One of the many good things about growing older (yes, there are few not-so-good things about aging, too, but I intend this to be a positive, hopeful column) is a balanced perspective of time and history. One might call this balanced perspective, “wisdom.”
I read a column about what older people would advise younger people, their advice based on this balanced perspective. There are lots of online sources to find this advice (such as at cheapism.com from which the following guidance was culled) but perhaps “listening to your own, older relatives” might be the best way to learn from seniors.
Some of the advice older people might offer includes quit worrying so much. Stress seems to be a constant discussion amongst young people these days. They seem to be under so much stress. They’re stressed at work and stressed at home. Stressed about politics and religion and relationships and money. “On the other hand,” Cheapism.com reports, “older adults have had the lowest stress levels among the generations since the American Psychological Association began conducting its annual ‘Stress in America’ survey. Perhaps younger adults should heed the advice of a centenarian who took a reporter out for a spin on her 101st birthday: ‘I don’t let anything upset me, especially traffic. I don’t like stress. I can’t stand arguing. If anybody is fussing, I’m gone. I like to be around positive people, people who lift you up not bring you down.’”
Try to find romance in the small stuff. Again, according to Cheapism.com, “We’re given many chances to be supportive or dismissive toward our romantic partners. Cornell University professor Karl Pillemer has compiled the advice of more than 1,500 older American interviewees. Based on his interviews with older Americans, Pillemer offers: ‘If I learned one thing about how to keep the spark alive over many decades, there’s a point that the elders make that aligns very closely with research. It is an emphasis on thinking small – the small, minute-to-minute, day-to-day interactions that make up a relationship.’ So, encourage and find comfort in even the smallest aspects of your relationship like holding hands at the movies.”
Diving into marriage is one of life’s biggest decisions, perhaps the biggest. “Pillemer spoke with more than 700 long-married people about love and marriage, and came up with this sage advice: Don’t rush into anything, and choose your partner carefully. Follow your heart but also use good judgment. Lillie, 78, told him, ‘The biggest mistake is being too quick to enter a marriage. Get to know that person very, very well in all circumstances, the happiness parts and the stressful parts. Both people have to be very open and often times make concessions as they get to know each other. So please, take a very serious look. You cannot mold your spouse into something you want.’”
Never go to bed angry. It is an often-heard piece of advice my wife Arlene and I follow religiously. Our bed is for joy, comfort, passion and rejuvenation, not for anger.
Never stop learning. This is vital advice. And while it may be somewhat self-promoting to list this one again (since I’m an “elder”), listen to your elders.
Then there’s stop comparing oneself to others, and the one my Dad (who never sat for long and drove the day he died at 92) said all the time, Move it (use it) or lose it. “The key to staying young,” centenarians advise, “is to keep moving. To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff.”
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of guidance from the Cheapism.com column on elder advice is: Don’t be so serious, seriously. “What’s the modern-day fountain of youth? A lifetime of laughs. American comedy legend Carl Reiner has a running gag about life in his 90s: ‘Every morning … I pick up my newspaper, get the obituary section, and see if I’m listed,’ he explains. ‘If I’m not, I have my breakfast.’”
Another piece of aged advice I try to follow is this: the extremes of most issues are not where reality exists. The answers to most issues fall somewhere near the middle. Listening to, or worse acting on (or failing to act because of), the extremes of any issue is an effort in futility and cause for unnecessary stress.
Finally, if you’ll allow this old guy approaching his seventh decade of life to offer his own piece of advice and bring this column back to its beginning about historical perspective and how much stress people seem to be under, allow me to quote Ecclesiastes 1:9 of the Bible, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Tideland News columnist Barry Fetzer is a former Swansboro resident.