Last year while visiting my ninety-eight-year-old grandmother, I knelt down next to her chair and looked her in the eyes.
*Not my actual grandmother
“Grandma,” I said with mock seriousness, “I think you’re finally getting old.”
She laughed. “Well, yes, I think I finally am!”
In some ways, I wasn’t kidding.
My grandmother has always been active and fit, gleefully turning a somersault for her five-year-old great-grandson when she was seventy-five. Taking care of “the old people” at her senior apartment complex well into her late eighties. Buzzing around the crowded room for her ninety-fifth birthday party, chatting and joking with her friends.
Then, suddenly, she got old. Her voice weakened and she finally started using a walker for balance. I could see the difference in her eyes: Once bright and curious, they now had softened into a gaze of subtle resignation.
“Grandma,” I asked her, “Do you want to live to be a hundred?”
She thought about it for a moment.
“Well, I do,” she said with a mischievous glint returning to her eyes, “But I don’t want to live the two years in between to get there!”
That weekend of my visit, I continued to watch her and think about her long, long life. Always an in-command person, what must it be like for her now that she is, as researchers term it, “the oldest of the old” and having to rely on others?
I reviewed some current research to learn about resiliency and the elderly. How do they adapt to the aging process with its cascading losses – physical, mental, and personal? How do they bounce back?
And what can we learn from them to use in our lives now?
Here are five ideas we can borrow from our elders on how to be more resilient in life.
1. The ability to let go.
Resilient old people are champions at letting go. With diminishing physical – and sometimes mental – capabilities, the elderly are constantly faced with a choice: to resist change or to let go of former capabilities.
Those who adapt better are the ones who are able to let …