Life advice from those aged 65 and above

When it comes to life’s challenges, younger people often feel as though they are experiencing everything for the first time. While every generation faces new obstacles, the young forget that their grandparents and parents were once young themselves! They, too, faced many of the same challenges in their lifetime to some extent or other.Fad diets and lifestyle trends will come and go, but the words of wisdom which older people can offer on the most important things in life; our happiness, well-being and relationships, proves to be invaluable and timeless. We share some interesting pieces of advice which those 65+ wish they could tell their younger selves.

Stop worrying

In his highly-acclaimed book ’30 Lessons for Living', Karl Pillemer Ph.D interviewed hundreds of older Americans to find out the life lessons they wish to pass on. One of his key findings was that people wished they had worried less about the things that they had no control over. He summarises: ‘most of the things they worried about didn’t happen, and the bad things that happened to them were things they hadn’t considered’. This is invaluable advice for us all. We are not fortune-tellers and wasting so much energy worrying about something that may or may not happen ruins our ability to be present and enjoy day-to-day life.

Focus on the small things in your relationship

One of the best things older generations can offer the young is advice on love. Pillemer’s work goes on to highlight how we should focus on the small things in our relationships. The responses he received from the ‘experts on living’ indicated that we need to start thinking about the ‘hundreds or thousands of daily micro-interactions’ which make up every relationship. As it can take up to ten positive interactions to make up for a single negative one, a key way to ensure a happy relationship appears to be taking a real interest in what your partner is interested in, rather than dismissing them as unimportant. 

Opposites don't attract

Many of us are brought up to believe the phrase ‘opposites attract’, in other words picking a partner who is your complete opposite in personality and interests will create a harmonious balance and successful relationship. While having complementary attributes can be beneficial for more minor factors like specific hobbies or interests, Pillemer’s research compiled from the words of wisdom of our elders suggests that having the same core values, maybe even political beliefs, could create a successful base for marriage. Research suggests that ‘homophilous’ marriages (marrying someone similar to you) last longer and tend to be happier.

Happiness is a choice

One of the most interesting pieces of advice that arose from Pillemer’s study is that we are in charge of our own happiness. If you let a negative experience affect your entire day, maybe even your entire mental state, there’s a good chance you are choosing not to be happy. Being happy is not the result of your ‘deal in life’; rather you are responsible for your own happiness by changing how you react to certain situations. One 75 year old respondent summarises: “You are not responsible for all the things that happen to you, but you are completely in control of your attitude and your reactions to them.” So, being happy is all about attitude.