01 Apr “We Get Too Soon Old and Too Late Smart”
Studies have shown that the types of experiences that make people happy change as they get older. Younger people get excited by experiences. Going new places, eating new foods and getting hold of new technology make young people very happy. As we age, the pleasures of extraordinary experiences are usually replaced by a preference for day to day experiences and routines. Most older people gain a clearer understanding of the limits of time and begin to place greater value on the ordinary experiences that make up daily life. Laura Carstensen, a professor at Stanford University, points out that “older adults’ sense that time is limited alters their emotional perspective, causing them to invest in what is more meaningful to them.”
The one thing that is consistent with both younger and older people is that experiences make people happier than material possessions and sharing experiences with others generates the most pleasure. The difference between age and youth is that youth longs for excitement while age longs for peace and calm. A survey carried out by the U.S. National Council on Aging found that seniors beyond the age of seventy-eight prefer to spend their time with family. Forty-one percent of seniors in this age group said that seeing their children and grandchildren grow up was their first priority. One fifth of those surveyed ranked spending time with friends and family as the most important thing in their lives. As we age, we consistently look to close relationships for happiness. Children and grandchildren also need to understand how very important seniors are to their own continued health and well-being.
Personally, my days are full with immediate family, friends, business and exercise. I don’t sleep as well as I used to and there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day… but oh, what I would do to see my parents and talk to them just one more time!
Too often, we are too busy or don’t prioritize the time to bring simple peace and calm into our lives. The peace and calm that seniors crave as they age is also very important to us in our always too busy existence. Spending time with seniors has a reciprocal benefit; we slow down and try to understand what seniors cherish and then we realize that we cherish the same things.
Time is fleeting and as my father used to say “we get too soon old and too late smart.” Find some time in your busy life to visit us or volunteer at the Louis Brier. Put some peace and calm back into your routine by getting to know a community elder. But above all, visit your parents and grandparents wherever they are and as often as possible.
Board member of the Louis Brier Foundation