Hindsight is a powerful thing. Everyone can name at least 5 instances that now, looking back, they wish they had “known better.”
What if we can “know better”? As America ages, we have a massive resource at our disposal in the form of men and women that have lived, loved, and are itching to share what they learned.
Here is a compilation of elder advice for younger generations:
- Stop Worrying So Much – One common thread in all elder advice is to stop worrying all the time. Not stop planning, or preparing for rainy days, but stop ruminating over the things you can’t control. Time spent worrying is time wasted. If you get into a worry rut, picture an entire roomful of grandparents shaking their heads and laughing at you and your young silliness.
- Love is Daily – Most people make the mistake of thinking about relationships and marriages as large-scale, global experiences. However, as our elders say, what really makes and breaks love are daily, minute-to-minute interactions. The tiny moments add up, and can easily tip the scales one way or another. Take time for your partner, and do your best to show interest in his or her daily life.
- Put Marriage First – Every social scientist will tell you that having kids can be a marriage killer because couples often put the children before the marriage. However, studies show that happy marriages make happy kids, so making your marriage a priority can only help your family. Elders are living proof of this concept, and many will tell you that its rare to see people that are bad at being married be good parents. Even if it’s something as small as a weekly date night, make time for your relationship.
- Opposites Attract, Then Repel – This is another concept on which science and the elderly community agree. It’s important to be with someone that’s similar to you. This doesn’t mean you have to marry someone that loves country music like you do, or hates pickles with a burning passion just like you. This means, rather, you need to spend your life with someone that shares your core values like the important of money, how to raise kids, and religion. Scientists call these marriages homophilous; the elderly call them happy.
This is just a taste. Our elders are overflowing with advice and help for every aspect of life. Use this resource. Ask for help from the older people in your life, and then, when it’s your turn, pass that wisdom down to younger generations.
In the recent post of Thought Catalogue, they chose 21 life advice from aging Reddit users:
Stuff is just stuff. Hoard time instead.
Choose your mate with your brains as well as your hormones. Be picky.
If you’re getting overwhelmed just return to the immediate present moment and savor all that is beautiful and comforting.
Your Life is not as serious as you think it is.
Knees are important. cherish them
I asked my grandpa something like this as he was dying. So me, no I am not 60 I am 28 but he was 83. My grandpa told me three things
“If I knew I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
“The right job is the job you love some days and can tolerate most days and still pays the bills. Almost nobody has a job they love every day.”
“My family is the only thing I care about anymore. Remember that [aabbccatx]”
I’m 62. Most of the advice here is good but I would emphasize two things. Take care of your health and your finances. Start eating better and exercising regularly. If you put on weight now, it will be much harder to loose it later. And if you get into the habit of eating a very high calorie diet, you’ll probably continue that diet as your metabolism slows down and you’ll put on the weight then.
Don’t fall into the credit trap. Live within your means. I know two kinds of people; those who save for things that they want and then pay cash, and those who buy on credit and pay interest on top of the purchase price. Once you start doing this it can quickly become impossible to change the pattern. All of your extra income goes to paying the credit cards/car payment/etc. and you can no longer put any money in savings. Then when you need (or want) to buy something, you have to do it with credit. Add a sudden large expense such as a medical bill, and you may never escape the pattern.
Well, as the old saying goes: a stitch in time saves nine.
Those weeds in the front garden? Pull them out now, or in a few months there’ll be ten times as many of them and they’ll be five times as tall. And next year they’ll be bushes with roots that are a real pain to get out. (Personal experience)
The flaking paint on that window-frame? Paint it now, or it’ll rot and be far more work to fix. (Personal experience).
That nasty sound when the car-wheel hits a bump? If you don’t fix it and the suspension breaks when you hit a pot-hole on the motorway, you’ll be stranded there with a forty-tonner bearing down on you. (Fortunately not personal experience – I’d learned something by then.)
Books. Read them. 64 here, and your mom. All the cliches apply (sunblock, flossing, travel). But don’t stop reading books, lots and lots and lots of books. Crappy ones, disturbing ones, difficult ones, fun ones. You can only live your one tiny life, but with books, you can live thousands more.
I’m not quite 60 but am closer to 60 than 50 so I’m gonna take a shot anyway.
The most important person in your life is the person who agreed to share their life with you. Treat them as such.
Children grow up way too fast. Make the most of the time you have with them.
A friend will come running if you call them at 2am; everyone else is an acquiaintance.
Your job provides the means to do what’s really important in life, nothing more. Do the job but live for your family.
“Your job provides the means to do what’s really important in life, nothing more. Do the job but live for your family.”
I would say live by the spirit of this concept but not necessarily the letter of the law here. If we all treated our jobs like 9-to-5 money-making nuisances that interrupted our real lives, we would have no vaccines or antibiotics, no expert surgeons who get up out of bed in the middle of the night to reset your knee so you will be good as new rather than crippled for life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr would probably never have planned the march on Washington, and Freud would have stayed just a regular doctor and rather than founding psychology as we know it today.
The answer is not necessarily to become detached from your job, but if you love your work and it’s important to you, involve your family. The two do not need to be separate. If you do something cool your kids are going to think it is insanely cool. Bring them in on their days off from school, if you bring work home talk to them about it, if you have to go in on the weekends bring them for a while and give them play “work” to do — then take them out for a treat. The greatest memories of my childhood were going into the lab with my physician/scientist father. I was inspired by how much he loved his work and his dedication to saving lives and finding cures. And I freakin’ LOVED working those machines in the lab and looking at slides on the microscope. Plus, this let me know that I was more important than his work.
My father’s work was demanding, he worked 10-11 hours a day, and often on weekends and holidays, but he was NOT a workaholic. He was always home in time to help me with my homework (when I was older) or give me my bath and read me bedtime stories and have a bedtime heart-to-heart (when I was younger). You don’t have to do something obviously cool like science to involve your kids, your kids will think anything you do is cool, the trick to make them feel involved and use work time as bonding time with them as well. A friend of mine who is a lawyer often has his son into the office. He gives the kid his own computer and legal pad and he does just what daddy does (although it involves playing games on the computer rather than writing briefs, and drawing pictures rather than taking notes, but you get the picture).
It’s not just about kids either, make sure your partner knows he/she is valued as well. My partner and I often “telecommute” from each other’s offices, or work together in the house or at cafes, often taking snack and conversation breaks. It is wonderful quality time for two introverts 🙂
I think it’s OK to devote a lot of the time in your life to your work, just don’t make it separate from your actual life. I would say: work a lot if you want but make it part of your life, and don’t be a workaholic — if Barak Obama can make the time to have a nice family dinner every single day (as long as he’s not traveling for work), you can have work you love and are dedicated to and spend great time with your family.
I’m exactly 60 and agree with what’s been said so far. Especially how fast your children grow up. It’s why grandchildren are so wonderful…I realize it now and appreciate and savor every single minute with them.
I would also say that years go by in the blink of an eye. Don’t marry young. Live your life. Go places. Do things. If you have the means or not. Pack a bag and go wherever you can afford to go. While you have no dependents, don’t buy stuff. Any stuff. See the world. Look through travel magazines and pick a spot. GO!
If you have a dream of being or doing something that seems impossible, try for it anyway. It will only become more impossible as you age and become responsible for other people.
We have one time on this earth. Don’t wake up and realize that you are 60 years old and haven’t done the things you dreamed about.
As a 60 year old, I’d say to 30 year olds that you should date someone twice your age.
When you meet someone for the first time, realize that you know nothing about them. You see race, gender, age, clothes. Forget it. You know nothing. Those biased assumptions that pop into your head because of the way your brain likes categories, are limiting your life, and others’ lives.
I would say to appreciate the small things and to be present in the moment. What do I mean? Well, it seems today like younger people are all about immediate gratification. Instead, why not appreciate every small moment? We don’t get to stay on this crazy/wonderful planet forever and the greatest pleasure can be found in the most mundane of activities. Instead of sending a text, pick up the phone and call someone. Call your mother. Really, call me. I know you are busy and have a new girlfriend and an important job, but please, you just have one mother. I promise I won’t ask about children or about your shiksa girlfriend. No, really, as long as you two love each other. Can she cook? I meant to tell you that you looked too thin when I saw you last week.
I’m here with my grandma, she says: “Fuck Bitches, get money. Yolo.”
I’m just kidding, she said: “what is read it (reddit)? I don’t have that, I have hotmail.”
Love you Grandma.
Not quite 60 but getting there fast. If you are a US citizen chances are you’ve lived a pretty easy life even if it didn’t feel that way. In a world of abundance here’s what I’ve learned. #1. Either have a great partner or don’t have one at all. My spouse has made everything better, and I put her on a pedestal. When nothing seems to be going right, if you’ve got each other, you’ve got everything. Any time I doubted myself she believed in me more than I did. Thought #2 – Take risks! we think in terms of black and white, the world is gray. It’s really hard to “lose everything” unless you die. If you get fired there’s another job, if you go broke, you can rebuild. If you don’t take risks, (smart risks) you’ll look back and say “I wish I had.” #3 Blood is thicker than water. Have kids if you can, they are worth the trouble. Protect your family, expect them to protect you. #4 Your brain thinks you’re 18, your body gets old. Don’t be afraid of going to the doctor, and spend whatever you have on your health. Your spouse, children, family, colleagues need you #5. Keep your word, even though most people will end up disappointing you with theirs. #6 Learn to be generous, it feels good. #7 Never stop learning, seeking more knowledge, – especially now, what you thought would always be a career will be obsolete. If you are planning a career now – do something related to energy, water, or waste and you’ll probably have a job for the rest of your life. I’m sure there are more, but that’s a good start.
Marriage is not 50:50. It is 100:100. Remember that when you wake up and when you go to bed. Every day.
I was taught a lesson that seemed shallow at first but it ended up being very wise (even if the one who said it wasn’t): “Work not too fast, and not too slow.”
This was on my first day of a physical warehouse job. I was a little surprised at this advice, being all young and naive and wanting to give it my 110%. I thought at first he was gaming the system.
On that day, around 2:00 PM, I was out of breath and my body wanted to kill me.
I learned the virtue of sustained work. Pacing oneself. Adopt a steady rhythm so that you’re not completely destroyed at the end of the day. This was especially true at this job where the summer season saw us doing 80+ hour weeks of physical work.
To your last point…a friend once told me, when I was working ridiculous hours and was stressed beyond reason, something that has really stuck with me. He said:
“Nobody ever dies wishing they had worked more.”
Since that very day, I have tried to get out of work on a more reasonable schedule, saving the crazy crunch hours for when there truly is a crisis at work. I still think it’s important to excel at work, as getting laid off would of course, suck, but I just try to stay very focused and get it done in as few hours as possible. I spend more time with my wife and doing hobbies as a result.
I’m 60, and I generally agree with the other answers, but I want to give a slightly different perspective. Remember that life is like a bank account: You don’t want to spend everything you have right away, but you don’t want to be a miser and save every penny. Yes, you’re only young once, but, with any luck, you’ll also be old at some point. Plan on a career, but don’t let it overcome the rest of your life. Take care of yourself, but don’t make it an obsession. Focus on your kids, but leave room in your life for yourself. Save enough money so that you’ll have enough for the future and for emergencies, but spend enough now to avoid looking back with regret. I’ve tried to balance living for the moment with planning for the future, and it’s worked out well. Many of my friends who ignored the future when they were in their 20s and early 30s now bitterly regret it, but many of my friends who did nothing but work and strive during the same period say they have the same level of regret.
Collect experiences. I don’t have many regrets, but I do wish I would have travelled more when I was younger.
and this: When you have kids you will be time warping. Spend as much time with your children as you can. Turn off the TV, get away from the computer. You will never understand the impact you have on their lives. Make the most of it.
Life isn’t serious. Success or failure mean nothing in the scheme of life’s existence, never mind your life. If you are fortunate enough to be born into relative wealth, enjoy it. And if you aren’t, do everything in your power to make everyone’s lives better. The only goal we can ever really have as a species is equality of happiness.
Don’t have any elderly people in your life you can go to? Luckily, there are tons of books, podcasts, and even movies dedicated to collecting and sharing wisdom from those who’ve been there. Look into books like “30 Lessons For Living” and “30 Lessons For Loving” by Karl Pillemer, a PHD dedicated to interviewing elder Americans and sharing their advice. You can even use online resources like ElderWisdomCircle.org that connect elders with advice-seeking youth.
Take a moment and think about your life, no matter how old you are. What advice would you want to share with younger generations? Share it below!
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