Five Things Happy Retirees Have in Common

June 15, 2024

The transition into retirement can be difficult, when work no longer provides a sense of identity and accomplishment. The change can be startling, especially when most people don’t switch to part-time schedules on the way out of their full-time careers. “We don’t really shift our focus to, how do we live well in this extra time,” says M.T. Connolly, author of The Measure of Our Age. “A lot of people get happier as they age because they start to focus more on the meaningful parts of existence and emotional meaning and positive experience as finitude gets more real.”

While most people account for how much money they’ll need when it’s time to retire, there are many other factors to consider when planning for a fulfilling retirement. Here are five things that happy retirees have in common. 

Feeling a Sense of Purpose

There are several approaches to staying active and finding purpose after leaving a career. “Your retirement schedule should be less stressful and demanding than your previous one, but we don’t need to avoid all forms of work or service,” says Kevin Coleman, a family therapist. “Find some work that you take pride in and find intrinsically meaningful.”

Many retirees, for example, choose encore careers, where instead of working for the money, they are working for the enjoyment of the job. Besides finding a new job, there are other simple ways to feel purposeful during retirement. Purpose can be found by making oneself useful, such as by volunteering in the community, joining a community board, or participating in an enjoyable activity with a group, like a gardening club. Many retirees enjoy volunteering to take care of their grandchildren or helping their older friends with caregiving duties. Finding purpose doesn’t need to be complicated and can be achieved through simple acts of showing up for others and being open to new connections.

Finding Ways to Connect

As nearly 25% of those who are 65 and older feel socially isolated, finding ways to connect are important for mental and physical well-being during retirement. One way to connect is through storytelling. Sharing our stories with the people we care about strengthens our social bonds and helps us feel less lonely. Storytelling also helps people pass down their family memories, especially when we share stories with younger relatives, such as with grandchildren. It’s a nice feeling to think that your memories will live on through your loved ones. “The models we have for aging are largely either isolation or age segregation,” says Connolly. “There’s a loss when we don’t have intergenerational contact. It impoverishes our social environment.” Perhaps the best thing to do as you age is to cherish and foster these relationships with younger relatives.

Making Plans for the Retirement Years 

Budgeting for your retirement is crucial to happiness during the retirement years. Successful retirement planning includes paying off debts prior to retiring and saving for unexpected expenses or emergency funds in addition to a standard monthly budget. According to a survey conducted by Wes Moss, author of You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, the happiest retirees are those who have between $700,000 and $1.25 million in liquid retirement savings, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and cash. His research also found that retirees within five years or less of paying off their mortgages are four times more likely to be happy in retirement. This is because the mortgage payment is typically the most significant expense, so those retirees who own their homes feel safer and more at peace once they no longer have that bill. Plus, not having a mortgage payment due every month dramatically lowers their monthly expenses and can help retirement savings last longer.

Many retirees overlook retirement planning beyond their finances. New research from the Stanford Center on Longevity shows that where someone lives in retirement can affect their longevity. Researchers found that people over the age of 60 who lived in upper-income areas lived longer due to having more access to health and social services. They also credited strong social networks and a sense of community to living longer. So perhaps there’s a city or area that you’ve always dreamed of living in or you’d like to live closer to family. Think about where you want to live when you’re done working and then plan for it before you retire.

Setting New Retirement Goals

Beyond saving up and thinking about where you want to spend your retirement years, setting goals for once you’re in retirement is equally as important. “Research suggests that those who think about and plan for what they will do in retirement in advance are far happier and fulfilled once they actually retire and begin living this phase of life,” says financial planner Chris Urban. “Sometimes it is helpful for people to write down what they plan to do every day of the week, what goals they have, who they want to spend time with and what they want to do with them.”

While your goals before retirement were likely centered around career and finances, it will be important to set different kinds of goals once you’re retired. Having goals doesn’t become less important just because you’re no longer working. “If you really want something, maybe a new romance, then take a concrete step in that direction,” says psychiatry professor Ahron Friedberg. “Don’t ever tell yourself that it’s too late.

Prioritizing Both Physical and Mental Health

With a full-time career no longer on the schedule, cooking healthy meals at home, getting enough sleep, and finding ways to be more physically active everyday will be easier. It will also be important to keep up on medical appointments and preventive therapies. A study conducted by Harvard shows that even people who become more physically active and adopt better diets later in their lives still lower their risks of cardiovascular illnesses and mortality more than their peers who do not. “Not all core pursuits include physical activity or exercise, but many of the top ones do. I refer to them as the ‘ings’—walking, running, biking, hiking, jogging, swimming, dancing, etc.,” says Moss. “These all involve some sort of motion and exercise.” The most sustainable form of physical activity will be doing more of those activities that you enjoy and that move your body.

In addition to caring for your physical health, focusing on your mental health is just as important, especially as you age. According to Harvard’s Medical newsletter, challenging your brain with mental exercise activates processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication between them. So choose something new or that you’ve always wanted to learn. Take a course at a community college or learn how to play an instrument or speak a language. If you enjoy reading, visit the library every week for a new book. If you enjoy helping others learn, then looking into a part-time tutoring job or volunteering to tutor is a way to challenge yourself mentally, connect socially, and feel a sense of purpose.

Prioritizing your overall health includes asking for help when you need it. If you reach a point where you need assistance with daily tasks and activities, then you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help early. Whether it’s family members or caregiving services, finding help with the things that are becoming difficult for you is the best way to maintain your independence for as long as you can so that you may continue to thrive during your retirement years.

It’s important to think about how you want to spend your retirement before it’s here. While many people only consider their finances when they begin to plan for the future, there are other factors, including how you’ll spend your time, where you’ll live, and your overall health that will impact the quality of your retirement years. With, storing all of your financial information, medical records, and planning documents in one easy-to-review place will help you plan for what can be the best years of your life.

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Gardening for Mental Well-Being

May 15, 2024

Interest in gardening has increased since the pandemic, as more and more people are searching for ways to disconnect from stressful times and reconnect to nature. It turns out that immersing ourselves in green spaces and caring for plants is a form of caring for ourselves. Time spent in nature has been found to improve mental health so much so that gardening has been prescribed by the National Health Service in Great Britain since 2019. But while scientists are just beginning to pay attention to nature’s overall effect on our health, humans have known about the power of gardening for a very long time. 

Historic Gardens and Horticultural Therapy

Ancient and modern gardens all over the world, including Persian pleasure gardens, Islamic paradise gardens, Chinese courtyard gardens and Japanese rock gardens, nurture a sense of separation from the chaotic world and provide a place for inward reflection. In addition to sources of food, the Roman Empire treated gardens as a place to cultivate mindfulness. As extensions of the home, Roman gardens were the first outdoor rooms. They served as spaces to rest and marvel at nature’s wonder. By the Middle Ages, hospital gardens modeled after these Roman gardens were seen as integral parts of the hospital, not just to feed patients and grow medicines but to offer patients time outside. But as efficiency and technology took over medical treatment, these spaces went extinct.

Still, the benefits of gardens were not forgotten. In the 1800s, early American psychiatrists began noting links between horticulture and mental health. Born in 1933, the famous neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks believed that gardens and nature were more powerful than any medication. As the scientific evidence of spending time in green spaces leading to better health grew, many hospitals began incorporating gardens into their facilities again and horticultural therapy was developed as a therapeutic practice in the 1970s.

Horticultural therapy involves taking care of plants with specific goals for the patient in mind. For instance, tending to a garden and watching it thrive can help people build self-esteem and feel a sense of accomplishment. Gardening can also lead to life lessons, such as when a plant dies, the person can ask themselves, “What could I have done differently?” Connecting the garden to themself can lead them to think that maybe they can do a little more to take care of themself, too. “It’s really the plants that are the therapists,” says Laura Rumpf, a horticultural therapist who treats patients with dementia through gardening. “Even if somebody can’t necessarily name what it is they’re smelling, the body somehow remembers.” For those with dementia for instance, plants can help them to reminisce which leads to telling stories and sharing memories, an important part of connecting to others and validating their identity.

The Scientific Proof of Nature’s Benefits

Gardening involves exercise, which we know is beneficial to our health, and since people tend to breathe more deeply when they’re outside, outdoor activities can clear the lungs, aid digestion, and improve immune responses. Sunlight also lowers blood pressure and increases vitamin D levels, but the benefits of outdoor gardening extend beyond these physical benefits.

A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Florida found that gardening lowered stress, anxiety and depression in healthy women who attended a gardening class twice a week. “Past studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have existing medical conditions or challenges,” said the principal investigator of the study Charles Guy. “Our study shows that healthy people can also experience a boost in mental well-being through gardening.” In addition to improved mental well-being, interacting with nature has proven cognitive benefits. A 2019 study by University of Chicago psychologist Marc Berman showed that green spaces near schools promote cognitive development in children, while adults assigned to public housing in green neighborhoods exhibited better attentional functioning than those assigned to units with less access to green spaces.

Scientists have a few ideas as to why nature is so good for our mental health. One hypothesis is that since our ancestors evolved in the wild and relied on their environment for survival, we have an innate drive to connect with nature. As a species, we may be attracted to plants because we depend on them for food and shelter. Another hypothesis is that spending time in nature triggers a physiological response that lowers stress levels. Throughout human history, trees and water have been an oasis and signaled relaxation. There is an implicit trust in nature that calms our parasympathetic nervous system. Yet a third hypothesis is that nature replenishes cognitive functioning, which restores the ability to concentrate and pay attention. The truth probably lies in a combination of all of these theories.

Gardening Against Loneliness

Perhaps one of the most overlooked yet obvious benefits of gardening is that it can make people feel less alone in the world. While gardening can bring people together through community gardens, one doesn’t even need to be around other people while spending time in nature in order to feel more connected to others. “Nature can be a way to induce awe,” said psychology professor John Zelenski. “One of the things that may come from awe is the feeling that the individual is part of a much bigger whole.”

Gardening can bring people together through a sense of community, as people who garden are rich with expertise that they are willing to share with other gardeners. Master gardeners and local volunteers dedicate their time to empowering other people in the community who are interested in growing their own plants. Simply sharing a gardening blunder is just one way to connect with a fellow gardener. Social connections are important for our mental well-being because they help lower stress, improve resilience, and provide support, while a strong sense of belonging has been shown to lower one’s risk of depression and anxiety.    

Community gardens are a great place to connect with others as they offer room for talking during uncomplicated and repetitive tasks. Since gardening can bring together all kinds of people, time in the garden with others can also remind us that we are more alike than not. “Gardens are a great point of connection,” said the director of a London community garden Sarah Alun-Jones. “We often find ourselves talking about where we grew up, our childhood gardens, food we like to grow and cook… and we learn lots along the way.”

If you’re thinking of incorporating gardening into your routine, it doesn’t need to be intimidating. Simply starting by potting indoor plants or taking walks in green spaces during your lunch break are just two simple ways to connect with nature now. At, you may store all of your gardening plans and records, so that you can become the researcher of your own gardening benefits.

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(AI)ding the Elderly with AI

January 24, 2024

Forget the golden age, artificial intelligence (AI) is bringing a new silver lining in healthcare. It is revolutionizing health services across the nation and improving patient care, specifically for the elderly population. According to the World Health Organization, AI technology is improving the fields of medicine and public health for older individuals by anticipating potential health risks, fueling drug development, and supporting the personalization of healthcare management.

“Though adoption of AI has been delayed in mental health research and clinical care relative to other fields, it could potentially enhance diagnostic, prognostic, and treatment approaches for the growing aging population,” said Dr. Helmet Karim, assistant professor of psychiatry and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. “With ubiquitous usage of wearable sensors, advancements in explainable AI, and growing acceptance of AI in medicine, these approaches could support increasing clinical demands.”

Here are a few ways AI is helping seniors enter the digital age.

Daily Care & Wellness Monitoring

Scientifically validated AI in-home care solutions like People Power Family are revolutionizing home care, nursing facilities, and assisted living centers by helping older adults in their everyday tasks. This technology can track and collect the health data of individuals to ensure their well-being by detecting falls and changes in behavior that may indicate that an individual has a specific health condition.

AI devices are also being used to monitor patient health from cameras to motion sensors to wearables. Organizations such as SafelyYou are utilizing AI-based fall detection technology to continuously track patient movements and alert staff, effectively decreasing ER visits. On the other hand, CarePredict designs wearable wrist devices that can track an elderly patient’s daily activities including walking, bathing, eating, visits to the bathroom, and periods of sleep.

Managing Medication Schedules

Many elderly individuals face difficulties when it comes to adhering to their medication schedules. AI-powered medical reminder apps such as mPulse Mobile are game changers in that area. They ensure that elderly patients follow their medication regimen, which decreases the likelihood of potential hospital admissions and helps improve patient health outcomes.

Such technologies not only help patients in the short-term, but they also foster the creation of long-term health plans. AI utilizes patient data to predict an individual’s overall response to different forms of treatment and creates a beneficial medication schedule. This method helps increase patient-centered care within the medical field, establishing the welfare of patients.

Guidance During Medical Challenges

AI technologies can help empower patients by providing them with information, support, and guidance for managing specific health conditions. For example, a chatbot called “Vik” was created to help breast cancer patients navigate their diagnosis. This device provides patients with a variety of information through personalized text messages, ranging from comprehensive medical statistics and treatments regarding breast cancer to lifestyle and diet to patients’ rights.

Additionally, AI-powered systems can also detect conditions that go untreated like dementia and late-life depression. Such systems can potentially identify patients with symptoms of certain mental health conditions and provide them with timely information on treatment plans as well as tips on managing their health.

Companionship and Personal Interaction

According to the PEW Research Center, 27% of adults ages 60 and older live alone in the U.S., which indicates that many elderly individuals are in need of social interaction or companionship. AI technologies like ChatGPT can actually be trained to provide emotional and social support to the aging population. For instance, loved ones can set up and customize ChatGPT, ensuring that conversations are targeted to a person’s needs such as news updates, story sharing, light-hearted banter, and more.

But that is not all. Researchers have bigger plans for AI when it comes to the seniors. Dr. Lillian Hung, a researcher at The University of British Columbia and founder of IDEA lab (Innovation in Dementia & Aging) recently introduced AI-powered social robots to West Vancouver’s Amica senior living facility as part of her study. She found that AI-powered social robots have the potential to engage with elderly patients, mitigating their feelings of social isolation and loneliness. This daily interaction can alleviate psychological distress, decrease feelings of anxiety and depression, lower agitation, promote positive facial expressions, and enhance an individual’s overall mood on an everyday basis.

“It [AI robot] sings with you, plays with you, dances with you, follows you – just makes sure you feel that you’re loved,” said Dr. Hung about the adorable robots that have helped some shy residents come out of their rooms. There have been talks of making such robots permanent residents of the facility.

Increased Independence

As more seniors age in place, smart home devices enhanced with AI-powered features are revolutionizing households into spaces that address the needs of every resident. These devices offer support in various ways, including turning lights on and off, adjusting temperature, detecting smoke, monitoring behavior and health, reminding about medications, detecting falls, and even initiating emergency calls.

AI and sensor data can derive patterns and alerts that inform care, for example, combining sensors with data about individuals that have a history of falls, AI tools can detect bed, chair, and room exits which require immediate response,” said Laurie M. Orlov, principal analyst, Aging and Health Technology Watch.

A few other AI apps listed below can also help seniors live healthier, safer lives:

  • identifies 10+ health conditions even before symptoms are noticed
  • is a fully integrated home health
  • CareSmartz360: helps seniors with activities of daily living and communication
  • Inspiren: is a healthcare technology company specializing in AI-powered solutions to improve outcomes
  • is a proactive AI that makes healthcare simple, affordable, and accessible
  • KamiCare: is an easy-to-install fall management solution
  • Sagely: assists with engagement programs in senior living communities

Artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly important role in the healthcare industry by giving older individuals the chance at a new life. This revolutionary technology helps monitor health, creates efficient medication schedules, bolsters social interaction and personal care, and allows elderly patients to be more independent. With, you can keep track of the data AI helps collect to improve your health outcomes. With the assistance of AI, seniors are experiencing a digital revival and upgrading to a new level of well-being.

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Dealing with Mental Stress During the Holidays

November 22, 2023

For most people, the best parts of the holidays, extravagant decor, rich foods, gift-giving, and additional time with friends and family, can also be the most stress inducing. While the holidays are thought of as the most wonderful time of the year, it is in fact viewed by many as the most stressful time of the year.

Neverending to-do lists, added expenses, and the desire to achieve a perfect holiday are just a few of the ways that the season brings on an overwhelming amount of stress. Plus, if you have an existing mental health condition, the holidays may accentuate it. “There are a lot of stressors in life without the holiday season,” says event planner Courtney Lutkus. “The holidays can be triggering and make it worse.”

In order to have a more relaxing holiday season, it’s important to choose some strategies ahead of time that will help you combat seasonal stress.

Exercise is Often the Best Medicine

During the holidays, prioritizing regular exercise can mitigate stress before it happens. Whichever exercise you choose, taking the time to move your body will guarantee a healthy dose of holiday cheer.

If you tend to feel restricted during the holidays from being spread too thin both physically and mentally, dance therapist Erica Hornthal recommends what she calls joy workouts. Take a break from the festivities, find an open space, and spend eight minutes moving through six expanding moves, including reaching, swaying, and jumping, that are designed to boost happiness. “Shake your hands, shake your head — kind of like an animal after it gets wet,” she says. “You can make a game out of it if you have kids.”

Alternatively, if you feel the need to slow things down, then yoga might work best for you. Even a fifteen minute session can lower levels of stress and anxiety. With a focus on breathwork and mindfulness, yoga can be especially effective for alleviating the feelings of nonstop commotion that often come with the holidays.

If you find yourself wanting to get away, a walk or run around the neighborhood may be just what you need to reset. You could even plan a “microadventure,” which could be as simple as a bike ride in the dark or a daytime hike at a nearby nature reserve. Viewing things in a new light and admiring your surroundings can create a sense of awe, which has been proven to lower stress levels. Plus, spending time outside, even if it’s just a walk around the block, can lower cortisol levels, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

Schedule Breaks

If you’re having difficulty finding time for yourself  during busy days, then reclaiming your mornings might be the best way to fit in a break. “I encourage everyone to develop a daily habit of starting their day with their own voice as the primary driver for how they want to engage the day,” says therapist Chanel Dokun. “This is an easy way to pre-schedule ‘me-time’ amid a busy holiday season where you can check in with your own needs, set your own priorities, and move into your day feeling centered and in control.” Plus, research shows that waking up just one hour earlier lowers an individual’s risk for depression by 23 percent.

In addition to making time for yourself in the mornings, simply saying no to yet another social obligation could help you avoid the burnout that comes from overdoing it. The sheer volume of things to do during the holidays can make it difficult to prioritize what’s most important. Sometimes, taking care of your mental health can be more important than attending yet another event, so give yourself permission to choose your festivities wisely. Not only will saying no to some things ease your stress, but it can also reinforce healthy relationship boundaries, which will leave you feeling empowered rather than burnt out.

Honor Your Routine 

With all of the added hustle and bustle, it will be easy to fall out of your usual routine, but sticking to your routine might be the simplest solution to seasonal stress. Dr. David Spiegel, director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University, says that our stress responses are far more flexible when we are resting and nourishing our bodies. “Mitigate stress by taking care of your body first,” says Spiegel. Give your body something to depend on during the holiday rush by getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly.

Ditch Perfectionism

It would be impossible for every part of the holiday to be perfect, so why place that standard upon yourself? Think about what traditions matter most to you, such as cooking a specific meal for your children or visiting family. When you take the time to think about what matters most, you can either ditch the items that fall down on your to-do list, or you can ask other family members to take some tasks off of your plate.

“You have a lot going on,” reminds psychologist David Rakofsky. “You can’t possibly do it all. Instead of lamenting your ‘losses,’ congratulate yourself on the everyday victories, like leaving the bed, smiling, and putting on pants.”

Whether you’re counting on your travels to go just as planned, finding the perfect gifts, or hosting the event of the season, having an idealized approach can set you up for disappointment. When you let go of your vision for the perfect holiday, you may find that you have far more joy this season, as well as far less stress. 

Stick to a Holiday Budget

The best way to manage financial stress is to set a realistic budget. Since nearly 1 in 4 people feel financially burdened by the holidays, there may be no better time to employ a budget than this time of year. “Be realistic when creating a budget by using real prices, not ballpark figures,”  says Family and Community Health specialist Joyce Cavanagh. “Don’t forget to include travel, food and entertaining costs in your holiday budget. And remember to jot down what you’ve bought so you don’t lose track of how much you’ve spent.”

Due to inflation, lower-income households may experience more financial stress this year. 29 percent of consumers say they’re stressed about the cost of holiday shopping, and 14 percent feel pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable with. Talking with your loved ones about minimizing holiday spending and gift-giving could take the pressure off of everyone and put the focus back on celebrating with loved ones. “Try managing your anxiety through transparency and planning,” says psychiatrist Dr. Georgia Gaveras. “You may end up being a hero this holiday season if you propose limiting the number of gifts everyone buys.”

While you concentrate on the most wonderful time of the year, can help you keep track of everything from financial records to travel itineraries and schedules. This season, stay organized when things get chaotic, and give yourself space to be present for all of what the holidays offer.

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