4 Lessons from an Octogenarian

I am quite certain there are many more than just 4 lessons we can all learn from those who have lived over 80 years. The list of what I have learned from my parents, both over 80, is infinite. In fact I wrote a book which highlights many of these!

Recently, my mother had to undergo a hip replacement, and though she has not sailed through the experience, she continues to teach through her actions how to embrace and meet challenges head on. These 4 lessons are applicable to each of us – every day – with the routine challenges in life.

1. Do what you have to do. This surgery was elective. She knew that without it her mobility would continue to be hindered and gradually get worse. So, she hunkered down and made the decision to go forward with it. She did not want the side effects to the general anesthesia, so she (again) hunkered down, and had only a spinal (!!) with no general anesthesia for her full hip replacement!! And now, in her recovery, she powers through the exercises as a real trooper. When I ask her how she was doing just the other day, she stated as matter of  fact, “You know, Kristin, you just do what you have to do.” Period.

2. Slow down. Everyone is in such a hurry. There is nothing like a knee or hip replacement to slow you down! You pay attention to every step, every turn, every person in your path. There is amazing benefit to slowing down. You see things you may normally miss. You engage with others you may not make time for when you are moving at a normally hair-on-fire pace. What we must miss each day – by simply not being present!

3. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Mom left the hospital with admirers from the most unlikely places. The nurses, the assistants, and even the others in her wing at the hospital. Though she was in pain or knocked loopy with the pain medication, she was jovial and kind to those who were trying to help her. This is not always easy when your body is not functioning and you are impatient with not being able to do the things that just 2 days before were standard operating procedure. Yet, rather than to lash out in frustration, I watched as she engaged others and asked with all sincerity about their lives, their children, what enticed them to do what they do, etc. She left knowing more about them, than they did about her. Amazing and a huge lesson on many levels.

4. This, too, will pass. For those of us who have known folks who have endured hip, shoulder, or knee surgery, we know it is not a quick-fix recovery. It is laborious. It hurts and requires daily discipline to work the injury. Yet, the constant mantra is “that this, too, will pass”. This is a speed bump which we can – and do – get over.

These lessons are universal truths which often are highlighted when we, or those we love, face challenges. Yet, they are lessons which can be applied each and every day in our personal and professional lives.

What lessons have those “over 80” taught you? Please share with us!

9 responses to “4 Lessons from an Octogenarian

  1. Such wisdom and inspiration. Wow!!! I think I need to meet your mother the next time she is in town 🙂 I have been very fortunate to have my life enriched with the experiences and wisdom of those that have gone before me. I actually seek it out. As I am trying to think of a specific example, the only thing I can come up with is a combination of truths that stay with me everyday.
    – When all else fails, pray about it. There are some things that are completely out of your control.
    – The work will always be there, but your friends and family may not be.
    – The only thing a person can control is what comes out of their mouth and the intentions of their heart. You can’t control how the other person perceives it.
    – You have to trust in God, because He will take care of you. If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it regardless of how bad you may think it is.
    These lessons and truths are blessings that have graced my life. I am ever so thankful for them!

  2. Kristin,

    You are quite right. We learn so much from the wisdom and example of others, especially our older “others” if we are willing to slow down and pay attention. It makes life so much richer if we do. Your mother is a prime example of the graciousness of a different generation, instead of some of the noise we are overwhelmed with today. We can all learn something from her example. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hi Kristin

    Great post and isn’t it always the case that these wonderful lessons sometimes come to us, late in life? We seem to be more open, at times, when we are older and perhaps, have lived life a little more. While certainly not a prevention, youth has its own way of getting in the way of us absorbing things like “this too shall pass” or even the need to slow down.

    Having recently been to the hospital, I can more fully appreciate the work that nurses, aides and doctors do, as part of their everyday job. What they consider routine, is to us, something of a higher calling. I digress.

    I think the biggest lesson the over 80’s have taught me is to take life as it comes. There is a kind of resignation (but not in a negative sense) which could also be interpreted as a devil may care attitude that the older folk have, which I believe is quite great, at times pretty useful. They take whatever comes their way, they don’t fight it, as if they know the purpose for whatever it is that is being thrown their way. Sometimes, it would be nice to be able to really get into their head and figure out what they are really thinking. They have so much to reference and look back upon.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Kristin,

    Sage advice from both your Mom and yourself!

    Hope all continues to go well with her recovery.

    Best Regards,

  5. Kristin,

    What you just wrote about your mother one could have easily written about you. Know that you continue to LIVE the example you so admire in your parents. It shows!


  6. I have always admired your gracious and lovely mom. Her two beautiful and successful daughters are a tribute to her maternal care. Now I admire her even more, powering through this tough surgery!

    What I have learned from my octogenarian is that true dignity, character and intelligence will triumph even as memories and awareness fade. The essence of his gentle spirit, his honesty and his kindness have only been enhanced by this disease. The blessing of a long life together is the tenderness of lasting love.

  7. Lovely essay about your beautiful mother and how wonderful to find life lessons even in difficulties. My best Over 80 lesson came from my very wise grandmother (who left us just last summer at age 104). When confronted with any less than gracious behavior from a friend/acquaintance/family member she would simply shrug her little shoulders and say “everyone does the best they can”. So simple and so true and I wish I’d learned it many years ago.

    Great message about slowing down. My latest newsletter features the growing Slow Movement, and apparently some younger people are finding value there.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wow – thank you, all, for the comments. LOVE it when folks comment ‘on site’ – yet, also had a slew of emails. The wisdom you have shared has been fabulous. Thank you!! I will take with me……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *