How to stay happy in old age

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Over 80, but not ‘over the hill’. These seniors are in smashing shape. 88 year-old Colin Winn is the oldest player.

“I really enjoy it and it’s active and it keeps me going, keeps me fit,” says Winn.

Most of these players are in their 70s and above. By continuing to play, they’re maintaining more than their physical health.

“I just think it’s enjoyable, and not taking it seriously but having fun with it. I think it’s really good for the whole soul and spirit,” Winn’s table tennis partner Moira Newman.

Newman’s instinct is backed by experts.

International researchers led by Flinders University studied the regular pastimes of 73 adults aged 89 years on average.

They found older participants were happier when their day-to-day routine included activities that were meaningful.

“What we found was that meaningful activities, those things that had a greater sense of personal meaning for the people in the study were also associated with better quality of emotion,” says the lead author of the Flinders University report, Professor Tim Windsor.

But it’s important to tailor those activities to your age and abilities, as 93-year-old Beryl Wyld has done over her five decades of volunteering for the Salvation Army.

“Go ahead and do it. Don’t give up. Because I expect to go on for a little bit more yet,” says Wyld.

But a word of warning – the researchers found doing things that were too challenging led to people feeling worse.

“It means that overly challenging situations can sometimes put older people in vulnerable situations,” says Windsor.

But the overall message is be like Beryl, ‘keep doing what you love, for as long as you can’.

The research has been published in the academic journal Journals of Gerontology Series B.

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