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Wisdom of the elders

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

Some years ago, a newspaper published a special report that contained life lessons from eight senior citizens they interviewed.  While aging can bring challenges to mind and body, it can lead to expansion in other areas.  These eight had an abundance of emotional and social wisdom.  Indeed wise older people have much to teach us about life if we care to give them a listening ear.  Here are eight lessons from wiser elders.

  1. Have purpose – Ruth Anne, a resident in a nursing home, was president of the resident’s council, delivered mail, and never kept still. Do you know your purpose in life? If so, great — but understand that it will evolve and change over time, so watch out for the signs.
  2. Stay active – Why was a woman out dancing three times a week up until her mid-eighties? Put time aside on your calendar for fitness.
  3. Laugh every day – Bring humour into your life and workplace. Listen to comedy. Watch something humorous. Buy a joke book. Open yourself up to fun.
  4. Learn something new – Learn a new card game or a new skill. As Jim Rohn said, “formal education will get you a job. Self-education will get you rich.”
  5. Nurture friendships – There are many studies on the value of friendship and socialization. If you are shy and reserved, try to step out of your comfort zone and talk to and meet new people and be a good listener.
  6. Have a great attitude – The importance of a positive attitude has been beaten to death. Try always to be positive. Among some older friends I find a negative attitude can be contagious.
  7. Be grateful and…
  8. Be loving – I’ll put the last two together. The seniors interviewed had unconditional love for people. But what was really striking was how grateful they were for everything. Try this: every day, be grateful for three things in your life. Keep a journal documenting one positive thing that has happened to you that day. Miracles are everywhere. When you are grateful, they show up. The following story illustrates so much.

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably combed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home.

As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, she was given a visual description of her tiny room.   Without actually seeing it she enthusiastically proclaimed, “I love it”.   She went on, “happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice;

I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift.  I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”  She went on to explain, “old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.  Thank you for your part in filling my memory bank. I am still depositing.”  With a smile, she said, “remember the five simple rules to be happy:

  1. Free your heart from hatred.
  2. Free your mind from worries.
  3. Live simply.
  4. Give more.
  5. Expect less, and enjoy every moment. is where you can send your jokes to keep me laughing, and you smiling.