Life Lessons From the Elderly

I’ve always thought that we should be paying a lot more attention to the elderly. These people have experienced much more life than all of us have. They’ve seen good times, bad times, and everything in between. If anyone on this planet knows what’s important and what isn’t, it has to be the elderly, right?

So for the past few weeks I’ve been studying the elderly, to see what things in life are truly important. And in a Ramblings and Such exclusive, I’m excited to share my groundbreaking findings with you.

Life Lessons From the Elderly

Lesson #1 – Bigger Cars Are Better Than Smaller Cars – When was the last time you saw an octogenarian pull up to church in a Mazda Miata? Answer: never. I’m not sure why, but older people love driving huge tank-like automobiles. Maybe it’s because their bodies are getting more fragile and they want to be better protected in an accident?  I don’t know, if anyone has cracked the mystery on this, let me know.

Lesson #2 – Don’t Worry About Nose Hair and Ear Hair – I guess after keeping your nose and ears trimmed for 40 years, you just reach a point where you say, “Screw it. If the most unsightly thing on my body is my nose hair, then I’m doing alright”.

Lesson #3 – Having Correct Change is Vitally Important – I always thought that having correct change wasn’t a big deal. “The total is $16.71? Okay, here’s a $20.” Then I started watching the elderly, and I realized how wrong I was. Having the correct change is a huge deal. Here’s why: it’s a game to them. They want to know that they can still count without using their fingers. They want to show off their mental acumen. And the catch is – it’s a game they always win.

“Ooh, I think I have the change for that!” is what they say, but they KNOW they have the change for it. Before they leave the house they make sure they always have The TEN ESSENTIAL COINS (TEC): 3 quarters, 2 dimes, 1 nickel, and 4 pennies. (you didn’t know about this, did you?) With The TEC, you will always have enough change no matter what the total is. 4 cents? 9 cents? 73 cents? 99 cents? The TEC has you covered.

So the next time you’re in line behind an elderly person and they start fishing for change with a look of pretend panic on their face, just smile and whisper “I know about the TEC” and they’ll probably wink back at you.

Lesson #4 – No Need To Speed – Have you ever been driving to an event and your GPS is telling you you’re going to be 10 minutes late, so you drive extra fast in hopes of shaving a few minutes off the estimated time of arrival? If you have, you know how hard it is. You can be driving 80mph in a 65 zone for 10 minutes and MAYBE you’ll cut a minute off. But probably not.

Old people have known this for years. That’s why they drive 10 miles under the speed limit and no faster. So back off my bumper, sonny.

Lesson #5 – Dinner Tastes better at 4:00pm – At least once a year Erica and I will go to New York City to hang out with our friends Matt and Renee, and it always cracks us up how late they eat dinner there. At home, by 8pm I’ve already digested my dinner and I’m elbow-deep in a box of cheez-its (my favorite nighttime snack). At 8pm in NYC, we’re ordering appetizers.

Contrast that to the elderly, who often go out for dinner at 4pm. Are they just trying to take advantage of the early bird specials, or is there more at play here? Maybe filet mignon tastes better in the afternoon? Maybe the key to living longer is better metabolization by eating earlier? Maybe it’s just that they are used to falling asleep as Tom Brokaw signs off the air? I’m still investigating…

Lesson #6 – Do Not Wear Clothes in a Locker Room – Us younger guys don’t get it. We finish working out and get all of our shower stuff ready and THEN we get naked and immediately head to the shower. Sometimes we even wear our underwear into the shower stall as well, because honestly, I don’t want to see you naked as much as you don’t want to see me naked.

But clearly we’re missing the point. The old guys must know something we don’t. These guys are pulling their gym shorts off before the locker room door is even closed. By the time they sit down on the bench they are completely naked, sitting with their legs as wide apart as they can. You try to ignore it, but it’s kind of hard when they are trying to start a 200 decibel conversation with everyone else in the room.

Even after their shower they stay naked for as long as possible. They do everything else: they shave, they apply deodorant, and they fix hair BEFORE getting dressed. I’ve even seen some guys put on socks, shoes, shirt, and a belt before getting their underwear and pants on. Naked must be better.

Lesson #7 – There’s Nothing Better Than Good Friends – On a somewhat serious note, have you ever seen two elderly friends greet each other? I love watching them interact. They’ve been friends for 30 years or more, and they’ve been through so much together. You can literally see the joy come over them as they talk to each other.

It confirms something that I’ve always thought was true: good friends are way more important than we think they are.

So there’s just a few of the things my research has dug up to this point. I’d love to have your help though. If there’s anything you’ve learned from the elderly that I’ve missed here, please share your findings.

They may or may not appear in my next book – Nursing Home: The Real School of Life.