There is a common cultural ideal that the older one gets, the wiser one grows. Perhaps that is why we say “there’s no fool like an old fool” — by the time you’ve reached a certain age, you’re supposed to know better.
But is it true that with age comes experience, knowledge, and wisdom worth sharing?
Dr. Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, and Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College, has been applying scientific research to this question and the results can be found at “The Legacy Project: Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans.”
The practical advice that Dr. Pillemer and his team collected from over 1500 Elders aged 70 and over is reported on the Legacy Project website, and will be published in a book to be released this fall. It confirms the idea that Elderhood is a time of continuing growth, and that Elders have much to share with us if we will take the time to listen.
Please visit the Legacy Project site by clicking HERE to learn more, to make your own contribution, and to browse through the lessons learned on a variety of life issues.
As Dr. Pillemer says, the Wisdom gathered includes gems on “how to be happy on a day-to-day basis, the secrets to a successful marriage, tips on raising children, ways to have a fulfilling career, strategies for dealing with illness and loss, and how to grow old fearlessly and well.”
I don’t know the average age of the Elders who shared the advice learned over a lifetime, but if the average was 80 years, and there are 1500 contributors, that’s 120,000 years of Wisdom from which we all can benefit!
Here’s an ever better idea – Why not visit an Elder today and ask them how they’ve coped with life’s challenges, what they wish they could do differently, what their secrets to happiness are?
Make that phone call you’ve been putting off – your favorite Aunt is waiting to hear from you, and to share her Wisdom!
Many thanks to Dr. Karl Pillemer and his research team for taking a strength-based approach to Elderhood, and for sharing these results in such a generous way.
Lisa Kendall is a clinical social work psychotherapist and clinical gerontologist in Ithaca, NY. She is an Eden at Home Educator with The Eden Alternative, serves on the President’s Council for Family Life at Cornell University, and is teaching the Gerontology Fieldwork seminar for Ithaca College this fall.