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Staying Young at Heart

“It is not how old you are, but how you are old.”
—Marie Dressler

Once upon a time, also known as our teens and early twenties, we couldn’t wait to be older. At 16, we could drive. At 18, we were considered adults. And at 21, we could legally enjoy a little nightlife. Many of us spent our 20s falling in and out of love, furthering our careers, and in general enjoying fast metabolisms and boundless energy.

And then something happened. Our 20s progressed, we turned 30, 35, and then just stopped counting the candles on the birthday cake. Eventually, we started hoping that the grocery store checker would ask for ID when we’re buying wine along with our low-cal salad dressing, Ben & Jerry’s, and daily multivitamin.

At some point in our savvy single lives we’ve all woken up, looked at the calendar, and actually started stressing about missing out on the major relationship milestones. Not only that, but we began to feel—gulp—old. How did I get here? we found ourselves asking. Exactly when did staying out late with friends and dating inappropriate partners become less interesting than staying home Saturday night to catch up on TiVo and cruise the online personals?

The truth is, it’s not how many candles are on the cake that makes us feel old. It’s in our approach to life and our passion (or lack thereof) for living that affects whether we feel vibrantly alive or prematurely Medicare-eligible. And so in an effort to fully embrace our savvy single lives in 2008, here are the top five tips for staying young at heart:

Tip #1: Be open to new experiences
As we get older and more settled in our lives, our chances of falling into a rut greatly increase. It’s not our fault. We’re creatures of habit who may have grown comfortable in our routine of work, home, gym, grocery store, Starbucks, etc. In 2008, it’s time to shake up that old routine and be open to new experiences. Maybe that means regularly attending singles events to meet and mingle with fellow singles. Or maybe it’s time to take a class or discover a new hobby like salsa dancing, wine tasting, rock climbing, etc. Or maybe it’s as simple as finally saying yes to that lunch invitation from the cutie you always see in the elevator at work. Regardless of how you shake things up, 2008 is all about being open to new and exciting possibilities. Go ahead—give yourself permission to let go, have fun, and see what happens!

Tip #2: Celebrate your age (and the “experience” that comes with it)
In addition to the dreaded crows’ feet, cellulite, and age spots that eventually surface as we age, there’s something else that materializes. Something we should be thankful for. It’s called life experience, a.k.a. wisdom, and it’s something to celebrate. Having been brokenhearted a time or two, surviving a career layoff, living alone while still paying all your bills on time. These experiences teach us about our own resilience. In fact, they make us stronger. And while we may not have the energy or metabolism of our youth, it’s the inner strength and ability to persevere that make us who we really are. This is your year to celebrate that!

Tip #3: Continue (or start) taking risks
When we were younger, there were no consequences for taking risks. Before we started paying a mortgage, worrying about what’s in our 401(k), long before we had our heart broken by the schmuck we thought was The One, taking risks was easy. But with age often comes caution. After falling down and getting hurt one too many times, we may have built emotional walls to protect ourselves from the outside world. As a result, we stopped taking risks and started living smaller lives. Not anymore. This is your year to start living BIG again. Now’s the time to reintroduce yourself to risk. Only unlike your younger naïve self, you’re going to channel your life experience and take more calculated risks. For example, instead of quitting that job you hate without a backup plan, you’re going to hire a headhunter, revamp your resume, and find yourself a fantastic new job that you’re passionate about before giving your two weeks’ notice. And then you’re going to take a much-needed vacation for a week before you start the new job, because experience tells you you’re worth it.

Tip #4: Put yourself out there
Now that you’re committed to being open to new experiences and taking some risks, it’s time to get off your couch, put on your most bootylicious jeans, and put yourself out there (i.e., in target-rich environments) on a regular basis. While online dating is an amazing resource, it should not be the only weapon in your savvy single arsenal. In order to become a truly successful single, you need to get comfortable approaching, talking to, and flirting with the opposite sex. You can’t do that from the comfort of your couch. Ready? Set? Flirt!

Tip #5: Don’t judge others solely by their age
Just as you don’t want to be labeled, categorized, or judged by a number, you shouldn’t judge others based solely on their age either—especially when it comes to dating. In today’s modern world, happily ever after can happen between individuals regardless of their age or generational label. Think Demi and Ashton. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Heck, even Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart seem happy and healthy together. So the next time you meet someone or are contacted online by someone whose age gives you pause—whether they’re older or younger— think again. If all other signs (shared interests, common goals, etc.) point to go, give them a shot. What have you got to lose? (Nothing!)

So there you have it. The top five tips for becoming young at heart in 2008. By being open to new experiences, celebrating your wisdom, and taking some calculated risks, your savvy single life is sure to rock in 2008. Good luck and happy dating!