A Lesson on Positive Thinking for Pessimistic Aging Parents
On Wednesdays at TLeC I usually provide inspiring quotes, photos and/or stories for caregivers. Today for a change of pace, I am presenting words of wisdom about aging from a 90 year old man to share with your pessimistic aging parents. Because along with caregivers, our senior citizens (or Golden Oldies as I prefer to call them) need some uplifting thoughts to hang on to as well.
Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman delivered a candid speech in April 2009 about the pros and cons of being 90. For starters, when a friend asked him, “How do you feel being 90?” He replied, “Very surprised!”
Here is my summary (quoting heavily from Rabbi Haberman’s talk) giving his six reasons to look at aging in a positive way:
- First you gain tranquility. All the important decisions have been made in earlier years. . . . I have walked the walk, had my failures and successes. All the pressures have eased. I am more relaxed than ever.
- Your passion cools or the doctrine of insignificance. If a matter is not truly significant or important, don’t fret, don’t worry and don’t get yourself worked up. Ignore it! We get less frantic, less pushy in advanced age. . . . the experience of a long life teaches us that not all problems can be solved; and certainly, not by ourselves . . . All we can do is endure.
- The third gain is ‘the art of submission.’ There are passages in life you cannot control . . . let go, accept the unalterable. . . . change your attitude. Stop fighting. Accept what must be; and strangely, this kind of surrender to the unchangeable is conducive to peace of mind.
- The fourth gift harvested in old age is liberation from the compulsion or urge of setting everyone else straight. I am no longer looking to win every argument. The intensity of your conviction is no proof that you are right. More often than before, it occurs to me that I might be wrong, that I don’t have all the answers. I have learned to listen more and talk less.
- The fifth dividend of old age is greater appreciation and gratitude. I have become more attentive to old and new friends. More often than before I keep in touch with old friends and reach out to new, especially, younger people. . . . Giving thanks is the most effective and harmless mood-changer — the best antidote to cynicism and pessimism. . . . I appreciate far more each day, each hour, every bit of new knowledge and every moment with people I care for.
- The sixth and most important gain is more involvement with three generations of my family — children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Best of all is my love affair with a married woman — Maxine, my wife; and, my severest critic and yet, unfailing support in almost sixty-five years of marriage.
In a previous post about communicating with negative-thinking seniors I raise this point:
After they’ve vented about their list of complaints, immediately say to them, “Now tell me something positive.” Some aging parents don’t know how negative they’ve become. At first they will be astonished at your request, but by repeatedly giving them this gentle reminder, they may realize they don’t want to be such negative people and start to be more positive — at least around you!
So if your parents can’t think of something positive to share, you can now hand them this article to jump start their thinking on the benefits of growing older. 🙂
If you or your Golden Oldies have other benefits of aging to share, please add a comment below. The how-to’s for leaving comments are given here.
The New York Times, The New Old Age Blog, by Paula Span, June 22, 2009
The Dilemmas of Aging by Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman, April 3, 2009