Author Finds Seniors Growing Wiser about Growing Older

This article, written by Kendalite Claudine C., appeared in the Oberlin News Tribune on Thursday, April 19, 2012. Claudine is part of Kendal’s Publicity Plugs group and regularly writes articles for the local newspaper about people and programs at Oberlin High School. Publicity Plugs members are active in all of the Oberlin public schools.

“30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans” is by 1972 Oberlin High School graduate Karl Pillemer, a Cornell professor who specializes in gerontology. This book is so good that I advise all teenagers and adults to read it. You will learn from it or receive confirmation that you have done some things right. 

Pillemer and his team interviewed 1200 people between the ages of 65 to 110. He calls these elderly “the experts.”

There are many fascinating stories by these experts told in the book. mericans abhor the thought of growing old. But the experts find that it is much better than expected.

Choose your mate slowly. In marriage, mates should have important similarities, particularly in values. The best partners are best friends. As we sit watching basketball on television, my husband even says that it is good that we both graduated from Duke. If one had graduated from Carolina, there would have been trouble.

Turning now to a career, the experts tell us to find a job that you really like and adjust your life style to its financial reward. If the first job does not work out, learn as much as you can from it, then move on. The most satisfying jobs have a purpose beyond money and autonomy. People don’t like to be bossed around.

Parenthood is one job that almost no one is prepared for. The author says, “Have the critters and enjoy them. After all they hopefully will be the parents of your grandchildren.” Spend time with the kids, doing what is interesting to them. Do not hit children. Avoid rifts; parents must compromise sometimes.

The funniest story in the book concerns the author, who had three brothers. When he and his wife started having children, he ordered himself to spend time with his daughters doing what they wanted to do. Thus, he became an expert in women’s shoe stores in New York City.

Yes, growing old is restricting, but it is lighter. The older the experts get, the less they worry about dying.

The elderly suggest that the youngsters eat healthily, exercise, work on interpersonal skills and keep the brain motivated. Get involved. Be curious. Plan ahead. Be honest. Be faithful. Say “yes” to opportunities. Travel. Say whatever needs to be said, including “I love you” before someone dies.

The summary includes the following. Use your time wisely. Choose happiness. Work on acceptance. Enjoy small things—a bird on a feeder, a morning cup of coffee or a letter from a friend. The last lesson is to be compassionate and empathetic. Do unto others as you wish they would do to you.

When Pillemer wants to do a survey the next time, I hope that he comes to Kendal at Oberlin. There are 300 people here who would express their opinions. Just bring on the questions!