What 3 things should every 70 year old avoid if they want to flourish?

There are three things no one in their 70s should do to make the best of their years. All three may surprise you. And all three matter.

So if you are already past that big birthday, or heading in that direction, here’s some wisdom. But I need to confess it’s not mine but comes from the mind of Retirement and Career Coach Gary Foster.

I’m sharing it, first, because it makes sense and, second, in the hope you will not only benefit but check out more of Gary’s rich thinking. You’ll find a link to his blog at the end of this one.

What are those three things to shun like the plague when 70 hits you? Gary is an outspoken advocate for living to 100 or beyond – having set his target at 112 ½. So he’s worth listening to and here they come.

1. Avoid most other 70-year olds.

Gary admits, ‘That sounds cruel’. And it does because most people in their 70s have a circle of similarly-aged friends they love and cherish. But he backs his view with reason.

He points out that many, if not most, 70-year-olds are innocently in the ‘decay mode’ – in terms of their attitude to life and the way their body works. And with that comes a resignation and acceptance of what he calls ‘the myths of automatic senescence and accelerating physical decline’.

Or, to put this in my kind of English, too many in their 70s have fallen for the false belief that age offers no choice but to accept the gradual decay of our faculties’.

As evidence Gary points to the fact that conversations are often limited to the subjects of health, memory or friends impacted by the same. And talk seldom covers how to maintain and celebrate good health and counter decline with wise practices that should always have been in place.

Why does that matter? Gary quotes the opinion of motivational speaker Jim Rohn that each of us ‘rise to the average of the five people we spend the most time with’. In other words, if those closest to a 70 year old are in ‘negative older age mode’ that 70 year old is likely to get infected with the same attitude.

That’s why Gary encourages his fellow septuagenarians to seek the company of those ‘unafraid of change, with insatiable curiosity, and big thinking’ – which is more likely to be found in those in the generations coming up behind.

By doing so, he says, ‘We’ll be able to grow and learn from their creativity and energy and also to help guide them with our acquired wisdom and experience.’

2. Avoid the retirement trap

The ‘retirement trap’, explains Gary, is the belief that life after work should offer endless leisure and rest. A belief that we are born to eventually make the transition from ‘vocation to vacation’ – a concept dreamed up by politicians to free up jobs for those younger and by marketers to relieve us of our money.
He argues that ‘retirement doesn’t exist in nature nor did it exist anywhere on the planet 150 years ago. It’s a Euro-American concept that doesn’t exist in many countries, some of which can claim the longest-living citizens’.
By avoiding the retirement trap we escape the implication that ‘winding down’ is better than staying in growth mode. As Gary would remind us, we are given only two choices with our bodies and brains – grow or decay. And that ‘retirement’ – a word derived from the French ‘retirer’ meaning retreat or go backward – can too easily put us on the decay path.
I like Gary’s list of ‘the fruits of traditional, leisure-based retirement’ – none of which are life-enhancing. To express them in my own words they are –
• Increased separation from stimulating company – a major life limiter.

• A more sedentary lifestyle – despite best intentions, most retirees fail to do the exercise needed to keep in good health.

• The risk of self-indulgence – though we are ‘wired to serve’ it’s easy to drift into ‘I’ve earned the right to put myself at the centre of my choices’.

• Losing work from our lifestyle – with meaningful and productive activity being a key factor in living longer.

3. Avoid drifting

Who would think of trying to travel in a strange country without some kind of road map and a plan? Yet that’s what vast numbers do when exiting full time work for a new territory where they could spend the next 20 to 40 years.
As a result, Gary asserts, many end up drifting. Even those who have a financial plan may have no clear roadmap that takes account of the mental, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual sides of life in this unexplored land.
This can end up with people drifting without a clear and fulfilling purpose. With their circumstances and the expectations of others becoming the driving force – taking them on a path to accelerated deterioration.
Gary notes the view of the business coach Dan Sullivan who says, ‘People die early for three reasons: No money. No friends. No purpose’. On this basis, a healthy and fulfilling life in our 70s demands a plan, a sense of purpose, and a direction.
Without this, warns Gary, ‘we waste the talents, skills, experience, and energy that still resides in us as 70-year olds. And that’s close to being criminal’.

To see more from Gary Foster check out his website here.

How do these 3 things to avoid strike you? Do you have some of your own to contribute? Please tell all either here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can. He doesn’t have a garden.


  1. This article makes some interesting points, but I also found it quite irritating because it is preoccupied only with what one should avoid. I think that’s a bit one-sided. It would have been more useful and encouraging if it had also covered the positive things one should embrace. Maybe these could be covered in a complementary article?

    1. Thanks Kevin, if you look back over our past blogs I hope you would find lots of positive things to embrace. And there will be many more to come.

  2. (1)I agree that being sucked into conversations regarding health, one’s own or that of others, can drag one down. Occasionally contribute, but only very, very occasionally. As I’m married to someone descended some hundred years ago from Viking stock I have no chance of slowing down at 86! (2)We enjoy gardening even the more physically demanding jobs: lopping branches, preparing/mowing 2 lawns, growing 10/12 different fruits and 10/12 different vegetables.
    Our physical habits are based on variants from our youth; my wife tennis/hockey, myself middle/long distance athletics. Both of us fellwalkers in our beloved Lake District. (3) IHS (In His Service) as a vicar I sought to avoid the expectations of others; a habit still practiced!

  3. I’ll try and remember all these in 3 1/2 years time. Meanwhile, there are lots of volunteering opportunities and needs to suit anyone’s abilities and skills.

  4. May I recommend one positive thing? Try at all times to look for the funny side of everything. At 70 now I find this continues to be a very sustaining part of my life. I’m helped by the genes associated with the comic interests of my father/grandfather and ggrandfather/ggrandmother re comic film/panto and pearly king suit/comic acting. (My ggrandfather and his wife even have their own websites like all 3,000 members of the D’Oyly Carte.) I’ve even mixed this with a [conservative evangelical-based] theology I’ve been developing (Critical Postliberalism) which in part relies on perspectives encouraging us to be able to laugh at ourselves. I wonder what Ernest and Marie Heather would have thought? 🙂 https://www.gsarchive.net/whowaswho/H/HeatherMarie.htm https://www.gsarchive.net/whowaswho/L/LynneFrank.htm

  5. I took up sport 4 days per week. 2 mornings playing tennis for up to 2 hours with similar aged people. 1 morning playing walking Football organised by AFC Bournemouth and I day playing golf. I also was very careful with food portion control. I also belong to my church walking group and we walk in the countryside twice a week. When I visit my son in France who is a carpenter/ joiner I have been able to work over 40 hours per week because I have kept fit. I am also heavily involved with my local church and community activities. Keeping fit has been great fun and very rewarding.

  6. Very good advice. I have often thought this and this piece has helped to clarify it. At 78 I am still active, running housegroup, street evangelism, tennis, swimming, gardening. TV can be a killer if you are just watching any old thing. May God keep us on His path right up until the end.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife