Ask Happy Old People

I know it’s not ‘politically correct’ to describe people as ‘old,’ but I use the term intentionally and I mean no disrespect. In fact, quite the contrary.

When I say, ‘old,’ here, I mean whatever you consider ‘old.’ If you ask an 8-year-old, “How old is old?” They might say 12. The pre-teen will likely answer, ’16.’ High school juniors will say that 21 is old and college students cannot imagine being as old as 30. Folks who have weathered 3 or 4 decades start looking at 50-60 as old, but most new retirees will consider 70 or 80 to be old. And, of course, if you ask an octagenarian how old ‘old’ is, they’re likely to give you a wise, number-less answer like, “You’re as old as you feel,” or “My daughter is old, that’s what old is, she never has anything good to say and she’s wasted all her opportunities.”

Now, if you can find an old person, chances are, they think you are a ‘young’ person. Remember the 8-year-old that thinks 12 is old? Well, from the 12-year-old’s standpoint, the 8-year-old is a tender, young child. A 60-year-old might call a 30-year-old, ‘kid,’ and nursing home residents might be dubious about the 45-year-old doctor who is treating them and ask them probing questions like, “How long have you been in practice,” or, “Are you even old enough to drive?”

That said, if you have a question about anything in life, anything at all, go ask a happy old person. Chances are very good that they know the answer and if they do, chances are almost certain that they’ll tell you, and if they tell you, chances are incredibly likely that they’ll enjoy the experience and be even happier for being able to help a ‘young’ person.

If you want to know how firmly I believe in this, I’m going to share that I take this suggestion to the extreme and I don’t even think it’s necessary that you know the person. When I wonder about something, I take the opportunity to ask any happy old person I see. I’ll ask people on airplanes, in the grocery store, at organized events, or while waiting in line for a public restroom. I have NEVER, and I mean, NEVER, had anyone have a bad reaction to me asking for their advice, opinions, or help. People are delighted that you ask, they are happy to share, and they have great answers to share, too. I use the advice of happy old friends, relatives, and strangers on a daily basis and I share their advice with my clients and with the public whenever I can.

Next time you’re stuck waiting somewhere (like maybe at the auto mechanic) and you see an ‘old’ person, jump on that opportunity and ask them an important life question. I can just about guarantee that you won’t be sorry, and that it won’t be the last time you try that!

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