With age comes wisdom. We have all heard it, but do we all really value it. Many cultures and countries have different levels of value for elderly in society. Personally, I love sitting down with older people and enjoy just listening. It is always interesting what can be learnt and you leave with a different perspective every time. Having a visit with a grandparent, by taking this precious time to reflect and ask a lot of life experience questions, you can gain insight about your family, traditions and history. Here is a personal story:
“We see our grandma at least once a month for a Sunday afternoon visit. She was the center of the family and we would catch up on every other families activities and news every time we saw her. Besides from catching up, I always enjoyed asking her about when she was young with in-depth questions. Not the regular, shooting the breeze kind… but the real conversation kind. These questions were honest and real, which in return got some surprising information and inspirational stories. It was not uncommon when someone would say… ‘I never knew that’, with a shocked face. It has been several years now that she has passed, but so happy to have those memories of our Sunday visits.”
Rebekkah from History Pin asked a few of her friends about their grandparents and family.
“My friend has an amazing story about her Grandfather who fought in Second World War and whose life was saved by a silver coin in his pocket which deflected a bullet. Her nanny still has the coin. Another friend’s great-great grandfather had an electric car, whilst another friend told us how the silk bridesmaid’s dresses seen in her family photos from the 1990s would have been very unusual during World War II because silk was very rare as it was used for parachutes. So, from fashion to computers there was plenty of discussion about how things had changed over the years and everybody involved had a great time – whether it was nostalgia about 1970s gadgets or the kids finding out about the toys their parents played with.”
The Legacy Project has systematically collected practical advice from over 1500 older Americans who have lived through extraordinary experiences and historical events. They offer tips on surviving and thriving despite the challenges we all encounter.
For as long as humans have been humans, older people have played critically important roles as advice-givers. Indeed, anthropological research shows that survival in pre-literate societies was dependent on the knowledge of the oldest members. It’s easy to forget that it is only in the past 100 years or so that people have turned to anyone other than the oldest person they knew to solve life’s problems.
Now here’s the important point: Old people are still a unique source of advice for living for younger people. And we need to tap this source much more vigorously than we are currently doing — both for young people’s sake and that of our elders. We often do ask our elders to tell their life stories. But that activity is very different from asking their advice. You don’t just want their reminiscences; what’s truly valuable are the lessons they learned from their experience and that they wish to pass on to younger generations.
During a visit, as adults or your children, we can have real conversations with our elders within the family, friends or strangers. Here are several questions to start with, but feel free to reflect on your own.
- What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned over the course of your life?
- Some people say that they have had difficult or stressful experiences but they have learned important lessons from them. Is that true for you? Can you give examples of what you learned?
- As you look back over your life, do you see any “turning points”; that is, a key event or experience that changed over the course of your life or set you on a different track?
- What’s the secret to a happy marriage?
- What are some of the important choices or decisions you made that you have learned from?
- What would you say you know now about living a happy and successful life that you didn’t know when you were twenty?
- What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?
Source: Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D