Lessons on Happy Living From Those Who Have Done It: The Elderly and Happiness


When one wants to learn about any particular subject, one of the best ways to do so is by discussing that topic with the experts. If you want to learn about politics, talk to a politician, if you want to learn about business, talk to a successful business owner, if you want to learn about golf, talk to a professional golfer. When it comes to life, we are all experts in a sense as we are all living, but I think the closest thing we get to an expert in living is with our elderly. While doing something for longer does not mean you are better, not that life a life can be described as being better than another, but when it comes to experience and wisdom, it behooves us to recognize our elders. As you examine the course of a human life, things like technology, jargon and more will change, but overall, humans in terms of our personalities, desires, and characteristics remain largely the same over the course of time. You can pick up the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and find the emperor of Rome being concerned about what people think about him 2000 years ago the same way we might obsess over the opinions of our coworkers today. In that we are the same. 

Therefore in order to gain some perspective on life from those who have lived it the longest, I went in search of what elderly people may have had to say about life and how to live to the fullest. During my search I came across an article by Joanna Raines. At the time of writing the article, Joanna worked at a nursing home serving the elderly. During her time, she began to enquire amongst them, what they thought some of the most valuable lessons of life were. The following is a list of the 10 most common responses and was published by Joanna in the lifestyle section of Odyssey. 

Life advise from the elderly: 

1. Life isn’t short if you don’t live it that way

2. Adaptation will come with the changes you make

3. Youth is a blessing

4. Enjoy the world around you

5. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

6. Your life is all yours

7. Stay off your high horse

8. Be mature but learn when to lighten up

9. Don’t take everything to heart

10. Never lose compassion

Great list right? Here are my thoughts. 

    1) Life isn’t short if you don’t live it that way. When I think about this I imagine the fear of death, its inevitability and allowing that fear to cripple you with constant stress and anxiety. I admit, I often think of death and constantly find myself fearing it. However, what good does this fear do. It is inevitable. Nothing I can do will stop it. As such, oughtn’t I to get on living my life and enjoying the most of this blessing that is existence? 

    2) Adaptation will come with the changes you make. The universe is in constant chaos, always changing and evolving both in ways that we can see and in those we cant. Any time we find ourselves faced with a major change in our own life we are susceptible to entering a state of panic caused by our nervous system’s reaction to the unknown stimuli of our new situation. Trust that you will adapt, and you will get comfortable. The very nature of our existence at all has depended on ours, and our ancestor’s ability to adapt over time. You are but the most recent in a long line of successful adaptation. Hang in there, you got this. 

    3) Youth is a blessing. I imagine that those elderly folks who came up with this thought want the younger generations to enjoy their youth. It, like our lives in general, will come to an end. Let us not waste our youth with undue worry about the future. Instead enjoy those high metabolisms, joints that don’t crack during routine movement, sharp memories, and beautiful wrinkle free faces. We wont have it forever, enjoy it now. 

    4) Enjoy the world around you. The world is full of wonder and joy if you but open your eyes to see it. Search for joy, happiness, and love everywhere, it is there. Whatever you focus on, you will find. If you search for flaws, wrongs, or strife, you will find it, its there. But just as easily will you find happiness if you make it the focus of your search. Choose enjoyment. 

    5) Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize. Ok I honestly don’t really know what to think about this. As I write this, I am sitting on the porch in the sun inevitably drying out my skin. I suppose the warning is that since we are stuck with this skin for the rest of our live, we had best care for it now before its too late!

    6) Your life is all yours. Exactly. It is YOURS. Nobody else’s. Whomever else there is, they have their own. Sure, we can live together, love one another, care, and nurture each other, but we all have our own life. Let others live theirs according to their plan in so much as it respects the freedom and well being of others, and you do the same. Remember De Mello. We don’t need attachments. Don’t let someone else’s life be your definition of happiness. Live yours. 

    7) Stay off your high horse. Practice modestly and humility. You aren’t as great or special as you think you are. If I think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread and you think you are, one of us has to be wrong. Chances are we both are. Be humble. 

    8) Be mature but learn when to lighten up. I think this is about moderation. It applies to moods and character as well as desires. There is a time for somber sobriety and there is a time to be a goof. Learn the difference and act accordingly. Living your life in a perpetual state of one or the other will do you no good. 

    9) Don’t take everything to heart. Consider the stoic value that events and occurrences are not good or bad, they simply are. A hurricane has no emotion when it smashes the coast, it simply does. Likewise, if you take to heart the words of another, why bother? Why should someone else’s opinion of you suddenly change your feeling about yourself. What do they know? Learn to brush things off and carry on. 

    10) Never lose compassion. Compassion is one of the core values that make humans special. We so often fail in this with regards to humanity across the world, finding any number of reasons why we should hate, mistrust, or at least express apathy towards our fellow humans. Without compassion we are no better than beasts. Let’s remember how to love one another. 

I hope that Joanna Raines doesn’t mind me using her list here and adding my own thoughts. I for one enjoyed reading what the members of her community had to say, and appreciated the opportunity to extrapolate and attempt to add my own thoughts. Keep in mind the words of our elders, they know what they are talking about!

Read her full article here: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/ten-life-lessons-you-can-learn-from-the-elderly

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