Historically, people slow down as they age. There’s the old cliché of grandparents knitting in the rocking chair or sipping lemonade on the porch.
As many people discover as the years go on, life doesn’t necessarily need to slow down as you get older. You can still enjoy a great time. At what point are you “too old” to have fun?
The short answer is never!
The truth is, if you’re 40, 50, 80, or 100, you’re never ever too old to have fun or live life to the fullest! With the right mindset, you’ll enjoy vibrant, exciting, new experiences and plenty of romance for your entire life. I hear from many older couples who worry romance goes away after a certain age, but that’s a misconception. You’re never too old to have fun and you’re never too old for building your romantic connection with your partner.
So, if you’re wondering how to have more fun, here’s what you need to know to get back in the game.
Do you scoff at the idea of playing and having fun? Does it seem ridiculous to you to dress up, feel sexy or attractive, and go out on the town?
Many of us fall into believing society’s version of what aging looks like. We imagine that it means we can’t do certain activities, wear certain clothes, or look a certain way after we hit an age marker—we think we’re too old to have fun. As the Baby Boomer generation gets older, these “rules” are becoming more and more obsolete. Many people choose to wear what they want, do what they want, and enjoy their lives fully, no matter their age.
This is a positive outlook because fun, novelty, and adventure are important no matter what age you are. One issue that we often see with older adults is they’ve tried to wait until they retire, until their kids move out, or until their schedule lightens up to really have fun. Then, when they finally get the time in their schedule, they haven’t learned how to play. They haven’t developed the habit of embracing novelty, going on an adventure, and experiencing full engagement.
This engagement helps us to have more fun and more fulfillment in our lives. When we’re engaged in a project or with another person, we’re having a deeper, more purposeful experience. It’s play in an adult form.
Learning and growing help light up our brains. When we’re stretching a little out of our comfort zone and trying something new, our brains are the happiest. If we could run an MRI and see what was going on in these moments, we’d see our brains lighting up with fireworks of activity.
This is part of the importance of play and fun as we age. It keeps us cognitively sharp and alert. It wakes us up and helps us enjoy our lives more fully. Learning and growing is fun—even more fun, in fact, than zoning out or relaxing.
Now you may think “I don’t even know how to have fun!”
Many people don’t, especially if they’ve fallen out of practice when it comes to playing and having a good time. You may not know what you really like. It’s time to experiment and discover. Sometimes you may not like activities because they’re boring, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable, but allow yourself to really explore activities and dig in deeper.
After your kids move out of the house, it’s a wonderful time to reconnect with your spouse. For years, the two of you were focused on careers or the nuances of raising children. Once they leave and the nest is empty, it’s often a chance to really communicate and connect with each other in new ways.
Look at the quality of time you spend together. You don’t need to share the same interests or pursuits. In fact, it’s often more satisfying if you each pursue your own hobbies and activities. Still, as you spend more time together, take the opportunity to rediscover all the things you really love about your spouse.
Do activities you’ve never done—listen to different types of music, go see a different type of film, enjoy new foods you’ve never tried before. Go to a lecture you would’ve previously brushed off. You may not like it but go find out! Explore what you like both on your own and as a couple.
Take on a project together, play games, have discussions. When you go see a movie, spend time together exploring the nuances and discussing the topic in depth rather than simply going home and going to bed.
Remember when you longed for the kids to move out of the house so you and your spouse could spend a romantic time together?
Now that you have your house to yourselves, it’s a wonderful time to explore the intimacy in your relationship. Intimacy doesn’t only refer to sex either. Many people have sex lives but are still lacking in intimacy.
True intimacy comes from building on shared experiences and engaging with each other. It means expressing your yearnings and desires and understanding the yearnings of your partner as well. What do they envision for their life? What is most important to them? What dreams and goals would they like to pursue in the future?
Working together to build intimacy will keep your romance alive as well. One of the aspects of dating that turns us on is the opportunity to explore and discover someone new. We’re intrigued by the novelty of a new person, but we can also find novelty in our marriage after many years.
You may feel like, “What on earth is still novel about our relationship after 20 or 30 years?”
A couple I was working with decided to challenge their relationship with a date night each week. This was a great start, but after a few months, they found themselves returning to the same spots for dinner and ending up at the theater to see a movie. It wasn’t always a thrill and it wasn’t connecting them.
They decided to take on a novel activity, so they rented a canoe and paddled out to a secluded little park. They packed a picnic lunch and spread a blanket out on the grass. They said it was a simple activity, but it was so much fun. They had a great time because it was something new and totally different for both of them.
After their canoe date, they felt closer and more deeply bonded. They both decided to keep adding new activities to their dates and they both looked forward to having new adventures together each week.
Often when we’re failing to learn and grow in our day-to-day lives, we get bored. We start to feel like we’re stuck in a routine or a rut. We feel our relationship has become boring because our entire lives are routine.
Engaging in new experiences actually helps form new neuropathways in our brain. We’re drawn to novelty and we seek it out. New experiences help us stay young and vibrant. New experiences help us retain memories and think clearly. There’s a strong argument for the importance of adding new experiences to your life.
If you’re wondering how to add more aliveness into your life, especially as you get older, take a cue from your grandkids (or other children you may know). Start to see the world as children see it. Each new experience and every moment is imbued with a sense of wonder and discovery.
When children play, it’s serious business. They may take on new roles, stretch the limits of their imagination and experiment with new ideas; that’s because play is part of growing. But growing doesn’t stop when we’re adults. We’re never too old to have fun or too old to play.
In fact, adding play and learning opportunities in our life helps reverse the aging process. As I said before, learning and growing are really important for our brains. Studies show people who know more than one language, for example, age better. The more we learn and continue to stimulate our minds, the sharper they will stay.
At the beginning of life, we experience so much external stimulation our brains are always turned on. We’re busy going to college, starting relationships, growing in our career. After the age of 35 or so, many people fall into a routine. Our days become similar. We stop facing a constant barrage of new activity and stimuli.
When you become stagnant and fall into a routine, you’re not activating the neuroplasticity of your brain. This means you must deliberately choose to seek activities outside your comfort zone because life may not be providing these opportunities as readily.
When a person reaches 70, if they haven’t continued to seek novel learning opportunities and play, they’ve just spent 35 years deactivating their brain. They’ve lost all that time to learn and grow, but it’s never too late and you’re never too old to have fun. Whether you’re 25 or 85, you can start turning your brain on today.
Seek new experiences and adventure. Play, have fun, and live a life of more!
For more ways to find purpose in your everyday life, visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming weekend of More Life Training to help you discover how you can bring more joy, more vitality, and more purpose into each activity.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.