Hayley, an energetic elderly wellbeing champion in charge of stimulation, happiness and emotional health at Hartford Court Care Home, lowered Kathleen into the water for her strengthening exercises. The cool water greeted her with open arms. The 96-year-old was giddy with excitement. Of all the seniors living at this seniors’ home, Kathleen is a favorite among her peers and the caretakers working there. Her infectious positive attitude permeates through the halls and courtyard of this little community.
After a solid session in the pool, Kathleen wrapped herself in a warm towel as she shook off the water in her hair. Her eyes twinkled brightly like a child staring into the starry night for the first time.
She leaned over to Hayley and spoke with a soft voice, “I’m looking forward to building strength in my legs so I can walk without my trolley again one day.” Her voice was full of hope. Kathleen continued outlining her plans to Hayley, who, startled by the frankness and exuberance in Kathleen’s voice, listened intently.
Then Kathleen shared something that sent chills up and down Hayley’s body: “I want people to treat me as an individual with a bright future ahead of her, and not just an old lady in a group of old people reliving her past, reminiscing about the ‘good ol’ times’ and waiting for her time to come.”
Taking a mental step forward
When Hayley shared this story with me, I was immediately inspired and ashamed. I began reflecting on my sometime negative outlook on life and especially the incessant ungratefulness of my current stock. Here was a 96-year-old aspiring for the future, while I, a healthy 33-year-old man, was spending a lot of time dwelling on the simplicity of the past: no mortgage, no waking up to go to work everyday, and on and on. How pathetic am I? I thought to myself.
Here was a 96-year-old aspiring for the future, while I, a healthy 33-year-old man, was spending a lot of time dwelling on the simplicity of the past.
While responsibilities and hardships are sure to confront each of us, having the right attitude to keep striving forth is paramount to our mental health and success in life. It’s easy to shrink back into simpler times when we’re faced with difficulties or setbacks, thinking to ourselves that the good days are long gone. But let me tell you, my friends: the good days aren’t behind us, they’re in front of us.
The best is yet to come
Doting on the past is comforting, like mom’s simple chicken noodle soup when you’re sick, but mom isn’t going to be around forever to nurture you back to health every time you fall ill. It’s certainly okay to fill yourself with the happiness that nostalgia provides — just don’t stay there too long.
The problem with living in the joys of the past is that you become more skeptical of the future. Once you’re holed up in that perpetual state, the future becomes discouraging — you might eventually fall into a depression, holding on to the drug of days gone by. So go ahead and reminisce about the good times, but keep in mind that beautiful memories and new experiences await you on the other side of yesterday.
Perhaps you’ve given up: I’m just too old to do this or that — to start that book, to go on that trip across Europe — it’s too late for me. As Kathleen has courageously shown us, it’s really not too late. If a 96-year-old can still endeavor to make the future hers, why can’t you?
If a 96-year-old can still endeavor to make the future hers, why can’t you?
Each of us is allotted a certain time on this earth, and as long as your clock hasn’t run down to zero, there is still hope for a brighter future ahead, and days full of laughter and joy. I hope that as I mature in age, I have the courage and attitude to keep moving toward the future like Kathleen.
You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.