In this current age where information is so readily available in books and over the internet, this generation assumes that it can learn everything there is to know about life from schools and online research. However, some of the best and the most valuable lessons in life does not come from inanimate objects but from people who are part of your life, and technically have lived longer than you. While you can learn how to be an entrepreneur and plan a business utilizing a gap in the market from books and online courses, your elders will be there to support you and teach you how to pick yourself up if one project fails and how to move ahead despite shortcomings and setbacks. The Legacy Project is a YouTube program that ‘collects practical advice from older Americans who have lived through extraordinary experiences and historical events. They offer tips on surviving and thriving despite the challenges we all encounter.’
10. Be active
My 104 years old grandfather who has long since passed on was never incapacitated for even a day until his last moment. He used to go for long walks in the evening and even danced at my brother’s wedding. My 81 year old grandma never sits still. If she is not cooking or cleaning, she is teaching the local kids or busy working on her pet projects. She has never had a stay at the hospital and has very little medication prescribed to her. When I am their age, I only wish I could be as agile as they are. And this is because they eat healthy and stay active. Don’t let the luxuries of modern life spoil you, walk the short distance to the shop or take the stairs. In the long run, it helps to have a stress free life, no matter how long you live for.
9. Have purpose
Last year, I met a diplomat who was about to retire from his ambassadorial position at his country’s embassy. While discussing our future goals, he told me that when he goes back to his country he wants to pursue a doctorate study. This man had as much success as he could possibly imagine in his life, but instead of lying back and calling it a day, he was looking forward to new ways to advance himself.
8. Laugh a lot
Laughter truly is the best medicine. Every evening when he was alive, my grandfather and his friends used to get together and share the funniest experiences about their lives and laugh about them. Mistakes and embarrassments from ages ago were now only a source of laughter for them. One thing I have learned from all the elderly people in my life is to see the humour in the worst situation. Some of the older people in my life that I like being around are those who like to laugh a lot. Not only is their spirit contagious and cheers you up instantly, they also lead a healthier life because of all the worrying that they are not doing.
7. Value friendship
I genuinely envy the kind of friendship my grandparents shared between them and with others. Maybe because currently technology and social media has made it so much easier to connect and then lose touch with friends, or maybe because life has become more hectic now than it was then; either way the relationships they had formed were truly personal, and strong. Even if they hadn’t seen each other in years, they wrote to each other and knew where to pick up when they did meet. Their social circle was small and they valued the people they included into their lives. This is what is lacking with this tech-savvy generation that has millions of apps to find new friends. We need to learn to value our bonds and reconnect with estranged families and friends. We need to include more social presence in our lives, this is an important support system in society.
6. Find faith
Everyone before me in my family was religious in some sort of way. Growing up, I didn’t see the need for a religion except to enjoy celebrating its festivities. Now that I have grown up and am in charge of my own life, I find myself often turning to the mysterious entity called God and asking for directions. Eventually, I do find my way out and forward, but I always lack the confidence in the future that my gran always possess. She has God and whether she believes in his existence or not, she has faith that helped her get through the doubtful times without as much agony as I experience when I don’t know where life is headed. Faith is the strongest form of hope.
5. Be grateful
Everyone has lead different lives and have their different lot in life. At any point, it is easier to not be happy with what you have and want more. After all, it is this ambition for a better life that keeps us going through. However, no one teaches you to appreciate the little blessings in life as much as the elderly. Even though some of their bodies might be riddled with disease, you never see them letting it define them. They choose to overlook the discomfort and look at the brighter things in life. They choose to be thankful for their long lives they have had with their partners instead of the physical discomfort it puts them through, they choose to be grateful for their family and grandchildren even if they don’t get to see them often. Want is the root of all unhappiness. The more grateful you are, the more you shall receive.
4. Never too late to learn
My grandparents learned to use a cell phone when they were in their seventies, and the other day we had a snapchat session. The glee on my Gran’s face for having successfully mastered the art of chatting was indescribable. While I refuse to upgrade from Windows to Mac because of the inconvenience of having to re-adapt my desktop habits, my gran is always ready to face technological challenges. As they say, wisdom is not something you are born with, it is something you acquire over the ages. And to develop is to never let the learning stop.
3. Listen to others
When you have spent this many years on earth, you know that you have many experiences and stories for it. You also know that so do others. More often than not, their stories will be different. So listen. To be able to listen without judging will make you many friends, and will make you a happier person within. So always stop and lend an ear to someone who wants to talk to you, even if all they want to say is how much they miss their children or how much their leg hurts. A patient listener with a kind word learns a lot from the world around them.
2. Plan ahead
No one can be ready for everything in life, and there is only so much you can do to prepare for them. But even then, you must plan for the future, yours and your family’s. This does not only extend to life insurance and assistive care planning, but also estate planning, general finances, organizing a will and funeral details. When you are gone, whenever it may be, it will help your loved ones deal better with what comes next.
1. Stay positive
There is always time to reinvent yourself, there is always time to do those things that you never did before, there is always a way to make a difference and change other people’s lives. There is always a way if you look for it. It is too easy to let what has been control what will be, but every time you experience a change in life, you could look around and decide that you do want to go on with this life. An elderly lady who was my neighbor was always the shy homely housewife but when her husband passed away, she didn’t wither into the confines of her house wondering how to go on with life. Instead she came out and took charge. She learned how to do the bills with some help from her neighbours and she learned how to drive her husband’s car around town to get the things she needed. She became more independent and outgoing, and this attitude reflected in her mental and physical state.