Some Wise Advice – From Some Wise Elders!

At the Legacy Project, we always welcome you to share your lessons for living (or lessons learned from an elder) on our “Share Your Lessons” page. You can also find lots more practical advice from America’s elders in our book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.

Some wonderful elders from the Watermark Retirement Communities took us up on our offer, and provided some terrific lessons for living that all of us can use. Enjoy!

Edith:

“Throughout my life I have stayed active in sports and other physical activities. Now that I’m 96 years old, I make sure to walk as much as I can. It keeps the body moving, the blood flowing and I always feel better after a walk.”

Virgil:

“I keep my mind and body active by helping others in doing crafts such as bead stringing and jewelry making. I have always believed that when I die it won’t matter how much money I have or how large of a home. What will matter is how many people I have helped as I’ve traveled that road of life.”

Gilbert:

“The first election I voted in was the third re-election of Franklin D. Roosevelt vs. Wendell Wilke in 1940 and I’ve voted in every election since then. That makes 18 elections and 12 presidents. Voting is our right and our obligation according to the Consitution of the United States of America. We should avail ourselves of this right each voting period.”

Ed:

“A father is one who loves his children and their mother in all circumstances. He disciplines with love and not anger. He spends time with his children and shows them by example how to make good choices. He is always there to open his heart to their concerns and he is present in their lives until the end, when it can be put on his headstone with pride ‘He Was My Father.’”

Aaron and Muriel (married 70 years):

“Two words of advice for lasting love: ‘Yes, dear.’

 

The Most Important Lesson? Pearls of Wisdom to Ponder

In the Legacy Project, we asked over 1200 Americans the question: “As you look back over your life, what are the most important lessons you have learned that you would like to pass on to younger people?”

Sometimes the respondents went on at great length about a lesson. But other times they came out with a straightforward principle for living. Some of these “pearls of elder wisdom” took my breath away and stayed with me. Here are a few of the “short but sweet” lessons we heard from the elders.

Remember that life is short.   When you’re tired sleep.  When you’re hungry eat.  Better yet — eat, drink and be merry.  And do good things for others along the way.  It makes everybody feel better.

Believe passionately in something. And I’m not sure that it matters too much what it is. But I think it’s very important to feel commitment, and to get energy and sustenance from that commitment. It could be religious, it might be environmental. It really could be anything. I think having passion and being willing to express it is important.

Learn to live in the moment. I certainly feel that in my own life I have been too future oriented, and it’s a natural inclination, of course you think about the future, and I’m not suggesting that that’s bad. But boy, is there a lot to be gained from just being able to be in the moment and be able to appreciate what’s going on around you right now this very second. And I’ve more recently gotten better at that and appreciate it. It brings peace. It helps you find a place. It’s calming in a world that is not very peaceful.

I think not putting off too long to do something, there certainly are things to do at certain times in your life that you can’t do at others.  There are no wheelchair ramps to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so, if you want to get down there, you still have to go when you’ve got two little feet.

 The biggest lesson I have learned is that when I was younger I paid much too much attention to what everybody else thought.  That I didn’t always do what I thought was best.  I often did what everybody else thought I should be doing.  And every time I stood my ground and did what I thought I ought to be doing, I did better

 When there’s a ‘problem,’ it’s more helpful to assume it’s yours than someone else’s. Yours you can fix. Someone else’s you can’t.

What about your lessons? If you’re an elder and want to share your wisdom, or a young person who has learned something from an elder, please post it on our “Share Your Lessons” page!

Wisdom from the Past – For the Graduating Class

Verna, 91, wrote this “list for living” to her great-grandchildren. It’s a good one to pass on to the next generation in your family (be it children, grandchildren, or further down the line)  and perfect advice for the college graduates this month!

TO MY WONDERFUL GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN – ALL OF THEM:

1. So many things in the world have changed since the time of my grandparents and parents and the earlier times of my own life, and I know that there will be lots of changes in your lifetime too.

2. I hope you will always take school seriously (I was a teacher) and become well-educated to be ready for whatever kind of work or service you will be doing; that you will respect your body- take good care of it and try to have good health.

3. I hope that the governments of the world will do a better job of getting along with each other so that you can experience peace among nations.

4. I hope you will be a positive thinker, not negative or cynical; look for the good in people and things, and fill your life with love, kindness, and thoughtfulness for others.

5. Most important is to know God as you go into the future. I would hope that you will know the peace and joy and courage that come from following a life of love and service- the peace that passes all understanding.

5. Your real success in life lies is the kind of person you become, not with how famous or wealthy you are, so my most sincere wish is for you to live the wholesome life that will lead you to make good choices along the way, to Reach That Star that you are striving to reach.

YOU CAN DO IT!

April’s Lessons: Savoring the Present Moment

Appropriately for the month we’re in, April, 63, sent us a list of lessons that reflect an imortant idea: Savoring the small things each day that make life pleasant. (In fact, research shows that practicing an attitude of savoring in daily life leads to greater happiness.) April suggests we selectively look for positive experiences each day.

Find the poetry in life. Acknowledge the gift of the five senses and focus on what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you touch, what you taste.

This morning I looked past the yellow, white and orange spring pansies on the deck to the fox hole dug into the hillside. The four kits poked their heads out daringly as the mother fox stood guard.

I filtered the world’s news to hear of the children romping at the White House scooping their colored hard-boiled eggs down the South Lawn. I listened for the resurgence of a dream as at 46 someone competes in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

I smelled the rich Irish cream coffee brewing in the kitchen as my feet touched the chilled wood floor. I wrapped myself in my comfortable fleece bathrobe and bit into the warm, buttered wheat toast.

To see, to hear, to smell, to touch, to taste with clarity and discernment—that is the poetry at each turn.

Pop’s Life Lessons – His Children Remember

Our readers have been sending in great lists of lessons learned from elders in their lives. We loved this list created by Sarah Templeton Powel and her siblings. It sounds like their father was a fountain of life lessons!

Pop’s List 

My father died a couple of years ago at age 92. He was truly a member of “The Greatest Generation”. At his service , I read the following list of life lessons my brother, sister and I learned from Pop:

+EXERCISE EVERY DAY
+DON’T WASTE MONEY, OR ANYTHING ELSE
+BE KIND TO CHILDREN AND ANIMALS
+KEEP YOUR SHOES SHINED
+WHEN SOMETHING GOES WRONG, FIX IT, LEARN FROM IT AND MOVE ON
+FEED THE TROOPS FIRST
+ALWAYS ORDER THE NEXT TO CHEAPEST THING ON THE MENU
+KNOW HOW TO DRIVE A STICK SHIFT
+RESPECT YOUR MOTHER
+GENTLEMEN DON’T SWEAR IN FRONT OF LADIES
+LEAD BY EXAMPLE
+WORK HARD – AND OFTEN
+TAKE VACATIONS, BUT DON’T TRAVEL FIRST CLASS
+ALWAYS HAVE MORE THAN ONE IRON IN THE FIRE
+ONLY BUY WHAT YOU CAN PAY FOR
+DON’T PROCRASTINATE
+USE PRONOUNS CORRECTLY
+TAKE THE HIGH ROAD
+NEVER ARGUE WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS
+IF YOU SAY IT, DO IT
+DISCIPLINE IS A POSITIVE ACTION, NOT A NEGATIVE REACTION
+IF HE SAID SOMETHING WAS WRONG WITH HIM, IT WAS
+NEVER THROW AWAY A PAINT CAN IF THERE IS AT LEAST AN INCH OF PAINT LEFT
+ONLY BIG DOGS COUNT – IRISH WOFLHOUNDS ARE THE BEST
+HONESTY IS NOT THE BEST POLICY – IT IS THE ONLY POLICY
+SAY “THANK YOU” FOR ALL THINGS, GREAT AND SMALL
+ALWAYS LABEL YOUR PHOTOS
+NO ONE HATES WAR MORE THAN THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN IN ONE
+STAND UP STRAIGHT
+LIVE WITH DIGNITY AND HONOR
+VOLUNTEER
+ GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY

Roberta’s List for Living

I am always impressed when I receive lessons for living from people in their nineties and beyond. There’s so much lifetime there, and so much time to reflect on it. And I also rejoice in the gift these very old people give us, by taking the time to share their advice.

I loved this list of lessons from Roberta, age 95. Each one of these pieces of advice is worth pondering as you go through your day.

A happy marriage can be enjoyed when each considers what is best for both, and each thinks of what’s best for the other.

Have an income from agreeable work allowing saving for the future, for the children’s college education, and the possibility of catastrophic illness, yet allowing for a pleasant home life.

Have children whose futures will blossom as yours becomes less exciting.  Enjoy teaching them and watching them develop.  Enjoy their successes as well as your own.

Appreciate nature.  Love birds, animals, travel, even all kinds of weather. 

Develop a kind nature.  Do whatever you can for others, even outside the family.

Take an interest in your town, state and nation politically, how it affects you and others. 

Be careful of your health.  Consider the value of your diet, fruit, veggies, vitamins. To the extent that your income allows take part in excercise, sports such as sailing, skiing, tennis, and other sports, gardening, (enjoy what nature does as a result of your efforts)

If possible let art and music be part of your life.

How to be 89: Lenore’s Advice for Aging Well

Lenore, 89, sent her lessons learned in a remarkable letter. She reflects on what makes for a good life, as well as a good old age. Some secrets: Keep learning, keep active, keep laughing.

I am 89 years young at heart. I am living in assisted living. I have six children, four are mine and two are my husband’s children. My two husbands are deceased. I have 11 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, so far. Your letter reached me recently and I would like to participate in your project.

The following are some of the most important lessons I have learned over my long life.

Keep learning every day that passes. Education is important and you are never too old to learn something new- i.e. computers and the latest technology or a new way to cook something or how to make a quilt. Take classes that are offered by your local library.

Satisfy your curiosity. Read the newspaper each day as well as listen to the television. Make up your own mind on current events. Keep a dictionary by your side to look up new words.

Keep active both mentally and physically every day. Life has so much to offer. Take a walk if you can. Even if you are wheelchair bound do some movement of your arms and legs. Read magazines or books and share your thoughts with others.

Keep your sense of humor. Life is so much fun and a laugh lightens whatever is wrong.

Be responsible for your acts. Don’t lie. It is easier to tell the truth and the truth always comes out the same without thinking about it. Finally, have a strong faith in God no matter what life deals you.

Sincerely yours,

Lenore

P.S. Someone typed this for me because I type only with my left hand index finger.

Wisdom from the past – for the youngest generation

Verna, 91, wrote this “list for living” to her great-grandchildren. It’s a good one to pass on to the next generation in your family (be it children, grandchildren, or further down the line!

TO MY WONDERFUL GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN – ALL OF THEM:

1. So many things in the world have changed since the time of my grandparents and parents and the earlier times of my own life, and I know that there will be lots of changes in your lifetime too.

2. I hope you will always take school seriously (I was a teacher) and become well-educated to be ready for whatever kind of work or service you will be doing; that you will respect your body- take good care of it and try to have good health.

3. I hope that the governments of the world will do a better job of getting along with each other so that you can experience peace among nations.

4. I hope you will be a positive thinker, not negative or cynical; look for the good in people and things, and fill your life with love, kindness, and thoughtfulness for others.

5. Most important is to know God as you go into the future. I would hope that you will know the peace and joy and courage that come from following a life of love and service- the peace that passes all understanding.

5. Your real success in life lies is the kind of person you become, not with how famous or wealthy you are, so my most sincere wish is for you to live the wholesome life that will lead you to make good choices along the way, to Reach That Star that you are striving to reach.

YOU CAN DO IT!

Matilda’s lessons for living, peaceful and poetic

Matilda, 78, sent us a set of lessons that read like poetry; calm, reflective thoughts good for a Sunday morning (and a snowy one here).

Over my life, I have learned:

to see the fun in the world instead of dwelling on the unhappy things

to be involved is to feel useful and fulfilled

to have love for others is to receive love

to give to others but also to accept help gracefully

to make changes for the better when possible, knowing that those changes can become ever widening circles – but if they don’t, that’s okay too

that depression is lightened by doing something nice for someone else

that our minds and bodies are intertwined and that positive thoughts influence our bodies in beneficial ways

that life isn’t always smooth but the rough spots bring greater appreciation for the good times

to not live in the past, but to profit from the past while living in the present and the future

Sharon’s List for Living

Sharon, 79, shared her lessons for living in a letter with advice for every stage of life.

The topic you asked us to write about intrigued me. Thinking about it, it almost seems appropriate to have life lessons related to life stages:

Childhood

  • Believe in yourself and try to be around people who believe in you.
  • It is in fact hard for children to actually do this as they are limited in terms of the power and control they have over their environment. This is one of the major advantages of growing up.
  • Express yourself and explore.
  • Find a friend or soul mate to do it with you.

Young Adulthood

  • Work at finding something you are passionate about and pursue it.
  • Always aim to do more than is asked of you.
  • If you feel isolated and lacking in support, do something about it and don’t believe others if they say that they never feel that way too.
  • Find a life partner based on intimacy. A good test is: “Is that someone you would want to play with in the playground if you both were 6 years old?”
  • Chose someone for the joy or their voice or how they move; not to look after you financially or for status. Be prepared to find those things for yourself if you need them.

Adulthood

  • Never take your partner for granted. Treat them as you would your best friend. Good manners towards each other are an important part of home life. (I wish I knew this from my family of origin. It is one I am still struggling with.)
  • Hopefully you will have found your life partner first time around, but if not recognize the mistake and leave the relationship. It serves no purpose to ruin two people’s lives and it is important to model a positive relationship for your children
  • Children feel safest when they are with adults they can trust.
  • Be a trustworthy adult by being authentic and recognizing your own needs, and seeing that these needs are met. Modeling being a martyr does no favors to your children. Give them permission to do the same.
  • Enjoy your parents while they are still around both mentally and physically.

Now – Whenever That is

  • Balance your life so that you have time to enjoy the roses.
  • Do not take your health and well being for granted. Keep up the exercise and you can no longer indulge in some of the excesses that you could get away with when you were younger.
  • If your parents have become dependent on you, you have children again but this time you have to respect them as adults.
  • If you have not yet had a serious illness, be grateful.
  • Live each day as if you have had a serious look at your own mortality – so that there will be no regrets.
  • Enjoy the comfort and intimacy of old and newfound friends.
  • Give something back to the community.
  • Be a tribal elder.
  • Enjoy a good bottle of red.