10 common traits of people who age gracefully

I used to think that the term “aging gracefully” was just a way for people to soften the fact that they were no longer in their prime. That they were nearer to the end of their lives than they were to the beginning.

But over the years, I realized that it’s not a mere euphemism, but a very apt way to describe people who embrace the gift of aging with optimism. 

Because yes, aging is a gift not many have the privilege of receiving. This is the main premise of the whole “aging gracefully” concept.

Fortunately, I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who truly are aging gracefully. So, I have a front seat to their beautiful journey. Here are 10 traits that I notice are common among them: 

1) They keep themselves flexible and healthy

First of all, let’s be real – the thought of growing old is something that strikes fear or dread in the hearts of many. 

That’s understandable; after all, aging does come with a bit of unpleasantness like wrinkles, thinning hair, and a memory that keeps blanking out on people’s names. 

And let’s not forget the bigger threats – heart disease, body pains, Alzheimers, and of course, the dreaded Big C. 

I don’t mean to be a downer, but those are real issues. And people who age gracefully aren’t immune to them. 

So they try to keep themselves as healthy as possible by eating the right food, sleeping well, and doing exercises like walking and yoga. 

2) They stay curious

Aging gracefully isn’t just about keeping your body flexible. More importantly, it’s about flexibility of mind.

This is something you’ll notice right away in people who age gracefully – their minds are springy and sprightly! 

In fact, someone might have all sorts of bodily ailments, but they still have that liveliness about them that tells us they are aging well. 

How do they do it? By staying curious. 

Just because they’re older or out of the workforce doesn’t mean they sit at home twiddling their thumbs. Nope, these folks have big plans for themselves. 

Maybe not in terms of career goals (although I do know a few senior folks who started businesses in their 60s and 70s), but definitely in terms of learning new things

In fact, they are so excited to retire because then they can finally pursue everything they didn’t have time for.

Things like woodworking, learning a musical instrument, enrolling in online classes…it can all feel like the future is wide open and you’ve got all the time and space to enjoy it.

It’s funny how growing old can have such a “the-world-is-your-oyster” vibe if you’ve got the right attitude!

3) They exude positivity

That’s it exactly – the right attitude. Optimism.

When my mom hit her mid-60s, she was a little bit sad. She was finally retiring, and as someone who has been a workaholic all her life, that really scared her so much. 

But after she’d wrapped her head around it, she was able to reframe it in a positive way. She shifted her focus from “What will I do now?” to “Oh wow, I now have so much time to travel/read books/watch all the shows I’ve missed!”  

See what a big difference a simple switch from negative to positive makes? 

And you don’t have to wait until you’re in your 60s to do this. No matter how young you are, once you learn how to choose positivity, you’re already on your way to aging gracefully!

4) They live in the moment 

One way to stay positive in life is to focus on the present. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever reflect on things that happened in the past, nor should you forgo planning for the future at all. 

I’m saying, don’t let all those regrets and worries take away from the joy of the moment. 

The smell of warm bread, the way the sunlight makes beautiful diamond patterns through your window, your loved ones’ laughter around you…

Living life mindfully is something people who age gracefully always do. They don’t take anything for granted because life is fleeting. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Or even in the next hour? 

So, in that light, why not make each moment count? 

5) They have a sense of humor

There’s a really fun show on Australian TV that’s a social experiment – Old People’s Home for 4-Year-Olds. 

Have you seen it? Or at least the trailer

The question was – would this intergenerational contact improve the older people’s health and well-being? 

From the looks of it, yes, it definitely did. 

The presence of the kids got the older folks laughing and dancing, basically just enjoying themselves. There was a visible change in the older people’s attitude – they were more joyful and optimistic.

For me, this is what aging gracefully is all about – the ability to enjoy life and laugh out loud, no matter how difficult it gets. 

And it has a real, tangible impact, too. As we all know by now, laughter has so many health benefits. The American Medical Association talks about how humor can be a key to aging in good health, mainly because: 

  • Laughter improves the level of oxygen in the blood and the immune system.
  • It boosts the levels of dopamine and other stress-busting chemicals. 
  • It lowers stress, anxiety, and depression. 
  • Laughing works out the diaphragm, which is important for people with lung issues.

6) They stay social

That show I mentioned above also points to the positive impact of socialization on aging. That’s why, if you want to age gracefully, you have to stay connected to others. 

I’ll put it bluntly – isolation shortens our life span. 

The science bears that out. This study shows how social isolation and loneliness led to poorer aging outcomes, both physically and mentally. 

So, take care of your network. No matter how packed your schedule is, always leave room for them. Meet up for brunch every now and then. Or just hang out at the park and soak in the sunlight together!  

7) They have a sense of purpose

There’s another story I loved when I first came across it – that of an elderly man who regularly went to a hospital to cradle sick babies. The ICU Grandpa

That man figured out a really valuable hack for aging gracefully, and that’s to have a purpose. 

Look, I get it. When we’re younger, our sense of purpose tends to be tied to our jobs. If you’re a teacher, your purpose is to teach. If you’re a detective, your purpose is to solve crimes. If you’re a parent, you take care of your kids until they leave the nest.

But what about when we no longer have those jobs? What if our kids have grown up and now lead their own lives? Does that mean we lose our sense of purpose, too? 

It doesn’t have to be that way. The thing to remember is, our purpose doesn’t vanish as we transition through different life stages. It simply evolves or changes. 

If you’re at a crossroads and have lost sight of your purpose, a tool like life coach Jeanette Brown’s Reset Your Life Compass challenge might help.

From guided reflection to creating a personal action plan, it’s packed with exercises that will help nudge you back into action with a renewed sense of purpose. 

8) They don’t sweat the small stuff

Do you notice that as you grow older, the small stuff seems to mean less and less? By small stuff, I mean things like having the latest car model, trendy clothes, and (cue gasp) other people’s opinions? 

That’s something I’ve noticed in myself; the older I get, the less I care about all of these. 

Where I used to sacrifice some things just to have a fancy and trendy wardrobe, I’m now cool with stepping out in whatever outfit makes me feel comfortable, fashion standards be damned. 

Where I used to get upset over unwanted gossip, I now just laugh about it. 

I guess this shows that the older we get and the more life experience we have, the more we see what truly matters. 

And with that comes the need to Marie-Kondo our lives as much as we can – if something doesn’t spark joy, out it goes!  

9) They’ve figured out the whole concept of control

Wrinkles, sagging skin, empty nests, new technology, health challenges…these are all things that happen naturally in life. 

And while some of us might rant against it, the more enlightened ones don’t. They accept what they can and can’t control

This mindset is what helps them deal with changes. And believe me, changes aren’t always easy, especially when you’re older. 

It really requires a lot of grace to handle the heavy stuff you can’t control. Like moving out of the home you’ve had for more than thirty years, saying goodbye to a job you’ve dedicated most of your life to, or having your kids move a continent away from you. 

So while it might be hard for them at first, people who age gracefully look at it with a sense of quiet acceptance. 

Don’t get me wrong…it’s not about giving up or feeling defeated. It’s about recognizing the reality of a situation and choosing to respond in a healthy, hopeful way.

10) They practice gratitude

Above all, people who age gracefully are thankful. Gratitude really unlocks the spirit of grace!

Studies have shown that gratitude leads to increased happiness and satisfaction. And it’s a lovely cycle that goes on and on. The happier you are, the more thankful you are. 

Strangely, the most grateful people I know are the ones who’ve led really difficult lives. They’ve struggled through unhappy marriages, divorces, illnesses, and so many other trials. 

One of them is my aunt, who has lived a life that would really put anyone’s resilience to the test. I won’t go into the specifics, but more than her strength, I’m so inspired by how she remained thankful through it all. 

One of the things I often hear her say is that she wouldn’t be who she is today without all of those trials and joys.

If you ask me, that’s the perfect example of aging gracefully!

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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