Life Lessons We Can Learn from the Elderly

Why write a blog about the elderly? Most of us don’t like to think about aging. In fact, we try to avoid it.

However, I have discovered that this view about the elderly is needlessly negative and that, in fact, the oldest people can teach all of us, regardless of age, so much about the extent to which we have choices over the quality of our relationships and our lives as individuals.

Years ago, when I lived in Washington, DC, I attended a lecture called “Successful Aging.” While it may sound dramatic to say that what I learned that day changed the fabric of my life, it is the truth. Motivated by their interest in why some people age better than others, a group of scientists from Harvard studied the lives of centenarians (people who live to be 100 years old). What they discovered was that less than 1/3 of the aging process is due to genetics (hopefully, you bypass disease) and that there are a series of intersecting factors (diet/exercise, our social relationships, our spiritual lives, how attitudes about aging, continuing to exercise our brains) over which we have enormous control, that contribute positively to living successfully.

Happiness Is A Choice You Make: Lessons From A Year Among The Oldest Old – By John Leland

Recently, I read a book entitled Happiness Is A Choice You Make: Lessons From A Year Among The Oldest Old, by John Leland. The book is the account of a yearlong conversation between a New York Times journalist and six incredible people, at least 85 years of age, who were from different backgrounds and economic circumstances, and are among the “oldest old” in America.

By the end of this truly inspiring book, I felt like I had a personal relationship with each of the 6 people.

Their raw experiences compelled me to think more about my own life and, in particular, the primal need for control we all strive for daily.

Let me share with you some of the insights and life’s lessons I learned from Happiness Is A Choice You Make.

  • We need to focus less on external control and more on the power we have to choose. When something bad or unexpected happens, we can choose what to do next, how we want to feel about it, and how we want to let it impact our well-being.
  • Live in the present.
  • Find your purpose.
  • Feel gratitude.
  • Focus on the good things.
  • Love unconditionally.
  • Problems are only problems if you think of them that way.


Our American society often minimizes and ignores the elderly. Shame on us.  They have so much to teach us; most importantly, that we can choose to be happy every day.

But, don’t be under any illusions about the simplicity of living life’s lessons taught in Happiness Is A Choice You Make. Sometimes, the simplest things are the hardest to achieve.

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