In working with older clients, we are fortunate to get to know many interesting, wonderful people. We also learn a lot by working with them, talking to them and being part of their lives. Because we often work with clients and their families over an extended period of time during major life changes and some emotional circumstances, we often see their wisdom in practice. Here are just a few of the many life lessons our clients have demonstrated to us.
1. Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with age. Age gives you the chance to learn, develop and grow as a person…but not everyone does so.
2. Quality of life is very subjective and the concept of it changes. What you think might not be a good quality of life now as a healthy person might change as you age or live with disease. As humans, we adapt remarkably well to all kinds of circumstances and many people surprise others and themselves with their tenacity.
3. Laughter really can be the best medicine, especially in the toughest circumstances.
4. You always have something of value to give to someone else. Many times it is just a kind word, a bit of help or a listening ear…
5. Listen more than you talk.
6. No one has the perfect family or relationship. We are all different and we all have “issues”. But, if you are lucky enough to have a supportive family/partner, work hard to foster good relationships and appreciate how precious this is.
8. Illness or disability shouldn’t define you.
9. Everyone has a story. You can learn a lot (or just have a lot of fun) by stopping to listen to it.
10. If you are in a “caring profession” or service job, you have the ability to make things much better (or worse) for someone every day. If you are burnt out, take a break.
11. Don’t be judgmental. You don’t always know the story behind what is going on and you also don’t know what path your own life might take.
12. You can’t plan for everything, but you’ll be able to deal with the unexpected a lot better if you do some planning. This particularly applies to things like advance care planning, estate planning and general financial/life organization. It also helps those you love deal with the unexpected better.
For more on this topic, check out The Legacy Project: “The Legacy Project has systematically collected practical advice from over 1500 older Americans who have lived through extraordinary experiences and historical events. They offer tips on surviving and thriving despite the challenges we all encounter”. You can watch videos from a number of the elders on YouTube, such as this one on the importance of listening:
What lessons have your elders taught you? What wisdom would you share with someone younger?