By Janet Howard
Aging is inevitable. We’re all growing older all the time. Fortunately, those who have gone before us, our elders, really enjoy giving advice. Reading and listening to what they have to say about how best to grow old is a smart way for those of us in our relative youth to take stock of our lives and avoid common mistakes that will only magnify as we grow ever closer to the end of our own lives.
Focus on the big picture
Much of the advice we’re given by people in their golden years is to focus on what really matters in life. When you pay attention to the advice senior citizens want us to have, two themes emerge. The first is to take care of your relationships. Set yourself up for happiness by very carefully choosing a partner. Common wisdom tells you to choose a partner who is liked by your friends and family–as many survivors of divorce will tell you, it’s better to be alone than to be married to the wrong person. Then, do your best to keep in touch with old friends, and do whatever you can to resolve family estrangements—certain family members may drive you crazy now, but always try to keep in mind that you have a finite amount of time with that person, and any time lost can never be regained.
The other theme is to be true to yourself. Live the life you want to live and say what’s on your mind. Also, take more chances in your career and try to travel more. Learn about yourself and express yourself. Figure out who you really are while you’re still around. When a person knows he’s coming closer to the end of his days, all the small unimportant things tend to fade away and his focus is on the people that populate his life and his memories: his friends, his family, and finally himself.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, but pay attention to the details
In addition to looking at the bigger picture, our elders also remind us that health precedes happiness—we need to take care of our bodies. More specifically, seniors often tell us to focus on teeth and joints, parts of the body that tend to cause older people a lot of grief, and make a lot of money for dentists and orthopedic surgeons. Older people also remind us to manage our weight when we’re young, pointing out that as we age, losing weight becomes more and more difficult. Taking care of these things is less a matter of big actions, but rather the small habits that fill a day. For the sake of your joints, don’t sit too much and try to get at least moderate exercise most days. To keep all of your teeth, floss and brush them regularly. Practice portion control and always be looking to add more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Advice from the elderly tends not to steer anyone into trying to look like a fitness model–instead the advice reminds us that a healthy lifestyle is key to enjoying life.
Try comparing your average day against the advice you’re given by your grandparents. How do your habits help or hurt you in living up to these life lessons? What habits can you change or add to today that will pay off in your future? Life advice from our predecessors is a powerful reminder that now is the time to take care of the details and stay focused on the bigger picture. We remember that life is for the living and we need to enjoy the present and do our best to always live well.