If you want to know how to age gracefully and successfully, your best bet is to ask older adults who’ve figured out the secrets! These individuals, all of whom lived well into their later years, provide a range of witty, wise and even practical tips for finding fulfillment, no matter what your age.

“I had to wait 110 years to become famous. I wanted to enjoy it as long as possible.” Jeanne Louise Calment (1875-1997)

The oldest documented living human, this French woman had all her wits about her when she reached the “super-centenarian” age of 110. With her jaunty smile, Calment charmed the world with her upbeat attitude toward aging and life.

“You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be hundred.”  Woody Allen (1935- )

Unfortunately, this bon mot is somewhat true, though some of the longest-living individuals (including Calment) engaged in their share of bad habits.  However, you can control your life span to the extent that you can avoid some of the unhealthy behaviors that cause people to die before reaching old age.

“Too many people, when they get old, think that they have to live by the calendar.” John Glenn (1921- )

As the oldest person to board a U.S. Space Shuttle at age 77, Senator John Glenn exemplified the view that we shouldn’t let age define us.  The calendar is a useful way to let you know the date, but if you let yourself be hemmed in by your chronological age, you may lock yourself out of potentially valuable opportunities.

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.” Coco Chanel (1883-1971)

Before the age of botox, this fashion icon wisely noted that the expressions you characteristically show will lead you to develop the lines that engrave your face as you get older.  At 20, you have none of these lines, but by 50 your typical expression will have carved itself into your forehead and around your eyes and mouth.  Smile and your facial wrinkles will have a friendlier feel.

“Those who think they have time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” Edward Stanley (1826-1893)

Do you ever feel that you don’t have enough time to work out?  Back in the mid-1800’s, this British stateman advocated, well ahead of his time, for the importance of getting regular physical activity.  He didn’t have the data to support this argument that we have now about the value of exercise.

“By the time you’re eighty years 0ld, you’ve learned everything.  You only have to remember it.” George Burns (1896-1996)

The ultimate wise old man expresses an observation that, although probably unknown to him, has its basis in data about aging and memory. Researchers believe that one of the challenges to memory is that older adults face is the ability to retrieve the information they have already acquired. With this knowledge, you can avail yourself of memory strategies that will allow you to maximize the ability to store and retrieve the memories you strive to retain.

“I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.” Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

Einstein seemed to have the ability to produce more witticisms than the average physicist.  In this case, he expresses the sentiment that many older adults seem to feel, as evidenced by research showing that older adults have lower scores on a measure called “self-discipline.”  By the time they reach their later years, individuals feel better able to express themselves rather than being hemmed in by society’s prescriptions.

By Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.

Fulfillment at Any Age




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