For those of us who have not reached an age in the triple digits, it is hard to comprehend just how much you will learn after living 100 years.
In perspective, think about the famous expression, “That’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Sliced bread was introduced in 1928 by inventor Otto Frederick Rohwedder. World-famous and beloved American actress Betty White was born in 1922 – before sliced bread. After nearly 100 years of life experience, this woman has lived longer than what is commonly referred to as one of the greatest inventions of the modern world.
Much can be learned from our elders – inventions have changed daily life and movements have transformed the world – all through a century’s worth of ups and downs, successes and failures. It is safe to say our elderly loved ones have learned a thing or two about the true meaning of life.
From all over the globe, Right at Home clients nearing a century of life have answered the question, “What matters most in life?”
Mary “Mae” S. from Canada
“The key to a long and happy life is being social with people. Love your family and cherish your time with them and get involved in activities you enjoy. Volunteer, get involved in activities with your children. To lead an interesting life you need to surround yourself with interesting people.”
Jennie M. from the United Kingdom
“The secret to everything in life is moderation. Always be willing to give and take, and look after others. Also, if you plan to get married, remember that marriage means for life; it is very important.”
Mr. Chen Z. from China
“Although I was able to work hard and make my dreams come true, I would say my biggest regret is not receiving any formal education. If I could go back, I would go to a good school and further my education.”
Nora N. from Ireland
“I would tell people always make sure you know how to listen just as well as you know how to speak. For me, in terms of things I would have done differently, I would have pursued further education.”
If you speak with an aged loved one who has had nearly 10 decades of life experience, you may start to notice some common threads, such as the desire to learn more or the desire for more quality of time with friends and family. Ideals that focus on time and experience versus material possessions and physical assets abound.
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, gathered such overwhelming insights on common regrets toward the end of life that she compiled her findings into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying:
- People typically regret living according to the expectations of others. Have the courage to be true to yourself, not live the life others expect of you.
- People wish they had not worked so hard. Be conscious of what balance might look like in your life and put effort toward maintaining it.
- People wish they had been more expressive with their feelings. Share your feelings out loud rather than keep them to yourself. Odds are, if you are feeling these feelings, others have felt the same.
- People wish they had done a better job of staying in touch with friends. Send a text just to say hello. Share photos on social media or email with friends and family. And never forget the power of hearing the human voice; call your loved one.
- People reflect on their life and realize happiness is a choice, and they wish they had allowed themselves to be happier. Recognize when something or someone has made you truly happy and jot down notes in a journal about what it was that made you smile. Then seek similar experiences. Step one is to know what makes you happy and step two is to seek it out.
The clients whom we serve tell us a life well-lived is made up of the time and moments spent with the people we love, doing the things we are truly passionate about.
As we recently heard from best supporting actor winner J.K. Simmons at the live Academy Awards telecast, “Call your mom. Call your dad, if you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet. Don’t text. Don’t email. Call ’em on the phone. Tell them you love them, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”
What can you do to allow your ageing loved one to spend more quality time with family and friends?