At Woodbury Senior Living, we were pleased to see 30 Woodbury High School seniors arrive for a visit on their penultimate day of high school, as part of Geoff Stevens’ social studies classes. Our own seniors on our campus were eager to talk with the students about economics, heath care, and how to retire. But I knew they also wanted to interview the students. They know well that life doesn’t go on forever.
The interactions between the generations were deep and rich. Elder Annie counseled the students to be content with what we have, rather than always striving for more. Ardy said that growing older means growing wiser and more joyful. Mildred, a retired nurse, asked the students to save one buck at a time until they reach $1,000. “Then, put it away and forget about it for 30 years,” she said. “Take care of your retirement now. It is not hard to do.”
Speaking about beauty, Beatrice exemplified that gray hair can be stylish. She talked about putting things into perspective, and valuing spending time with people more than sweating the small stuff, as life is in a constant state of change.
During their visit, the WHS students wanted to compare and contrast what elders focus on, or are worried about. Many elders mentioned forgetfulness and physical changes. One of the most painful forfeits in life, they said, is losing the use of their vehicle. That discussion yielded big lessons about driving for 40, 50 or 60 years and longer.
And the elders shared that there is beauty in imperfection. Vivian and Earl said they needed to learn how to accept change and loss. But that wasn’t easy. Acknowledging mortality and our limitations, and reaching out for help, may require a shift in perspectives and attitudes.
As the high school students learned that day, we can all be a friend during dark moments of the soul, and laugh with each other at total absurdity, and provide a safe and comfortable place to land. 90-year-old Vivian said, “Richness eventually comes with imperfection.”