I have heard my fair share of advice on the most preferable stool softeners on the market, or the fights over whether or not Frank Sinatra was handsome enough to be screamed at and drooled over by the young female populous of the time. But there are a number of other hope-filled life hacks I’ve learned from working with the elderly. Here they are:

 

1.) We Can Grow Less Terrified of Aging  Many people are terrified of aging, but when we see the elderly, we see that there are some who have remarkably grown in wisdom with their age. They’re grandparents and great-grandparents and have a legacy within their community that is unique to their age bracket. 

 

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. -Prov. 16:31

 

2.) You can develop a healthy “I don’t care what people think of me” attitude.  My favorite snide remark was from an elderly woman who called me a lush because I was offering club soda, which she vehemently claimed was only used as a “mixer drink for alcoholic beverages” and from that, claimed I was a lush. Worst yet, she would personally demean me and belittle my appearance. But if there was one thing that I learned from this mean old woman’s surrounding peers, it was to remember that hurtful remarks do not define you.

 

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. -Galatians 1:6

 

3.) Decide Who Should Stay in Your Story of Life When I would see this same woman make some pretty harsh remarks, her elder peers would remember that those venomous words were her problem, not theirs and they would also decide for themselves that she was not going to remain a close friend. You see, these old friends of mine didn’t have time to waste, so they decided she wasn’t meant to stay in their story. 

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4.)You Get a Peek Into Their Past, Which Gives You More Hope for Your Today  I wasn’t alive to see the Great Depression, leaving neighbors and myself scrounging to find actual necessities (this wasn’t Black Friday fights over electronics, ya’ll). Nor was I alive during World War II when it felt like the apocalypse was at your door with news of countless young men’s deaths, a tyrant enforcing eugenics at large, or the bombing of Pearl Harbor.The list could tick on. Suffice to say, I can read about almost every major historical event on google or in a history book, but it can’t compare to hearing the real life accounts of people reflecting on the devastation and the joys of a specific snapshot in history. It should only remind us when we hear their words with their faces etched with worry as if they’re reliving the events of yesterday that we can become [gulp] too idealistic about the past.

 

We live in such a comfortable time compared to our elder peers which can only remind us further that the world is not going to hell and a handbasket as some books, media, and yes- even ministries say, using their fear-based marketing to arouse our emotions foretelling a catastrophic armageddon that only “they” can predict. 

 

You do not know the day or hour of my [Jesus’s] return. -Matthew 25:13

 

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. -Psalm 27:13

 

5.)You learn to be thankful for what you have today, but still retain a desire for some of the back then qualities the elderly had in far off yesteryear. Do you appreciate AC, movies in color, the advent of the internet? Yup, me too. Talking to some of my older friends has made me appreciate the modern blessings we take for granted today.

At the same time, I appreciate their cherished and sometimes forgotten qualities from then. Like how it was normal to get local produce from a community farmer or how people had an implicit trust towards each other because they lived in solidarity. And on that same token, how people were willing to help each other more, and talking to a total stranger wasn’t creepy but normal civil behavior. I’ve learned that these older friends of mine were big on community, which is something we should want to replicate today.

 


Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. -1 Peter 3:8

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6.)You Appreciate the Need to Build a Legacy.
I’m reminded of Eric Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development (a breakdown of different sets of ages which correspond to a specific age-related challenge).

  •  In the adulthood years, the main challenge people usually face is something that’s called Generativity vs. Stagnation. Are you going to build a successful life by raising your children properly, investing time and care into the community, etc.? Or are you going to treat your children with harm and avoid building good into the community?
  • Later in life (mid 60’s and beyond), people will move into a reflection phase. Did their life matter? Did they achieve purpose in their earlier years with their children, careers, community outreach, etc.? This can only mean…

Living with a legacy in mind matters.

7.)The Elderly Teach Us What Truly Defines Success I’ve seen major differences in people who lived out true success and those who did not. The elderly who did were good (not perfect) spouses and parents, they took the time to care for people, and they lived with a decided purpose to influence the world for good. There’s such a joy to their life! They may have health ailments, they may have dementia, but their life had a purpose, so they carry a smile.

 

The ones who didn’t intentionally build a legacy will often appear deplete of joy, bitter, and even hateful. In a nutshell, we can learn early on that success is not found in the bills in your wallet but instead, building a legacy that matters.

 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. -Matt. 6:19

 

8.)You see death, which makes you appreciate life. Inevitably when you work with the elderly, you see many people who were dear to you die. But it makes you appreciate the days you have left on the calendar all the more. It allows you to live with a greater sense of purpose, and it cultivates an appreciation towards the lives of the loved ones who are still breathing.

 

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the fieldThe grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.

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