There is an ambivalent attitude towards the elderly in Western popular culture. Unlike other cultures where elders are revered, too often older people are held up for ridicule, with poor hearing, forgetfulness and ‘rambling’ presented as amusing quirks that come with age.
But many are only too happy to receive the wisdom that comes with age and will listen attentively to the stories that their grandparents can relate about their lives. With their wealth of experience, grandparents’ advice is often worth its weight in gold even in Shakespeare’s time older folk gave their children good advice.
To Thine Own Self Be True
In Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Polonius embodies the wisdom of age in the timeless practical wisdom he gives his son Laertes as he sets sail for France. Being true to yourself is one piece of advice which is of paramount importance.
The elderly sometimes express regret at not having been true to themselves throughout their lives, constantly putting their needs and desires second. Whilst it is noble to be selfless, it’s important not to let your whole life be shaped by it.
It is a sad truth that many older people fail to make provision for their old age, or could not afford a private pension when they were working. Grandparents will counsel you to manage your finances well, to spend within your means and to save for any unexpected bills or emergencies.
Whilst this may all sound very dull, you’ll regret it if you don’t plan ahead. Polonius said to never borrow or lend money, going on to warn that borrowing money tends to make you careless about watching what you spend.
Obesity is modern malaise. During wartime, when diets were restricted, people were much healthier than they are today. Restricting your calorie intake and having periods of fasting has now been scientifically proved to be beneficial to health and longevity, as well as the waistline.
Elders often counsel you not to worry too much about relationships and friendships. With the wisdom of hindsight they can confirm that friends and lovers will come and go throughout your life.
True friends are few and far between and many older people regret losing touch with old friends and not making more of an effort to stay in touch. As for relationships, heed the old expression, “What’s for you won’t go past you”. If a relationship is meant to last it will.
Life’s Too Short
Life really is too short to endure unsatisfactory situations that you can change. Your grandparents may well feel that they have spent far too long putting up with a relationship or job which is simply not right for them, but which they never had the courage to change.
Take their advice and ditch your rude friend or your tedious job. Grasp the positive in life and move forward. With the benefit of hindsight it is often the things we didn’t do, rather than the things we did, which cause us regret.
Pack Up Your Troubles
And smile, smile, smile. Our grandparents lived through the war and, like many who did, say that remaining cheerful was what kept them going. Keeping a smile on your face in conditions of adversity helps you remain optimistic.
One thing that brings untold joy to your grandparent is watching their grandchildren grow up. Their parenting advice should be heeded and often amounts to telling you to try and relax your own parenting style.
Modern parenting is fraught with anxiety, but when they were young parents there was a more relaxed attitude to rearing children. “Healthy neglect” is an old expression, but ‘down time’ allows children to become more creative in their thinking – something that the highly managed modern child misses out on
Spanish grandparents use the phrase ‘For every pot there is a lid’. In other words, try to stop worrying about being attractive to the opposite sex. It will not affect your chances of finding the right person, because ultimately true love is not skin deep.
Everyone can find someone who is the ‘right fit’ and if you accept this then you will be more relaxed about dating. This sort of wisdom can only come from those who have spent their whole lives seeing relationships come and go, or endure and thrive.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Your grandparents will have spent many years watching people make decisions they came to regret. Sometimes you may think you want something very much, only to find the reality is nothing like what you imagined.
It’s an extension of the ‘grass is always greener’ aphorism. So consider: do you really want the thing you are going after, or have you become locked into that desire and lost sight of your true feelings?
Listen to Your Inner Voice
Most people’s judgement is basically good and when older people express regret about past events they often say that ‘not listening to my own instinct’ was the reason a bad decision was made. The inner voice is often the voice of your parent counseling you and since they have your best interests at heart it is often wise to heed what they say.
This guest post was contributed by Forest Healthcare; specialising in care homes, nursing homes and residential homes for the elderly.
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