July 19, 2017 | Careers + Retirement

Work-Life Balance in Your 50s: Personal Health and Career Change

Despite all of the jokes that age 50 is “over the hill,” it turns out that the majority of Americans find greater satisfaction as they head into their second half-century of life. A 2014 survey of people between the ages of 45-69 conducted by TODAY found that:

  • 62 percent of respondents said they felt satisfied with their lives in their 50s. Only 57 percent of 40-somethings said the same.
  • Among respondents, the level of satisfaction in marital or romantic relationships improved in their 50s.
  • People in their 50s feel more secure financially and have more leisure time than those in their 40s.

Here are some ways to ensure your outlook for your 50s is the best it can be:

Protect Your Free Time

For the first time in years, you probably have some extra free time. The kids are older and more self-sufficient. You aren’t as frantic in trying to build your career from the ground up. Maybe you’ve even accrued some significant vacation time.

If you’re in the habit of responding to work emails on vacation or letting your eyes dart to phone alerts during dinner with your family, start to find ways to protect this time. Let your managers and team members know you will have hours you are unavailable to respond to work-related messages. On the other side of that, let your family know that unless there’s an emergency, they should avoid contacting you while you’re focusing on your work.

Even in your social life, you should be comfortable saying “no.” In your 20s and 30s, you may have found yourself saying yes to more invitations than you could manage. Feel comfortable enough to say no when your priorities don’t coincide with the event. After-hours drinks? Maybe skip one, and meet everyone out for the next one.

Prioritize Your Health

As you age, exercise will become even more critical to keeping your energy levels up, staying independent, and preventing illness and pain. All of this is necessary to give you the stamina you need to keep up with the younger employees at work and enjoy your leisure time to the fullest.

Unfortunately, even if you have more free time these days, it’s not always easy to exercise on a consistent basis. One way to make it easier to incorporate fitness into your life is to couple it with a social activity. Join an age-appropriate recreational league in a sport of your choice, or take some fitness classes. This will give you a stronger incentive to stick with your exercise of choice.

Regardless of what you do to stay fit, keep it on your calendar and don’t let it slip off unless you absolutely have to.

Consider a Career Change

Your 50s can be a perfect time to change careers into something that better suits your interests and lifestyle preferences. If you feel like you’re showing up to work each day just to collect a paycheck, you certainly won’t have the sense of fulfillment and passion you’re looking for. Moreover, if you’re still working overtime, you probably aren’t feeling as in control of your life as much as you’d like.

You’ve spent the last few decades building up a solid skillset. If your current job just isn’t cutting it, now is the time to take all of the experience you’ve accumulated and use it to pivot into another field that fits with your passions and your desired schedule.

Your 50s can be a wonderful time in your life, but to make that happen, it’s important that you achieve a strong work-life balance. Setting boundaries, staying healthy, investing in growth and pivoting into a career that best suits your interests are key steps you can take to do just that.

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