When you reach a certain age – as we all have – you begin to spend time wondering about the choices you made in the past and whether they were the right ones. That's the mood I was in when I picked up a terrific new book called "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans."
The book was just supposed to be background reading for a project I'm working on at my office, but I'm so thrilled to have come across it. I think it truly is some of the wisest stuff I've read in a very long time on subjects ranging from marriage to work to parenting and even health.
To put together this gem of a book, Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer interviewed more than 1,500 people over the age of 65. What's amazing to me is how consistent the advice is. As they get older, people do seem to agree on what matters most.
I urge you to buy the book, but in the meantime, here are some examples from the book's website:
On Parenting Adult Children. Grace, 74, told Pillemer:
"How do have good relationships with adult children? Oh, I think give them their own life. Don't make demands on them. I think any adult, particularly adults with children right now, they have enough on their plate. Don't make demands. Don't ask much of them. Just be there for them when they need you. Try to laugh with them. And certainly don't tell them what to do. Because I think your guess is as good as theirs."
On Staying Healthy. Physical activity is very important to Tony, 73:
"I play tennis. I'm thrilled that at 73 I can still run. In fact, there are times when I run that I feel like I kid again. You feel the wind going by you and you're running up to hit the ball. On a tennis court I will run and go berserk. And it's true for all the other guys. I'm basically the youngest guy there. The others, I just respect and admire them. They're in their mid- to late seventies and so active and able to play. And I think most of the people I play with always have the same credo. They wouldn't mind dropping dead on a tennis court.
"As long as your health is good, it's not going to be a problem. Your health is good, your mind is good, you just have to keep your interest level up. I don't know what determines that, what makes a person still passionate late in life. Certainly I am. To me, its just every day is a revelation. I have such a great time."
On Avoiding Regrets.This comes from Gail, 91:
"Well, I kind of regret some decisions because I wanted to have a certain skill and I didn't pursue it and I really regret it and that's what I'd like to say to young people: If they've got an idea, for example, if they want to be a veterinarian, they should do it and not put it off and be sorry when they're older that they didn't.
"That's what happened to me, and that's something that they can learn from older people: Don't wait because you only have one life. If you mess it up when you're young, then it might be too late when you get older or maybe you just don't feel like it or you might have some kind of health problems or something and you just can't do it. But I think young people are more energetic and they should pursue what they're going to do when they're young, not wait, that's what I learned."