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By Hartsville Vidette Staff Reporter

As kids are back in school this fall, they’re not the only ones feeling a renewed sense of vigor and motivation. For many of us, September is synonymous with the fresh start of a new school year and the satisfaction that comes from busy, productive days and learning new things.

That makes this a great time of year to break out of the monotony of stale routines, and that’s especially true for older adults. For all the wonderful things about retirement, the wide-open days with no deadlines or definitive plans can sometimes make it tough to stay motivated.

So this year, use back-to-school season as a force for good by making some changes that can put you on a path to a healthier, happier year ahead. Consider the following ideas that can take you to the head of the class when it comes to your health and quality of life.

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1. Volunteer. Use your wealth of experience, wisdom and practical skills to benefit your community by volunteering for causes that are important to you. While you’re helping your community, you’ll be helping yourself, too. Three-quarters of U.S. adults feel physically healthier by volunteering, according to the 2017 Doing Good is Good for You study from UnitedHealthcare and VolunteerMatch.

2. Pass it on through Play. Whether you’re a grandparent, family friend or neighbor, you could make a difference in a young person’s life by spending quality time with them and modeling healthy choices. Teaching a child a timeless activity or skill that you enjoyed in your youth – like fishing, checkers or a card game – can be a great way to pass on traditions and have fun while also helping kids to cut down on time in front of a computer, tablet or smartphone screen.

3. Put it on Your Schedule. You likely relied on a class schedule and student planner to help you stay accountable back in your school days. That same concept can keep you disciplined when it comes to staying active and getting enough exercise. Whether it’s gardening, attending an exercise class at your local gym, or just taking a regular bike ride or walk around your neighborhood, writing it on your calendar and planning your other activities around this time that you’ve carved out for exercise can be a good practice to ensure you don’t brush it off.

4. Head Back to Class. Even if it’s been decades since you’ve stepped foot in a classroom, it’s not too late to learn something new. And challenging your mind can be one of the best ways to protect your brain health as you age. Explore options available in your community, such as signing up for a class that interests you at your local community college or brushing up on your computer skills at the library. In addition to keeping your mind active, you might also meet some new friends in this sort of group learning environment.

5. Study Up on Your Benefits. Fall is not just back-to-school season. It’s also the annual Medicare enrollment season. Just like cramming for a test the night before was never a good idea, the same goes for choosing your Medicare coverage for the year ahead. Spend some time reviewing any changes in your benefits for 2019 and considering the other options available to you. For some help with this process, check out NMEW.com to learn how you can participate in National Medicare Education Week activities from Sept. 15-21. Being studious about your Medicare choices won’t get you an “A” grade, but it could help you avoid unpleasant surprises when you need to access care and even save some money in the year ahead.

For more health and wellness information and tips for healthy living, visit newsroom.uhc.com.

Gregg Kunemund is the CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement in Tennessee. UnitedHealthcare is the largest business dedicated to serving the health and wellbeing needs of seniors and other beneficiaries.