Monday, January 28, 2013


This is one book I am definitely going to get my hands on, based on what I read about it in the New York Times. I am referring to '30 Lessons for Living' by Karl A. Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University and professor of gerontology in medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College and an internationally renowned gerontologist.

Some excerpts of interest from the book as taken from the New York Times article.

Advice from the elderly:

ON MARRIAGE A satisfying marriage that lasts a lifetime is more likely to result when partners are fundamentally similar and share the same basic values and goals. Although romantic love initially brings most couples together, what keeps them together is an abiding friendship, an ability to communicate, a willingness to give and take, and a commitment to the institution of marriage as well as to each other.

The most important thing is to be involved in a profession that you absolutely love, and that you look forward to going to work to every day. Although it can take a while to land that ideal job, you should not give up looking for one that makes you happy. Meanwhile, if you’re stuck in a bad job, try to make the most of it until you can move on. And keep in mind that a promotion may be flattering and lucrative but not worth it if it takes you away from what you most enjoy doing.

ON PARENTING The demands of modern life often have a negative effect on family life, especially when economic pursuits limit the time parents spend with their children. Most important is to spend more time with your children, even if you must sacrifice to do so. Share in their activities, and do things with them that interest them. Time spent together enables parents to detect budding problems and instill important values. While it’s normal to prefer one child over others, it is critical not to make comparisons and show favoritism. Discipline is important when needed, but physical punishment is rarely effective and can result in children who are aggressive and antisocial.

ON AGING “Embrace it. Don’t fight it. Growing older is both an attitude and a process,” an 80-year-old man said. The experts’ advice to the young: “Don’t waste your time worrying about getting old.” Most found that old age vastly exceeded their expectations. Even those with serious chronic illnesses enjoyed a sense of calm and contentment. A 92-year-old who can no longer do many of the things she once enjoyed said: “I think I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. Things that were important to me are no longer important, or not as important.” Another said, “Each decade, each age, has opportunities that weren’t actually there in the previous time.” 

Maintain social contacts. Avoid becoming isolated. When an invitation is issued, say yes. Take steps to stay engaged, and take advantage of opportunities to learn new things. Although many were initially reluctant, those who moved to a senior living community found more freedom to enjoy activities and relationships than they had before.
To those who worry about dying, these men and women said the best antidote is to plan for it: Get things organized, let others know your wishes, tidy up to minimize the burden on your heirs.

ON REGRETS “Always be honest” was the elders’ advice to avoid late-in-life remorse. Take advantage of opportunities and embrace new challenges. And travel more when you’re young rather than wait until the children are grown or you are retired. As Dr. Pillemer summarized the elders’ view, “Travel is so rewarding that it should take precedence over other things younger people spend money on.” Create a bucket list now and start whittling it down. 

ON HAPPINESS Almost to a person, the elders viewed happiness as a choice, not the result of how life treats you. A 75-year-old man said, “You are not responsible for all the things that happen to you, but you are completely in control of your attitude and your reactions to them.” An 84-year-old said, “Adopt a policy of being joyful.” The 90-year-old daughter of divorced parents who had lived a hardscrabble life said, “I learned to be grateful for what I have, and no longer bemoan what I don’t have or can’t do.” The elders saw life as too short to waste on pessimism, boredom and disillusionment.

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