Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? –Job 12:12
Too often, we relegate elderly folks to the corners of our society. They become marginalized most likely because they don’t have the health and energy to engage as much as they used to in our everyday activities. Yet, they hold a wealth of wisdom that they’ve gained throughout their lifetimes that we would be wise to tap into.
If we took the time to notice, we could discover that the senior segment of our population has a lot to offer. Recently, I had a chance to discuss this topic with a friend of mine, Dr. Kerry Burnight, who is an expert in the field of geriatrics. She told me some things that I had never realized about the elderly. One thing that I found particularly fascinating was that as people age, their brains change. Dr. Burnight explained that these changes bring about a great period of enhanced creativity, problem-solving, spirituality and even humor. There is a reduction in the sense of ego as people age, which allows an opportunity to draw closer to loved ones and God. So, while the abilities to “have” and “do” decline as people grow older, their sense of “being” is enlarged.
A friend of mine did an informal study of seventy to ninety-year-olds. He asked what they would have done differently. In light of what Dr. Burnight told me, their top three answers make a lot of sense:
1. Worry less. Eighty percent of the things we worry about will never happen. Ten percent of worries are of things we can’t do anything about and only that final ten percent are valid worries.
2. Enjoy family more. When it comes down to it, what really matters is our family relationships. The only thing that matters more is our relationship with God.
3. Invest more time in things that matter eternally. It’s interesting that it sometimes takes until the end of our life to appreciate the eternal perspective. Maybe we could learn from our elder generation and begin the legacy process sooner.
It’s sad that so many of us don’t understand these key principles until our later years. The good news is that we don’t have to wait. We can work on these areas now to the benefit of ourselves and our families.
And, as we are able, let’s also try to take advantage of the treasures that are available to us through those who have already walked in our shoes: The wisdom of the aged.
1. Of the three top answers that elderly people said they would do differently, which do you feel you need to work on most? Why?
2. Identify an older person in your life that you might like to learn from. Contact this person in the coming week.