Aging Parents–Research: Wisdom’s Importance in Successful Aging

For satisfaction in later life–to age well, research has told us that maintaining physical and mental health, volunteering and having connections with others are necessary.
One researcher, Dr. Monika Ardelt, an associate sociology professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, wondered could people in poor health, those who’d suffered losses, and those “whose social roles were diminished”–age successfully or would they just have to “give up.” Her recent findings:
Wisdom is the ace in the hole that can help even severely impaired people find meaning, contentment and acceptance in later life.
The above and what follows come from an interesting 3/13/14  NY Times article: The Science of Older and Wiser.” It highlights research confirming the importance of wisdom in aging well–in part: 
  • “People who show evidence of  high wisdom are also more likely to have better coping skills …they would be more active than passive about dealing with hardship”
  • “….when people in nursing homes or with a terminal illness score high on Dr. Monika Ardelt’s wisdom scale, they also report a greater sense of well-being”
  • “True wisdom involves recognizing the negative both within and outside ourselves and trying to learn from it”
  • “Wisdom is characterized by a reduced self-centeredness”
  • “If you’re wise, you’re not focusing so much on what you need and deserve, but on what you can contribute.”
  • “Gererativity”–thinking about the next generation, giving back without needing anything in return….the wisest people do that in a way that doesn’t see their lifetime as limiting when this might happen.”
  • Whatever the nature of one’s limitations, simplifying one’s life is also a sign of wisdom.”
(Looking back we find that Erik Erikson, renowned for his 8 stages of human development theory, and his wife were in their 80’s when they added a ninth stage emphasizing wisdom.)
R, now 100 and a Senior Advisor to this blog, is the wisest person I know. She has maintained her mental and physical health as well as her connections with others. While she doesn’t volunteer in the literal sense, she is constantly doing for others–giving support– and advice (when asked), and little gifts. Her “Words of Wisdom,” posted a year ago:
  • As you age, it helps to simplify your life.
  • Know when to say “no.”
  • Don’t abuse yourself; you get enough from the outside.
  •  Don’t assume.
  • Take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of anything else.
Is it wise to say more? Perhaps. The above may give an idea of our parents’ wisdom. For specifics–and an “impediment” to wisdom, click the full article.
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and professionals, plus ideas–to help parents age well.

Wise Words: Pearls of Wisdom from our 99-year-old Sr. Advisor

99-year-old at tea room

Sr. Advisor, 99, at tea room

Advice and Ideas about Life and Aging:
9 Original Sayings

Original sayings must be in Sr. Advisor R’s DNA. One of her mother’s sayings, “Do the best you can, angels can do no more,” has appeared in previous posts. Wisdom…based on many year’s of living. R’s mother died in her early 90’s. R will be 100 in September.  (Sr. Advisor R tab above has more information.)

Yesterday she invited 3 women for lunch and tea (including myself) at the Rose Tea Room. She was driven over by the other two guests–both much younger.  She had made all the arrangements for the luncheon. Our conversation was stimulating and included lots of laughs.

Something to laugh about

This wrapping paper’s design is something to laugh about

When the conversations are long enough, we’re treated to some of R’s sayings. Wisdom–from one who has lived a long life and paid attention.

1.  In today’s world there are three things you can count on: flowers, music,  and animals (to bring joy).

2.  Life is good; it’s the people who mess it up.

3.  As we live our lives, we write our own history.

4.  Don’t abuse yourself. You get enough from the outside.

5.  Know when to say “no.”

6.  As you age it is helpful to simplify your life.

7.  Don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed.

8.  Don’t assume. 

9.  Take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of anything else.

Because R values independence to such a high degree, “take care of yourself” has been a major motivator in her old age. We have also heard and read from many sources how important this is for family caregivers. When we hear “take care of yourself…” from someone who has navigated life for 99 years most successfully by anyone’s standards, do we take heed? These words are clearly meant for us as well.

Related: 2014 research: Wisdom’s Importance in Successful Aging