What Older Adults Can Teach Us

  As people age & their bodies become less able to do what they'd like them to be able to do, some people have a tendency to begin the slow process of becoming more uninterested.  No, it's not that the people themselves have become less interesting, it's just that they can't easily go out shopping, or golfing or [name that thing here].  Perhaps it's time for some re-evaluation of activities to do together, or perhaps you'll meet new people that are older than you to which this can apply.  Either way, take some time to think about the things that they can teach you, rather than the things they cannot do because of physical limitations.


-Gardening.  Many older adults lived during time periods when gardening was necessary to help make ends meet or even for family survival.  Glean from the knowledge they have to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Discuss insect or other problems that you might have with them and see if they have solutions to your problem

-Preserving.  Along the same lines, find out if they have certain knowledge about preserving food to keep for the winter.  Some people only garden for a season, but many people garden in order to preserve for the year.  Find out if there are things you could do differently or even some old family recipes.  It's truly amazing how many things you can pickle to preserve for the future.  Fermented food are also coming into the spotlight for their health benefits.  Find out if there were ways that they would ferment, say sauerkraut, that your family might enjoy.

-Cooking.  Did they have anything that they were well known for cooking or baking? If so, why not ask details about how they made it?  Many recipes are lost because we simply never thought to ask about them.

-Retro-fitting & making do.  Many of the elderly have incredible skills with making do.  For instance, did you know that the washers for spacing around nuts are often more expensive than pennies.  I've heard from several older gentlemen that they would drill a hole through a penny if they needed a washer in a pinch.  I'm not advocating the defacing of money, just using it as an example of how to think outside of the box in order to meet your current need without going to the store.

-Re-upholstery.  It's truly amazing how many older folks that I've met that have this practiced skill.  All of them that I've talked to said that they started out knowing nothing about it!  If we learn from them on how to cover a sofa or chair, we could be one step ahead of the game.  Even if we don't ever do a project like that, we can learn about their willingness to do things themselves & how they just decide things need to be done & start in to do them without knowing all of the details in advance.  That, in itself, is a skill that few in following generations possess.

-Sewing.  Sewing itself it a skill that requires much more that a sit down chat once in awhile to learn.  If you only have a bit of time with a person, find out if there were ways that they were able to re-purpose clothing by sewing it a certain way so that it wouldn't be tossed aside, but rather used to good purpose.  Someone might know about how to take a larger dress or pair of slacks and decrease the size for a younger sibling or family member.

All of the things I've listed above are practical things that we can learn, but perhaps the most important things to learn are the values that drove those older than us to persevere through seemingly difficult times in history or through difficult times in their personal lives.  How did they keep going forward through it all?  What gave them hope or the tenacity to keep putting one foot in front of the other?  Those are surely lessons worth learning & will far outweigh any practical suggestions you get from them.

There are a number of things we can learn from various sources to get more details on most of these topics, but why not start at the source of ingenuity instead of the go-to catalog of all of the things (internet).  Who knows, maybe some of the stories will be so inspiring we'll begin to think to ourselves, “If he/she can do it, so can I!”

Education in the Golden Years

It’s being said that 50 is the new 40.  People have begun doing more and more, later and later in life.  People have children later in life, start new careers, & even go back for further education.  As you travel through life & have more experiences, many times you find that you have several new & unexpected interests.  Some of those interests become more important than just a passing hobby.  Several people have started going back to school later in life and begin careers in their later years which they find to be far more fulfilling that their former careers simply because the financial constraints are usually fewer than when they were younger with families to care for.  But, how do you decide what type of education might be appropriate for later life?  Here are a few things to consider.

  1.   While your daily needs might be fewer in older years, other financial needs might be more.  Healthcare is one of the needs that could easily increase as you age.  Take these things into consideration when you begin looking at furthering your education in your latter years.  It should not stop you from taking the next step in knowledge, but it may change the way in which you go about it.  Take the time to look into individual credits at colleges instead of a full degree.  Also, check to see if the college has free credits available to students over a certain age.
  2. Consider your age and where your time is best spent.  Pursue your dreams, but consider which type of further education would advance your desires the furthest.  If you desire to help people through your interest field, consider that you might go less for a degree & more for hands on experience with people.  If you desire to add to your qualifications, then look into complete degree programs to add to your repertoire.
  3. Career availability. If you are thinking that you might like to have a second career, look around your immediate area and see if there are openings in that field near you.  If there are not, are you willing to re-locate at this stage of your life?
  4. Family considerations. Are there any family specific needs that you have to take into consideration?  Are you still caring for a disabled child?  There may be things that limit the amount of time & energy that you’d like to spend in that subject area, but they should never stop you from furthering your education in some way or another.
  5. Online resources. Those of us from pre-internet days often do not consider that many of our educational needs might be met by using the internet for information gathering & also for actual academic credit.  There used to be a stigma attached to online vs. institutional degrees, but those days are long past.  You can obtain degrees in your area of interest while barely having to leave home for the privilege. 

There are things in life that have changed for the better in these days of technological advancement.  One of those things is that some of our daily labor is cut down & we have the luxury of pursuing interests that our ancestors would not have believed possible.  Celebrate that fact & pursue your dreams!