I have been blessed to have the privilege of taking care of elderly patients in my primary care practice. These people have taught me so much. They are full of a lifetime of wisdom and have plenty more to teach me. The ones that really catch my attention and provoke my curiosity are those who may be old chronologically but are young at heart. They tend to be healthy and active and enjoy their lives. They are living the life I would want to have if God lets me live into my eighties.
I have noticed some commonalities in healthy and happy octogenarians. One of the first things I recognized was the majority of these vibrant elderly exercise or lead very active, in-motion lifestyles. None that I can recall were sedentary couch potatoes. Many make it a daily ritual to go for a walk and some of them walk several miles a day, rain or shine. It is a habit for them. A body in motion tends to stay in motion!
Another more elusive quality I noticed is octogenarians tend to live above their circumstances. Many of them have lost spouses, children, careers, fortunes, and some degree of personal health. Yet, they manage not to dwell on their losses or let the losses define who they are.
They have recognized that life is not fair and they deal with it. This is a lesson I hope I have taught my children. Life is not fair. The world does not revolve around any single individual. God's plan for the world does not hinge on me! His plan will be accomplished with or with out me. I think this is one of the most important lessons of life.
I believe learning that life is not fair is the beginning of learning gratitude. Gratitude is another character quality in healthy and happy octogenarians I have witnessed. I think it is hard to be depressed or feel sorry for yourself if you generally are a person of gratitude. We all go through periods of depression and malaise, but generally people who practice or understand gratitude do not stay in those dark places.
I think people who are known for their character quality of gratitude are generally more interested in helping others than in being helped. And I believe this is one of those funny things in life, the more people you help, the happier you tend to be. Our culture today tends to sing a different song.
These healthy and happy octogenarians tend to not hold on to bitterness or anger. They are generally gracious and forgiving individuals. They know that holding on to bitterness or anger will destroy their souls. "Bitterness will dry up your bones."
I know there are always exceptions, but I do believe if we tend to live an active lifestyle and practice gratitude, we will improve our chances of becoming happy octogenarians. Next time you see someone in their eighties enjoying their day, stop and talk to them. I am betting you will be blessed by the conversation.