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3 Things Women in Their 60s Want All Women in Their 20s to Know

Aging looks different for every woman. From our bodies changing to our maturing mindsets, we all get older in ways that reflect our distinct lived experiences. But it’s rare to meet an older person who doesn’t wish they could give their younger self some advice; what matters in the moment isn’t what always stays with us. In that spirit, SELF recently asked three women over 60, all with different professional backgrounds, what advice they’d give women in their 20s as they look to the future.

Embrace social connections with friends and family.

Making friends can be easy when you’re young and have a buzzing social life. As you age, however, maintaining ties to your peers gets more challenging. Approximately one quarter of people over 65 are socially isolated, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, and there are material health consequences to having few social connections, including higher risks of death and a 50% chance of developing dementia.

Dunia Jackson, a 62-year-old retired correctional case manager from the Maryland Department of Public Safety, tells SELF that “it’s harder to make connections when you’re older.” Like many people, she leaned on friends made during her career. “The people I worked with for 20, 30 years on the job, we were family,” she says. “We were like brothers and sisters. We would share our intimate whatevers, issues with our families, and we would help each other.”

But “upon retirement, it’s a thing of being torn away from that structured job or office setting,” Jackson says. “Being more isolated, you try to make connections with the people that you used to work with, but the longer I’m retired, the more distant they get.”

That’s why, she says, “You have to embrace those social connections with family and friends.” Kara Allen, a 60-year-old Texas resident who works in hospitality, also tells SELF she wished she had considered “the importance of your family and staying connected, and really making sure your relationship with your family is concrete” in her 20s. “Be it friends, be it family, you always have to have a plethora of people somewhere,” she says, and it’s “important to have multiple generations in your life.”

The benefits of strong family ties can pay off later in life: A paper in the journal Psychology and Aging suggests that there is “strong evidence that having more close family members and friends is associated with less loneliness.”2 Less loneliness doesn’t just mean a longer life, but a more fulfilling one as you age.

Set aside time to prioritize your personal goals

Allen says she feels much more goal-oriented these days as she looks back at how she’s spent her life. “You have to make your time productive,” she says. “Because when you get to a certain age, sometimes you’ve been flying, flying, flying, and realize, ‘I wasn’t paying attention in my 20s.’ I had my child in my 30s and in my 40s, and so now I’m back to me.” So, she says, “think about what you want to do and always be moving towards that—something that you wanna pour yourself and give yourself to.”

Research indicates that having goals and specific plans to attain them—or simply writing them down—not only has a positive effect on your well-being, but can help you get through a difficult time.5, 6, 7 Following through on those goals is also tied to more satisfaction throughout your life.8

Now, Allen says, “I’m a grandmother—and so it’s like, ‘Okay, what am I gonna do with the second half of my life now?’ I’ve got to take care of myself.” Research also shows that having purpose in life not only results in greater happiness and more life satisfaction, but also in better physical health—including a longer life.

Be gentle with yourself as you embrace change

While getting older is often portrayed as a process of becoming more certain in who you are and growing set in your ways, 64-year-old Kim Crawley, a certified caregiver in Baltimore, tells SELF, “You sometimes have to change. Some things you just have to let go. And some things you need to pick up that will help you. It’s going to be a struggle, but you have to do it for your life.”

Being able to adapt to circumstances—in multiple areas, including your career, your personal life, and your health—is a trait that’s also tied to greater life satisfaction and well-being.12 “I won’t say things won’t try to knock at your door—your mental state, depression, even physical health,” Crawley says, but “you need to grow with grace, you know?”

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