10 (Mostly Free) Splurges That You Deserve After 50


I can hear my mother’s voice ringing in my ears saying, You deserve it. She was referring to her belief that a little indulgence is essential to happiness and that I—and everyone—should take the time (and expense) to go after our wants and wishes and the things we desire in life.

But after a certain age, we morph. Instead of going after more things in life, we become Marie Kondo wannabes and downsize. Retail therapy, which worked when we were younger, becomes a thing of the past. Now we are more likely to indulge our grandchildren than ourselves.

That’s great, but what about you? Don’t you still deserve it?

Yes, you do. Here are my 10 picks that scream “indulgence” and “happiness” and would have made my mother happy. And, oh yes…they all promote longevity and healthy aging—and that makes me happy. What’s more, these guilt-free indulgences are mostly free.

The 10 things you deserve to splurge on after age 50—right out of the Longevity Playbook…

Of course,this is my list, so I have put it order of importance to me. If you want to change it, feel free to do so. I also put them in reverse order a la David Letterman. If you don’t know who that is or never saw his reverse-order top-10 lists, indulge yourself here.

#10: Plants and flowers. Biophilia, the love of nature, increases our well-being as we age. My mother indulged her biophilic bent with a dozen cactus plants and other succulents. Yes, each had a name and a personality. These plants not only give me pleasure now that I am their caretaker…they also give me responsibility. You can take a long walk in any woodland, arboretum or community garden. Consider starting your own barter garden, and swap flowers and plants with like-minded biophiliacs.

#9: Fruits and vegetables. My biohacker friends will tell you that they eat so many carrots, they start to turn orange. Dr. Michael Lustgarten, interviewed on show #42 of my podcast Generation Bold Radio, lays out the right fruits and vegetables in his research on aging at Tufts University. There’s nothing like a juicy organic apple to keep the doctor away. I eat one every day with a flax treat that I make from peanut butter, honey, vanilla extract and oat bran, rolled together and frozen. These organic, fresh products are more expensive then the “ordinary” kind—but you deserve it. Fortunately, food stamp programs and special coupons for farm stand produce are available.

#8: Wasting time. I’m not kidding. Short intervals of doing nothing productive is major fuel for your creativity—and even success—in business. Some people, like me, are driven to do something even when we’re doing nothing. This is called a hobby, such as online poker or needlepoint or paint by numbers.

Meditation is great way to do nothing and accomplish amazing stress reduction. And it is totally free. Why not waste time with your kids or grandkids doing arts and crafts or picking leaves or just watching a worm.

#7: Exercise equipment. I probably don’t have to convince you of the importance of exercise to good health and longevity. But just in case you need a refresher, listen to #73 of my Generation Bold Radio show, featuring an interview with Judy Foreman, author of Exercise Is Medicine. While you can spend hundreds of dollars at the gym and thousands at a destination wellness center, you can also just take a walk. Check out my favorite group FreeWalkers.org and Diana Nyad’s EverWalk.com. Or put on your hat and sunscreen, and walk wherever you can.

How about that cardio, just running or strength training? And while it may or may not be true that the King of Sweden would put sand in soup cans and lift them to prove to his nation that anyone anywhere can lift weights, there is a soup-can exercise regimen. Just before the coronavirus lockdown, I gave away a garage full of free weights, thinking that I was moving and they would be too heavy to move. But…you know what happened next. With sequestration, everyone was lifting at home, and there was not a weight to be bought from Amazon, Walmart or anywhere. Guess what? I filled soup cans…actually, I just didn’t open them…and I lifted full soup cans just like the King of Sweden.

#6: Lifelong learning. Recently, the Pass It On Network, an international group that creates projects for better aging worldwide, studied the importance of lifelong learning and earning. They issued a fascinating report that concludes that we are happier, healthier and enriched when we keep learning.

University and even online courses are available. The Bernard Osher Foundation has 124 programs associated with universities that offer courses for older adults. Consider also Dorot’s University Without Walls offered by many senior centers.

#5: Technology. Smart watches, robots, computers and even smartphones can be expensive indulgences. But Jan Hively, one of the founders of the Pass It On Network, assures me that solar energy will be the free answer eventually. For now, there are technology discounts for older adults, such as those offered by the AARP.

#4: Legacy: As a trust estate lawyer for more than 35 years, I have met many folks whose legacies were purely financial. However, I also knew many people without the means to give substantial sums but who nonetheless had legacies to leave. I created a course for the New School for Social Research called “Anyone Can Be a Philanthropist.” It included a way to pay small amounts for a permanent life insurance policy to be left to the charity of your choice.

But there’s an entirely free way to leave a legacy—become a volunteer, and create something for the charity of your choice using your creativity. Milton Gralla, my coauthor of How Good Guys Grow Rich, was indeed a good guy himself. He took $20,000, turned it into a $55 million publishing empire and became a true philanthropist. Through the Milton and Shirley Gralla Foundation, he donated substantial sums. But that was not his favorite legacy. His legacy was implementing the idea of the matching fund. When someone gives money, it will be matched by a grant from someone else, increasing the motivation to give the donation. You can start with VolunteerMatch to find a goal or mission that matches your philanthropic bent.

#3: Mattresses. (You weren’t expecting that one, were you?) Well, sleep is one of the healthiest life-enhancing protocols you can access. A good mattress helps. A bad mattress can destroy sleep. A mattress can sell anywhere from $500 to $6,000.

If you can afford to buy the best, do so. But I once again can call upon mom for a cheaper option. My mom, who sadly passed away at age 92, stopped using a mattress around age 80. Although she had a bed, she slept on a beach chair. Yes…you read that right. Plastic webbed beach lounges cost about $30 at Walmart. They last for decades.

Recently, I discovered my own back problem. Guess what? I bought the hardest, most uncomfortable couch I could possibly find. No one can sit on it except me. But it’s like lying on a board at night, and I escaped cortisone shots, never ending physical therapists and disc operations—just like mom.

#2: Life experiences: By experiences, I mean new, “I’ve always wanted to do that” bucket lists. I wrote about these in one of my favorite blogs, What’s on Your Second Bucket List?

Now, let’s say on that list is an expensive trip down the Danube, ballooning over the Negev or wine-tasting in Napa. Surely there is no way of making these trips less expensive, right? But yes, there is…if you want it enough. And I did.

About 20 years ago, my home, then in South Orange, New Jersey, was included in Victorian Home Magazine in a story about our federally registered historic enclave called Montrose Park. I said to the author writing the story, “How nice it must be to see beautiful homes day after day.” Her answer changed my life—“Actually, I’m a travel writer. I rarely cover design.”

I ran as fast as I could and bought a travel writers digest,now a part of the Writers Digest website. It listed every magazine that published travel articles and how to get your article included. I wrote to various publications and offered appropriate topics. Once I was booked to write, I went to the tourist board of the place I wanted to visit and asked for a press trip to cover the story. My favorite free gig was to Kuching, Malaysia, to cover their Cat Museum for Cat Fancy Magazine. I was not only paid for that, but they had 600,000 readers. What a thrill!

More often, I went to the tourist board first and offered to create an e-book or article promoting their venue. You can get my e-book on Uzbekistan on Amazon for $1. I spent several weeks traveling from Tashkent to the Afghan border, and the Uzbekistan travel board covered my husband’s trip, too. In this way, I have traveled to 82 countries, from the Aleutian Islands to cover the TV show The Deadliest Catch to Zambia to lecture travel writers on how to write a happy story. Literally, free travel from A to Z. Today, I would also create a travel blog and podcast. But I’m too busy writing on aging.

#1: Camaraderie. This is the one that’s truly free. If you have to pay for friendship, don’t bother. With loneliness being as bad for your health as smoking…and having friends increasing your longevity—this may be your number-one indulgence. Check out my eBook,Just Keep Talking, for great ways to stay in touch with friends and family.

And indulge in that glass of wine with friends…make it a great vintage.

You deserve it.