We can learn a lot from “old” people

running on the beach, sunrise

It’s a new day. Get moving.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I turned 70, I received lots of celebratory wishes and unsolicited advice. Like a 70-year-old needs advice.

One ditty was the seven and 70 rule. The idea is that seven-year-olds will say anything, and 70 year-olds have earned the right by default to espouse whatever they want. Clearly, I didn’t know or obey that tenet. Wanted or not, I’ve been offering my opinions my entire life.

Nevertheless, I’ve done a lot of thinking since hitting that personal milestone. I feel fortunate, grateful, honored, humbled as I review my life. I have many, many kind people to thank for giving me challenges I didn’t think I could meet, opportunities I never expected, and critiquing I didn’t want to hear but definitely needed. To steal a movie title, it’s been a wonderful life.

Best of all, life continues, but for how long? None of us really knows for sure. As the saying goes, embrace each day as if it were your last. It just might be.

That somber thought used to bother me, scare me even. As a teenager, I thought I’d live forever. I know that’s not going to happen. I read the obituaries every morning, and I find the life summaries of too many people my age or younger.

Death where is thy sting? Many a sermon has already been preached on that topic. I won’t add to that litany.

Instead, I want to share a purposeful phenomenon that seems to resonate with many seniors. Generally speaking, we’re not afraid of death anymore.

After I retired as a public educator, I began my second career in community relations and marketing at a retirement community near my former Ohio home. I wasn’t there long until a common philosophy became apparent among the residents. As they aged, they were happier in their lives, despite increased physical and mental afflictions, reduced agility, and less energy overall. I recently learned that gerontologists confirm these observations. As people’s bodies decline, instead of feeling worse about themselves, they feel better.

horse and buggy

What’s around the corner?

Given their settings and expected elderly ailments, logic would dictate the opposite. Why had death indeed lost its sting for them? In general, they needed less in life and from life. They had given their all and were genuinely happy for that. Also, they looked forward to what they called “going home.”

Regrets? Sure, they had a few, just as I do. But that alone could not deter their enthusiasm for whatever came their way. They still expressed anxiety about all of life’s catastrophes they saw on TV, in the newspapers, and online.

But these were folks who had survived The Great Depression, who knew the value of work, being thrifty, conserving for the future and for future generations. They may not have liked many of the social changes that flew in the face of what they believed. But for the most part, neither did they let that bother them or think less of those who behaved or felt differently than they did. Their knowledge and experience taught them that. In my book, that is the very definition of wisdom.

I admired their gumption, fortitude, love of life, and their focus on being in the presence of each moment. They were ready for whatever came next. I’m trying my best to model that attitude, too, to my wife, my family, my friends, my neighbors, to whomever I meet.

Like my octogenarian friends at the retirement community, I’m ready for the next chapter of my life to unfold, one day, one person, one event, one glorious sunrise, one breathtaking sunset at a time.

Florida, sunset, Amelia River

Even at life’s low tide beauty abounds.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

10 Comments

Filed under column, human interest, photography, writing

10 responses to “We can learn a lot from “old” people

  1. greg

    Cousin/Brother Bruce, thanks again for sharing your life with so many. I pray that we all might use our gifting to the Glory of God and encourage one another. Your notes are encouraging!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol

    Hi Bruce, Loved the post. I have witnessed what you’ve said many a time.
    Hope you and your wife are enjoying your new home and surroundings in VA.
    Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great article. approaching 75 this year, I no longer care so much about what other people think of me. I am confidant in who I am today. Regrets ? Yes, but life is good. Thanks for sharing your thought with us who know exactly what you mean !!
    Norma

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pamela lakits

    Not sure how I missed this post, but so glad i found it!! Well said Bruce. My husband, who will say hello to his 70th birthday in two years and I were just talking about this very subject. Though i am ten years younger than my husband we both agree that we are so lucky and so blessed to still be here when so many we have known are gone.Though we are looking forward to “going home” some day we cherish each day we are here on this amazing planet called earth and enjoying the love we have for each other. I love your writing Bruce. this is one piece I will come back to and read again and again, it’s inspiring!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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