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As a mid-30-year-old, I love gabbing with older folks.

By coincidence, I don’t hang out with many 30-year-olds. At work, I’m the youngest of the paid and unpaid staff which was frequent in my twenties but it’s circling back in my thirties.

I listen to the covert and overt lessons since most are retired teachers who have a lifetime of vibe and thrive. The insight they share is as abundant as their gray hair.  

All the volunteers are retired, and a few are superstars of retirement rocking like the centenarian candidates they are. Along with being smart, engaging, and sassy humans, they have plenty of lessons to share which I happily oblige by listening, observing, and learning.

1. Keep ‘er Movin’

From walks to exercises, a lesson from the 90-year-olds is to keep moving.

Slowly and with a cane but still they are moving their minds as much as their muscle. As a law of thermodynamics states, objects in motion stay in motion just like a 90-year-old in locomotion.

2. Quick to Laugh

I frequently laugh with the 90-year-old volunteers.

They love to joke and jest about everything from themselves to others. They don’t take things too seriously and are quick to spot and comment on a humorous event.

Recently, one of our 90-year-olds fell on the ice. Even though he wasn’t far from home, it was dark, and he was on an uneven icy surface. When his feet slipped out from under him, he struggled to get up. He dragged himself to a snowbank and was then able to pull himself up. There was bruising, but otherwise, per his words, he was fine. No broken bones but a sore ego.

As he regaled his experience, he finished with, “So, now I feel capable of teaching a nighttime survival course.” Even after a scary slip, he still managed to find and share his humor.

3. People Over Pay

Could these 90-year-old retired educators find employment? Absolutely.

They have skills that are a boon for any establishment, from their expertise with customer service to their unending work ethic. On more than one occasion, they have outshined paid staff.

Instead of pursuing pay, they choose to volunteer their time. There are many reasons for this, from increased flexibility to the joy of sharing their deep well of knowledge, but their passion is people. They enjoy engaging with people, from the strangers who walk through the doors to the staff they mingle with, they love people and are willing to choose people over pay.

I love how The Evidence-Based Investor links money and happiness because I see the live version every week, “Money certainly gives you more choices — over how you spend your time and the different options you have — but all it does is amplify who you are. If you are unhappy without money, it will be harder to be truly happy when you have it.” 

Being retired teachers, they aren’t the richest 90-year-olds who walk through the doors, but I bet a shiny nickel they are the happiest.

4. Make It Rain Hobbies

Puzzles, reading, crosswords, card games, sarcastic remarks, are the many hobbies of our 90-year-olds. They keep growing their mind and skills by keeping active with their hobbies. These hobbies aren’t glitzy or glamorous like snowboarding, sailing, or cheese making.

Instead, their hobbies are low-key and shared with friends. They swap books, play cards, and sharpen their verbal wit with daily doses of relaxation and stimulation.

It doesn’t matter the day; they are ready to play.

5. Optimist Wins

Back pain, wobbly legs, and arthritis. They have plenty of medical ups and downs. They see their doctors more than they see their great-great-grandkids.

But they state their medical facts and finish with – it is, what it is. Then they move onwards and upwards with something else. They state their reality but don’t dwell on it either. They can’t escape their aches, but they aren’t defined by them.

They spend more time glorifying Tom Stelleck’s perfect facial hair than the aches and pains of the day.

6. Find Joy

A cup of coffee, a sweet treat, a cuddly kid, they are quick to appreciate little joys.

One of our 90-year-olds is pretty wobbly on her feet. She needs a cane to get to and fro. Even with support, she can topple over faster than a spinning top.

When I see her car, I speed walk to her to ensure I’m a guiding escort. A steady arm to get her from the parking lot to the building since a hearty wind will topple her over. Once she’s settled, I make coffee, one scoop for 6 cups of water, just the way she likes it.

Why?

She is sweeter than honey. She appreciates every small gesture with words and smiles of gratitude. I do it for all the volunteers, but for this gal, I wear my all-star A-game for this special lady of 92.

She could be angry for all the world has thrown at her, from heartache to health issues, but instead, she shows up with a sweet smile and sparkling personality. The least I can do is make a hot cup of coffee.

7. All In

When asked how they are doing, it’s like a verbal lottery ticket – I have no idea what they’ll say. I do know that it will be the 💯 truth.

They are all in on who they are and how they feel. There is no sugar to coat their aches, pains, and people they want to pinch.

At this point in their lives, they accept who they are and are genuine about how they feel. At times their blunt words are like an ice bucket to my unsuspecting commentary, but it’s easy to accept them for who they are and easier to love them for it.

8. Curious, Not Furious

A common question is, what are you up to? They are always wondering how I am and what I’m doing. The more interesting, the better.

My experiences are vastly different from theirs, especially since many have reduced mobility. I have no hesitation in sharing the mundane like writing, juggling, drawing to the insane like a 7-day silent meditation retreat. They pepper me with questions and always remember to follow up.

Recently, I shared that I’m training for the color run. It’s not a timed event and there are no obstacles outside of avoiding the inhalation of colored cornstarch, but still, there is some effort and some training.

As a fed employee, I get 3 hours of paid physical training (PT). I break it up into four 45-minute runs which is about 3 miles. Once a few volunteers heard what I was doing, they decided to watch me with binoculars and all. Since our visitation had slowed to a crawl, they gleefully watched and discussed all that occurred.

Once, as I was finishing PT, I was greeted with the sounds of cheering. Never in my thirty-year-old life did I expect to have a cheering section. Some dreams do come true!

9. Tribal Celebrations

Weekly pizza with friends, visiting family in town, going out to dinner with the grandkids. The highlights of their week involve people gatherings.

When asked what they have been rumbling around with, these weekly gatherings are what frequently gurgles to the top. They are quick to gush about the wild thing their great-great-grandkid said or the drama in someone’s dilemma. Even with the crests and crashes of human relationships, they are active participants in the lives they care about.

Blessings & Lessons from 90-Year-Olds

As pillars of humanity, I love them for their kind words, work ethic, and baked goods. They turn a job into joy. To level up to the 90-year-old club, when the average American life expectancy swirls around 79, is a testament to how humor, health, and hope can increase longevity for an ideal legacy.  

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2 thoughts on “9 lessons from 90-year-olds

  1. Thank you, so much, for sharing these wonderful life lessons! My gram is 90, and I absolutely love calling her every week.

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