom is why life gets better after 50.
You, too, can move into your personal era of wisdom and relevance. These 10 life-changing lessons will make your life more fun and fulfilling after age 50.
When it comes to life experience, nobody knows more than those over 50.
I’m sharing some of the most important things I’ve learned from people over 50 – and, since I’m 57 years old, lessons from my own life experiences, too.
Whether you’re over 50 or not, I hope you find these insights help you make your own life healthier and happier.
Also included are the specific reasons life sometimes does not get better after 50 and what you can do about it.
1. Learning that How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything
There are two ways to get successful.
The external way is a bombastic, take-no-prisoners approach that appears to work pretty well, except that I’ve noticed that it takes a toll on a person’s physical health. Although these people are respected, they’re respected in a there’s-a-snake-loose-in-the-barn kind of way.
The internal way to success is to improve your thoughts so that they are more compassionate, empathic, and positive, heal your relationship with money, and improve your beliefs about prosperity.
These tend to be people who are strong yet kind, and invariably they end up feeling authentically known and calmly loved by the people they care most about.
People, who become successful by changing their insides first, come to realize that it’s the ordinary tasks and activities we do every day – our quotidian – that make us exactly who we are.
I suggest focusing your awareness on how you typically spend your time. Look at it closely.
Whatever we habituate on the daily level: that’s our life.
I like that word: habituate. Within that word is hidden the key to significant self-improvement, I believe.
Fred Rogers – television’s Mister Rogers – knew this simple but powerful concept that habituating good daily choices are a key to thriving. Through his educational programming, he helped children to integrate this valuable life skill. His wisdom was genius.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting a variety of people in my life. Some are older than me, some are younger.
I’ve noticed something about people over 50 that I haven’t quite seen from other age groups: a more acute sense of priority.
As you age, time becomes your most valuable asset. And it’s an asset that slips away from us all too quickly.
If you don’t use your time wisely, chances are it will end up being wasted on less meaningful activities or tasks.
Here’s what I learned from people over 50:
- Use your time wisely by focusing on what matters most – whether it’s quality time spent with loved ones or achieving personal goals.
- Avoid distractions and procrastination as best you can.
- Take care of yourself physically so that the years ahead can be spent doing things you love rather than suffering through illness and disease due to poor eating habits or lack of exercise.
- Don’t let fear or lethargy prevent you from doing what makes you happy, whether taking up painting classes because they sound fun or going skydiving every weekend because it sounds exciting –whatever floats your cork.
- And remember: if there was ever a suitable time for anything, then this is probably it.
Learning the principle that how you do anything is how you do everything is yet another reason that life gets better after 50.
2. The Wisdom to Know that There Are Healthier Ways to Self-Medicate
Low-level anxiety has become a part of everyday, modern life.
Consciously or unconsciously, most of us have already found simple solutions for self-medicating that anxiety.
Sugar is probably the most prevalent anxiety solution that has ever existed.
Sugar helps you feel warm, fuzzy, and safe – and it quiets that part of your brain that gets too thinky-thinky.
Other popular anxiety releasers include alcohol and television.
It’s helpful to think about anxiety solutions on a spectrum. Imagine that every solution is valid and effective in the short term.
The spectrum simply reveals which solutions are also helpful in the long term.
For example, sugar and alcohol would probably be on one side of the spectrum:
- effective in the short term, less helpful in the long term.
Breathing exercises or long walks outdoors could be placed on the other side of the spectrum:
- effective in the short term and helpful in the long term.
A critical aspect of personal improvement is continually experimenting with replacing older self-medication methods with newer methods that are more helpful in the long term.
For those of us with a growth mindset, it’s a lifelong experiment.
If I were a different person with different priorities, I would start a company that makes canned, sweet, fizzy alcoholic beverages.
There will always be a strong demand for such products, and I’m certain I could make an enormous amount of money creating and selling them.
But that’s not my path.
What I enjoy doing is helping people become even healthier than they are now so that they can see, feel and experience all the benefits that a new level of health brings.
Action Step: improved health begins with awareness. This week, I encourage you to identify one habit or behavior that has helped you feel less anxious in the short term.
I have found a healthier way to metabolize my personal anxiety: organizing!
I’m 57 years old, and during my life, I’ve been able to eventually realize that when my personal productivity is high, my anxiety is low.
The more organized I am, the better I feel.
Productivity rituals are those habits you build – intentionally or not – to get through your day happily.
It doesn’t matter if you’re retired – or if you work from a cubicle, a car, a plane, or home office.
Remember, a day spent in the productivity zone can leave you feeling accomplished and deeply satisfied.
Becoming better organized is particularly helpful for individuals over 50, as improved time management opens up more opportunities for exercise and self-care.
It can be very freeing to realize that you’ll never get it all done.
Everyone has a daily ritual, whether they realize it or not. For most of us, our daily rituals contain a mixture of good and bad habits.
If we want to improve our lives, we must find ways to gradually replace more of those bad habits with healthier ones.
Once we have a bad habit “set,” it can be very difficult to break that momentum and go in a different direction.
But as hard as it may be to change our habits, we feel so much better when we do.
Eating a pint of ice cream in front of the television each night might be fun and relaxing in the moment, but over time it will likely erode your body and your self-esteem.
You strive to improve your productivity rituals because you want your life to be joy-filled and meaningful.
Each of us wants to realize our fullest potential as human beings – to have healthy bodies that hum with energy and clarity – and somewhere deep inside, we know we must take an honest look at our daily habits to become our best.
The formula seems simple: more good habits, fewer bad ones.
What makes a daily habit “good” is that it aligns us with the life we most want to live.
But we know it isn’t always so simple. We know a new, positive habit won’t “set itself.” We know these things don’t just “happen” on their own. We know we need a plan.
Learning that there are always healthier ways to self-medicate is yet another reason that life gets better after 50.
3. Learning that Gut Health Impacts Mood Significantly
My life began at 50.
Of course, before 50, I had some good experiences, too, but after 50, things got much better.
Around the time I turned 50, I began having autoimmune issues. My skin got ridiculously sensitive, my joints ached, and I felt poorly much of the time.
The situation was starting to feel dire.
Though I was eating healthier than the average person, my doctor still advised me to switch specifically to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Following this new lifestyle diet, most of my symptoms disappeared completely within three months.
But here’s the stranger part.
My brain fog went away.
I didn’t even know I had brain fog until it went away because until then, I had nothing to which I could compare it!
As my thinking became less muddled and my physical energy increased, I became happier and more emotionally intelligent.
I found it much easier to intervene in a negative thinking spiral – by replacing anxious or depressing thoughts with positive ones. Without the brain fog, it was simply easier to make shifts in my perspective.
When my gut health got better, so did my mind. Your gut microbiome plays a crucial role in your overall health.
- If you’re super healthy, your gut microbiota is probably well-balanced.
- If your gut microbiota is poorly balanced, you risk developing chronic diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, depression, anxiety, or even colorectal cancer.
What determines the condition of your gut microbiome? Mostly, your dietary patterns.
Learning that gut health impacts mood is one reason that life gets better after 50.
4. The Wisdom of Being Your Own Witness
You are probably familiar with the saying, “a sunset is more beautiful when you have someone with whom to watch it.”
Well, that saying is true – but not always.
One of the best parts of being over 50 is that you realize that, though companionship is an unquestionably beautiful aspect of being human, solitude can also be equally beautiful at times.
If you are a creative person with a rich internal world, you probably have more profound thoughts and resonant feelings than any one person could fully bear witness to.
And there is a serenity to be found within that realization.
You can witness yourself.
You can watch a sunset with a friend and take in the moment together. Lovely.
However, you can also watch a sunset by yourself and fully receive the moment and take it all in.
You can be your own witness through life. I cannot emphasize enough how much peace, poignancy, and depth this realization can bring you. It’s a true game-changer.
Learning to be your own wintess is another reason that life gets better after 50.
5. Learning that Materialism is Fun, but Only to a Point
Throughout our decades together, my spouse and I have many times shared a small studio apartment.
Conversely, we’ve often lived in a large luxury house while even having an additional house in the countryside to “get away to.”
Because we don’t have children or pets, we’ve been able to more easily follow various opportunities – and our own curiosity – while living in many different places.
Looking back, I can honestly report that it feels about the same – living simply or extravagantly:
- Living extravagantly is fun, but it comes with a whole heap of extra responsibilities – the more possessions you own, the more time, energy, and maintenance those possessions require.
- Living simply is fun, too – it gives you much more free time, but it also limits your space and choices.
In the end, I can say that both styles of living have their advantages.
Now that we’re both over 50, we’ve opted for somewhere toward the middle, slightly favoring a minimalist approach to everyday living.
We both work from our home offices – and enjoy exercising at home, too – so we give ourselves enough space to be fully functional in our residence without letting things get so complex that it becomes burdensome.
Learning to live a right-sized life is another reason that life gets better after 50.
6. The Wisdom to Invest in Experiences Over Possessions
When you’re over 50, it’s easy to be cynical about the world around you. When you become cynical, your daily life tends to become more narrow.
To counteract that tendency, here are some reasons it’s worth investing in experiences instead of possessions.
Experiences cost less than possessions.
You can go on a trip for thousands of dollars or buy something expensive that will last a lifetime – but which one is more memorable?
We all know someone who has an impressive collection of rare baseball cards or vintage cars but doesn’t remember much else about their life after age 50; meanwhile, we also know people who had great experiences traveling abroad during their 20s that still influence everything they do today.
Life Gets Better After 50 Because You Hone In On What Truly Matters
Possessions can be lost, stolen, or destroyed.
A laptop will always be replaceable. There’s no single digital file that contains the total of your experiences throughout life – you can’t just plug yourself into a computer to “re-experience” them at any given moment.
And while some items may seem irreplaceable – like your wedding ring – they are, in truth, replaceable.
Educating your mind and growing your awareness, however, is invaluable.
Experiences enrich you, and you take that with you forever.
Growing up as a child, my father was often very busy and could be very frugal. However, he took the time to teach me to read at a very young age, and whenever I wanted a book – no matter the cost – he would buy it for me.
Similarly, if there were an experience I wanted – an afterschool program or a class trip – he would find room in the family budget to make it possible. I believe he did this because he understood that experiences are more valuable than objects.
Learning to invest in experiences over possessions is another reason that life gets better after 50.
7. Learning that Health Is the Foundation Upon Which Everything Worthwhile Is Built
It isn’t just lifespan that matters.
Living a long time is more enjoyable if you also have a high quality of life.
Quality of life means living with joint mobility, muscular flexibility, positive mood, and mental acuity.
Perhaps it’s partly lucky that, as I write to you now, I’m enjoying good health. My body feels good and is performing well.
But more likely, the reason I’m enjoying robust health at this moment is because of the health protocols I employ each day – namely: strategic exercise, smart nutrition, and a positive attitude.
Learning that health is the foundation upon which everything worthwhile is built is yet another reason that life gets better after 50.
8. The Wisdom to Build a Legacy
If you manage to get to 50, you should be proud of yourself.
You’ve made it this far, and the next decades will be filled with new experiences, challenges, and opportunities.
But if you don’t make some changes now, before long, those same opportunities could pass by in a blur.
“The greatest part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”– Benjamin Franklin
One of the valuable lessons I’ve learned from people over 50 is if we want to feel happy, we need to learn how to make ourselves happy rather than relying only on external influences such as money or status.
If you look first inside yourself for happiness, you’re off to a good start because, ultimately, no one can give you what makes you truly happy but yourself.
Another key to happiness is legacy. Legacy is the longer-lasting impact your life has had, even after you’re gone.
Legacy can be philanthropy and estate planning (leaving your money to good causes after you die). But legacy is mostly about how you treat people while you’re alive.
If you endeavor toward kindness, patience, and empathy with everyone you encounter – even people who irritate you (especially them) – it creates a ripple effect.
Your positive example is a beacon of inspiration for others, even if only on an unconscious level.
And when your compassion touches them, they are then, in turn, more likely to behave compassionately toward others in the future.
Even if you have good reasons for feeling frustrated, if you act out in anger and pettiness, you’re putting lousy mojo out into the world. You need to ask yourself bluntly, “What do I want more? To punish the world for not making itself a safer place for me? Or to break the cycle of negativity?”
Learning to build a legacy is another reason that life gets better after 50.
9. Learning How to Embrace Failure and Pursue Your Dreams Anyway
What I learned from people over 50 is that failure is how we learn to do things better.
Failure is not a bad thing; it’s just part of life.
The only true failure is giving up and quitting when you have an opportunity to succeed. If you take risks and fail, try again.
Learning to embrace the lessons from failure and then pursuing your dreams anyway is yet another reason that life gets better after 50.
10. Acquiring the Shared Wisdom from People Older Than You
You will learn more from older people than you do from younger people.
The reason for this is simple: we all have life experiences that shape who we become. If you have a growth mindset and are on the lookout for cause-and-effect patterns, then the longer you live, the more insightful you will become.
Learning from people older than you isn’t always about being directly taught by them or having them lecture you. Sometimes, just being in their presence is helpful. You can pick up a lot of unspoken wisdom.
Mentoring is Another Reason Life Gets Better After 50
Patricia and George, mentors of mine who are both in their 80s, taught me astoundingly helpful lessons.
Patricia showed me that it’s vital to be honest with myself about what I want:
- If I’m not sure what I want, then I can at least be sure of what I don’t want.
- By staying grounded in my wants and don’t-wants, my thinking becomes more precise, I become a better communicator, and I set and reach goals faster.
The importance of knowing what you want might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people lack clarity about their genuine desires.
George taught me to think about what love means to me personally – how I define love:
- He also taught me to get clear on how I want my love to appear in the world.
- How will the world know that I am loving? What will be the clues?
- Seeing love from this perspective changed my life. It’s made me kinder, more patient, and a more responsible person.
An additional benefit is that it has removed most of the resentment from my life.
Now that I know what my love language is, I don’t have to feel frustrated with others when they don’t meet my relational needs. I simply wish them well – and then free myself to be available to people who are deeply interested in my thoughts and feelings.
Learning from people older than you while they are still alive is another reason that life gets better after 50.
Do You Agree that Life Gets Better After 50?
We can all learn something from people over 50. Their life experience and knowledge make them valuable sources of wisdom and inspiration.
If you stay committed and open to personal growth and look for opportunities to feel joy and make a positive difference, then you will see that life gets better after 50.
What have you learned from the people in your life who are over 50?
Scientists who study wisdom define it as applying knowledge and experience to make sound judgments and decisions in complex and uncertain situations.
In other words, wisdom involves the cognitive ability to analyze information and the emotional intelligence to apply that information in a way that promotes well-being and adapts to changing circumstances.
Research has identified several characteristics that are associated with wise individuals, including:
- Emotional regulation: Wise individuals can manage their emotions in a way that allows them to remain calm and focused, even under challenging situations.
- Openness to new experiences: Wise individuals are curious and open to learning, which allows them to gain new perspectives and insights.
- Cognitive flexibility: Wise individuals can consider multiple perspectives and are not rigid in thinking.
- Reflectiveness: Wise individuals take time to reflect on their experiences and learn from them.
- Empathy: Wise individuals can understand the perspectives and emotions of others, which allows them to make decisions that benefit not only themselves but also those around them.
The art of wisdom is a perspective more focused on the practical application of wisdom in daily life.
In this case, wisdom isn’t just about knowledge and intelligence but also about living a fulfilling and meaningful life. Some fundamental principles of the art of wisdom include:
- Self-awareness: To be wise, you must first know yourself. This involves understanding your values, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Humility: Wise individuals recognize that they do not know everything and are willing to learn from others.
- Compassion: Wise individuals are kind and empathetic towards others, recognizing that we are all interconnected.
- Mindfulness: Wise individuals are present – they’re fully engaged in whatever they’re doing.
- Integrity: Wise individuals act by their values and principles, even when it’s complicated.
Both perspectives on wisdom emphasize the importance of using knowledge and experience to make sound decisions that promote well-being and adapt to changing circumstances.
The science of wisdom focuses on the cognitive and emotional processes involved in wisdom, while the art of wisdom emphasizes practical application of wisdom in daily life.