Aging better with a little help from our friends: Recalling lessons learned from the experts

By Patricia Corrigan

Patricia Corrigan, a blogger for the website nextavenue, tells this story:

“In the shallow end of the pool, a mother encourages her toddler to put her head underwater and blow bubbles. “You did it!” the mother crows. “I’m proud of you.” All smiles, the little girl dunks her head again.

Our parents teach us to say our names, use a spoon, dress ourselves, cross a street, put our heads underwater.

Suddenly I wonder: Who teaches us to grow older, to make the most of time when more years are behind us than ahead?”

Corrigan writes about her life and her wise friends. She said that 20 years ago, when she was in her late 40s, she lived in a condominium in suburban St. Louis, Mo. Many of her neighbors in the building were Jewish, most of them widows, all of them older than she was by about two decades.

She writes: “They were kind women, wise women and good company. We laughed a lot together, and over the years, we became close.

“From time to time, I would invite half a dozen or more of the women to my place for wine and cheese, gatherings I considered summit meetings with the experts. After catching up on one another’s news, I would say, “Tell me how to age well. Tell me what I need to know.”

Every time, the women were thrilled that I asked. Here is some of their advice:

  • Talk mostly about your life now, not about the past.
  • Travel while you still have the energy and the patience for it.
  • Adapt to change or don’t, but understand that everything changes.
  • Attend to physical ailments, but don’t obsess about them.
  • Wear your good jewelry every day.

“Sylvia delivered that last pearl (sorry) of wisdom the day she put on her finest gold earrings and best bracelets and rings to take the elevator one flight up from her place to mine. In contrast, I had neglected to accessorize my jeans and sweatshirt.

“You look lovely,” I said, “but why go to all this effort, wear all this beautiful jewelry, just to come see me?”

Sylvia shrugged and replied, “If not now, then when?”