Please answer honestly.
If you were at the gym and saw an old man sitting in the lobby (like this dude I saw yesterday)…
…would you see them, would you acknowledge them, would you stop and have a conversation with them?
What could an old man in the lobby possibly have to teach you about your business, or career, or marriage?
“NOTHING MUCH!” That’s what I used to think.
But over the past few months, I’ve been spending more time listening to the stories of elders. I’ve been the documenting these encounters on Instagram.
And here’s what I’ve learned.
That 90 year old man at the gym might be your greatest teacher. And he won’t charge you a cent for his wisdom.
But we have to find the courage, and the wherewithal, to start the conversation.
And then, it might go something like this.
So many of our elders in their 80’s and 90’s had their lives completely destroyed by World War 2. (See image of Lyda Mae Locke, 93, who lost the love of your young life on D-Day and the beaches of Normandy, over 70 years ago).
Either they were uprooted and had to flee their country, or they were in hiding, or they were in a concentration camp, or they fought in the war.
Here we are, the younger generations, quick to complain about traffic, and the yoga teacher’s whiny voice, and pimples, and too many emails.
All the more reason to go find your Yoda, your elder guide, to remind you… there was a time in the 1940’s when the brutality of life reached into every family’s home, and your family was lucky to survive unscathed.
You know this. You can watch countless Netflix specials on WWII.
But hearing about it from the wrinkled face and grizzly voice of someone in their 80’s or 90’s touches you in a more enduring way.
2. LOVE YOUR PARTNER
If you have a partner, you probably get annoyed with them from time to time. You might even be annoyed with them right now.
While some are still together (see pic of Aubrey, 92, and Sadie, 93, who have been married 70 years)…
…most of the elders I’ve met or spoken with are widows.
They lost their partner recently or in some cases, 23 years ago or 45 years ago, or one lady lost the love of her young life on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day…70+ years ago.
The elders have moved on, but they grieved hard, and they miss their partners every day.
Don’t take your partner for granted.
One of you will be gone before the other. And the one who is still here will regret all that time they spent being mad and annoyed at the other. It’s not worth it.
Be kind to each other. Love each other. Let your sh*t go and work it out!
3. BE PART OF SOMETHING
Those elders who have strong friendships have a completely different level of joy.
I’m working on a documentary about Drinks with Your Elders and we are about to film our first story.
It’s about a group of sorority sisters in Salt Lake City who have been meeting every month…for 70 years!
They have known each other while studying in college,
…and after graduating…
…and when they were getting engaged and married…
….when they were having kids, when their kids were growing up, when they were empty nesters…
…and now when they are losing their spouses, on oxygen machines, and moving into nursing homes.
Through the thick and thin, they are there for each other and they love each other and they are happy because of each other.
I know way too many people in their 30’s and 40’s who spend far too much alone time (NOTE TO SELF).
You can get away with it now. But loneliness in your older age is lethal.
Research shows that loneliness can be as deadly an affliction as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
So here is the great healer:
Consider a friendship with an elder. They have the most to teach you and you have the most to teach them.
They may not have a network to impact your business, or a social status to move the needle on your reputation. But they have something super freakin profound to offer you.
Here’s the kicker.
Their wisdom is timeless. But their days are numbered. Get it while you can.