We’ve all heard that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” And though it may be true that senior citizens do get set in their ways sometimes, I’m not convinced that they can’t keep learning and growing, often faster than some of the middle-agers.
My father-in-law lived clear-headed until 103 years old and was the most progressive religious thinker I knew. After his death recently, his library of books by religious scholars was sought after by a number of pastors and retired pastors from Washington to South Dakota. I find that rather remarkable.
Being open to change is an important part of learning and growing. If we close ourselves off from new information or new ideas then we are choosing to limit our world view to our narrow ways of thinking and stop growing altogether.
At Garden Terrace Senior Living, we have the same cross section of thinkers as the general population. That poses challenges as well as opportunities. Everyone’s life journey is unique to them, and if we can be open to insights they may bring to almost anything, then our growth and maturity is never stunted.
A few years back, I asked a resident to help address and stamp one of our fundraising mailings. When I saw him later absorbed in his task, he was licking the corner of each envelope and pressing the stamp in place with a thump of the fist.
When I asked about his process, he explained that the adhesive on the stamps tasted awful. The envelopes, on the other hand, “had an interesting cinnamon taste. And besides, the stamps stick better this way.”
Who am I to judge? The letters mailed just the same.
Now, I know that stamping envelopes is a somewhat trivial matter, but being open to little learnings is a good way to practice being open to the big ones.
So next time you find yourself closing off to a new thought or idea, pause just a minute and ask yourself, “Am I dead or dying OR am I a grower gainer?” I am willing to bet that your senior moments will be a happier place if you’re growing and gaining!”
Ken Neher is executive director at Garden Terrace Senior Living in Wenatchee.