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Life Lessons from Inspirational Older People

22nd December 2015

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Many of us use the ending of the past year and the coming of a new one as a chance for positive reflection, making New Year’s resolutions to strive to live better: exercising more, quitting a bad habit, or making an effort to spend more time with family. With the season of reflection upon us, we have asked some of the most inspirational people we could find, what, upon reflection, their life lesson would be in order to live life to its fullest. We also spoke to organisations and inspirational people who work with older people, to ask them about what they had learned from working closely with them.

One of the most popular pieces of advice was to treasure every moment. One of the ways to do this is to make sure that everyday tasks are as easy as possible; the use of home stairlifts and mobility products such as walk-in baths can make difficult tasks like walking upstairs and washing unaided possible and easy for those with additional mobility requirements.

We have collected our inspirational life lessons below: 

Sue Kreitzman

Sue Kreitzman is a successful food writer and broadcaster turned artist and curator. For many years, Sue’s career was in publishing best-selling cookbooks until, sixteen years ago, she began to channel her passion for writing into her love of art, combining both to create her delightfully unique designs. Upon editing her 27th book, Sue picked up a marker pen and drew a mermaid, and the rest is history!

See more of Sue’s fabulous art on her website, or watch this great interview with her here.

What advice would you give your younger self?

The things that make you unique, the things your mother wants to change about you, the things that make you so different from those you go to school with, are the very things that will bring you success, happiness and a modicum of real fame. The things that will make a difference to the world. The things that will give you a richly textured and deeply happy life.

You are not weird, you are actually quite special. Keep it up, do not swerve from your ideals, and...do not despair!

Chic at any age

Josephine H Lalwan launched her very successful blog ‘Chic at Any Age’ in 2009 as a resource for women over 50 to learn about style and fashion, and about how style changes as one gets older.

Josephine’s advice to her younger self

Trust your intuition and continue to do what you love to do whatever age you are. Surround yourself with positive inspirational people.

Silverhairs

Keith Paterson has built Silverhairs and dedicates his time to providing help and support to older people who have problems with their computer and to show that age is no barrier for those who want to get online. Keith was awarded the Age UK Internet Champion Award in 2012 and also an MBE in the Queen's 2015 New Year Honours list "for services to promoting information technology to elderly people in the UK".

When posed with our questions, Keith admitted difficulty in answering them:

What have you learned from working with older people?

I found those questions difficult to answer. My dealings with older people have been mainly to do with helping to get them online. I have learned that if they perceive no benefit, then the task is well-nigh impossible!

So I have had a few 'failures'. In two cases (not that old) it was down to the fact that they had secretaries to do things like compose letters or respond to emails. Both made excuses not to pursue handling a keyboard themselves. In other cases I think it was easier to say they weren't interested because it would be embarrassing to admit they couldn't cope with it.

But I have had notable successes and I think it is very important, especially for disabled people and the potentially lonely.

And what would your advice be to your younger self?

Well, it is very mundane, but it would still be ‘If at first you don't succeed try and try again'. But that was the story of my life. Having failed to get into university I finally got a degree of the Open University at the age of 45. Having started as a junior clerk at 15 I eventually became Area Careers Officer of Cambridge.

But I could never afford to stop work long enough to take a full time course.

The most pleasing effect of this was that my three daughters all achieved honours degrees, despite a useless secondary education. They all did it by their own efforts and got there in the end. 

Campaign to End loneliness

The Campaign to End Loneliness was launched in 2011 and works to tackle the threat of loneliness in older age. To find out more about the important work they do, watch this short film, or visit the Campaign to End Loneliness website

We spoke to Miriam Christie, the Campaigns and Communications Manager at Campaign to End Loneliness:

What life lesson have you learned from working with older people?

I’ve learned to appreciate the small things in life that, it turns out, are really the big things – like spending time with friends and family and appreciating more keenly everything I have right now. Spending time with older people helps you to keep things in perspective and be ruled by your values rather than all of the ‘should’ that don’t really matter when it comes down to it.

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?

It’s probably the same piece of advice I should remind myself of more often now: take time to smell the roses and don’t spend so much time worrying about the past and the future.  

My Ageing Parent

Two inspirational women, Deborah Stone and Alex Ingram, founded My Ageing Parent. The website is aimed at helping those with older parents, friends, or relatives, help themselves. The site is full of helpful information, helping to answer questions and offer advice on funding, care options, and lifestyle advice for older people.

We had the opportunity to speak to Deborah and ask for her life lessons:

What life lesson have you learned from working with older people?

That older people offer a wealth of experience and wisdom and we should pay attention to it. If we did, the world would be a better place. 

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Life is long and has many disappointments, but also many great moments of happiness and we need to appreciate both.

When They Get Older

When They Get Older is another very useful resource for those supporting their ageing and elderly parents as well as their own families. The site is full of advice on every issue you could face, from financial support and legal help, to how to stay healthy and improving quality of life. Kathy Lawrence, unmusical Co-founder of When They Get Older, and copywriter at WrightWell.co.uk provides some joyous advice:

My advice to a younger self

Sing. Start early and never stop. Singing can bring so much pleasure. It brings you together with other people. It moves your soul. It stirs memories in those who seem lost forever. I used to sing the descant on the old carols when I was in my junior school choir. I want to do that again now but I have lost the voice. And I gave up singing after just one piece of criticism. So my advice is to sing at every opportunity – even if it’s in the sanctity of your own home. It will reap rewards in later years.

The lesson I’ve learned from working with older people

“People” are hugely different, with different desires and needs. “Older people” are just the same – although their desires and needs continue to change over time, just like any of us. At When They Get Older we know that one person may have complex issues at 60 and another is active and healthy at 90. So it’s unhelpful and inappropriate to generalise, and it’s our great desire that everyone with influence in public office, commercial organisations and the media remembers that too.  

Regina Brett

Regina Brett is the inspirational New York Times bestselling author of God is Always Hiring, Be the Miracle, and God Never Blinks, collections of life lessons and pieces of wisdom to inspire reflection and to help others find deeper meaning in their lives. 

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Love what is happening right now. Love it all, because life is on your side. Life isn't out to get you. It is out to teach you. Everything that happens doesn't happen to you, it happens for you. It happens for your perfect good. So keep your heart wide open to everything, even the messes and mistakes. Later on, you'll discover those were the best parts of life.  

#1MillionHours

BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra have announced plans for #1MillionHours - a year-long volunteering campaign that will see both stations motivating their young listeners to pledge 1 million hours of time to good causes over the next 12 months.

Kicking off on 1st December with the first drive in the lead up to Christmas, and running throughout 2016, the stations will shine a spotlight on all things volunteering in a bid to highlight the benefits of volunteering for young people.

#1MillonHours is one of Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s most ambitious social action programmes to date, working with featured charities Age UK, Barnardo’s, Cancer Research UK and Oxfam to highlight volunteering opportunities.

Rebecca Stewart, Head of Volunteering at Age UK

Age UK is delighted to be part of Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s #1MillionHours initiative. As well as supporting older people in their local communities, many of our younger volunteers tell us that they learn so much from volunteering and find it a really valuable life experience. We’re really excited to be involved in bringing generations together through the volunteering experiences we have to offer, whether that’s helping in one of our shops, supporting older people to get online or taking the time for a cup of tea and a chat with an older person who may not have anyone else to talk to.

To sign up to Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s #1MillionHours campaign please visit www.bbc.co.uk/radio1

 

 

 

Image credits: (all have been edited from the original) Valueline, wildpixel, Linjerry, sekarb, Fuse, purestock, linephoto, Ingram Publishing, monkeybusinessimages all via thinkstock; Canva.com