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Reflections April 2014

Aid for Age

Wisdom By and About Elders

By Tait Trussell

Woody Allen wise-cracked: “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.”

“Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.” This quote from English poet and playwright Robert Browning may be the most familiar and encouraging expression of optimism in the aging process.

You don’t have to be old to be wise. And certainly not everyone who’s old is wise. But some well-known seniors have explained much about aging.

Former astronaut and Senator John Glenn, said: “Too many people when they get old think that they have to live by the calendar.”

Woody Allen wise-cracked: “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.”

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was.” So said baseball legend Satchel Paige, who continued his successful baseball career into his 60s.

British statesman Edward Stanley, recognized the wisdom of regular exercise in the mid- 1800s, well before the time of its current popularity and importance. He warned: “Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

Albert Einstein, who was witty as well as brainy, said that research showed that older adults have a lower score on the scale of self-discipline. They seem able to express themselves, rather than being hemmed in by society’s proscriptions. “I have reached the age when somebody tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.”

Talking about socks, George H.W. Bush, in his late years has decided to show his independence and sense of humor by wearing socks of different colors every day. Maybe not a demonstration of wisdom, but certainly individuality.

Plato (427-346) said: “He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposition disposition, youth and age are equally a burden.

Comedian George Burns, who lived to be 100, said “By the time you’re 80 years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.”

Researchers, according to Psychology Today, believe Burns expressed an observation that has its basis in empirical knowledge about aging and memory. Researchers are aware that one of the challenges of aging is the ability to retrieve information that has been acquired. There are memory strategies that can help you store and retrieve memories you want to retain.

“Old age hath yet his honour and his toil,” said Alfred Lord Tennyson. Although we tend to think of old people as less productive workers, Susan Whitbourne, Ph.D., says from the age of 55 and upwards, workers are better employees in terms of their reliability and, in many vocational fields, their productivity.

Emily Dickinson said with grace: “Because I could not stop for death — He kindly stopped for me.” The thought that death can be “kind” fits what those in the field of death and dying call the “tame” view of death — that death can bring us to a beneficent ending.

A famous and wise founder of the feminist movement, Betty Friedan, described aging as not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” She thereby captured the concept of successful aging. She certainly opened my eyes about many things when I read her book many years ago.

In several places the Bible says the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

A book called 30 Lessons for Living (Hudson Street Press) offers advice from more than 1,000 older Americans from different, educational, and occupational areas and from its author Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at Cornell and a gerontologist at the Weill Medical College at Cornell.


Tait Trussell is an old guy and fourth-generation professional journalist who writes extensively about aging issues among a myriad of diverse topics.

Meet Tait