This site uses cookies. By continuing, your consent is assumed. Learn more


Love advice from the elderly


Karl Pillemer has spent the last several years systematically interviewing hundreds of older Americans to collect their lessons for living. Some years ago, after turning 50, he wondered whether there is something about getting older that teaches you Love advice from the elderly to live better.

His first book, " 30 Lessons for Living ," synthesized advice from over 1, elders on topics like happiness, work, and health. Now Pillemer has followed up with " 30 Lessons for Loving ," which features practical wisdom from over older Americans with 25, collective years of marriage experience.

One couple he profiles was married for 76 years.

He Asked + Elders For...

Another interviewee describes divorcing her husband, then remarrying him 64 years later. I spoke with Pillemer for Sophiaa HuffPost project to collect life lessons from accomplished people that was partly inspired by his work.

Pillemer shared seven key pieces of advice he's heard repeatedly from older Americans -- about their greatest regrets, finding fulfillment, and keeping relationships healthy through life's ups-and-downs. I asked these oldest Americans what they think people tend to regret Love advice from the elderly their age, and what they would advise younger people to do to avoid regrets. I expected big-ticket items -- an affair or a shady business deal, something along those lines.

I really didn't expect to hear the one answer that was among the most frequent and certainly among the most passionate and vehement: One of the biggest regrets of the very old was, I wish I hadn't spent so much time worrying. One of the people Love advice from the elderly said that summed it up this way.

It was a woman who said, "I knew there were going to be layoffs at my job. I did nothing over the coming three months except worry about being laid off. I poisoned my life. I didn't think about anything else, even though I had no control over it. I'm sort of a chronic Woody Allen-esque worrier. Hearing hundreds and hundreds of older people saying that when you get to Love advice from the elderly age, you'll see time spent needlessly worrying as time wasted, it really had a profound effect on me.

People have asked me, "What do you do with that insight? How do we stop worrying? A related insight of older people comes through very strongly in their advice about marriage. Very often a lot of their advice revolves around lightening up. We allow things, like marriage or other domains of life, to become extremely grim.

If I learned one thing about how to keep the spark alive over many decades, there's a point that the elders make that aligns very closely with research. It is an emphasis on thinking small -- the small, minute-to-minute, day-to-day interactions that make up a relationship. We tend to think of relationships globally.

But all relationships are made up of hundreds or thousands of daily micro-interactions where you have the opportunity to be positive and supportive to your partner, or to be dismissive and uninterested.


There's been research showing, for example, that how you respond if your partner interrupts you while you're doing something is very diagnostic of how good the relationship's going to be. If you're actively involved in reading the paper or doing something, "Love advice from the elderly" your partner wants to show you something of interest to him or her, whether you respond dismissively or you briefly stop what you're doing and engage with your partner is very diagnostic of positivity in the relationship.

Other research has shown that it takes around 10 positive interactions Love advice from the elderly make up for one nasty one, so the ratio of positive to negative small interactions in a relationship is really critical. And that's exactly what older people say. Many of their lessons embody this same concept. For example, one of the things that older people argue is that we ought to be polite in our relationships.

You know, the old things that people learned in elementary school, to say please and thank you and observe normal civility, is something people forget to do all the time in their relationships, mostly because we feel comfortable. They argue using politeness and tact, but also making a habit of positive things, of compliments, of small surprises, of doing a partner's chore, if you have a fairly rigid division of labor.

Many people described that. So I would say that for a good relationship that lasts a long time, one of the absolute keys is attending to being positive, cheerful, supportive in the small aspects of the relationship. Another thing which is closely related: I had many older people say, "Our relationship changed when I gave my partner's interests a chance and embraced them. One guy in his mids, he was astonished. He said, "I started going to opera and ballet. But it was worth it to engage with my partner.

At some point, people begin to say that positivity in the relationship is more important than fighting over these kinds of like minor differences. People who have very positive relationships consciously tend to maximize these small positive interactions.

And that is a place where elder wisdom completely or very closely aligns with what we know from research about good marriages.

Finding Love After 60 –...

There's a very strong research finding in family social science. It is called the U-shaped curve of marital happiness. Basically, marriages start out pretty happy.

The advice that older women...

Marital happiness drops precipitously at the birth of the first child and usually never completely recovers until the last child has left the house. So even though kids are great -- they satisfy our existential longings, and we love them, and it's one of the most profound experiences -- they are stressful for marriages. You probably Love advice from the elderly need a social scientist to tell you that, because anybody who's been through it knows that.

There's no question that a lot of marital arguments and difficulties revolve around children. It's one of the paradoxes of marriage that good things, like having kids or having a really good job, even owning and taking care of a house, also can be sources of marital stress.

It's the double-edged sword of marriage. The elders had one really strong recommendation in terms of adjusting to kids. Put your marriage first, put your Love advice from the elderly first, and don't let kids distract you from having a good relationship with your partner. Couples lose themselves in the mix of kids and work and fundamentally abandon attention to their relationship.

The advice of the oldest Americans is very similar to that famous instruction on airplanes -- put your own oxygen mask on first and then put it on the kids. If you aren't attending to your relationship, you aren't going to be very effective as child-rearers.

MORE IN Wellness

It's very unusual that people have an awful relationship and wind up being good parents. If you Love advice from the elderly your relationship for your children, you have a reasonable chance of losing both. Now, they aren't saying, of course, that you don't love your kids and that you wouldn't hurl yourself in front of a train to save them. But they argue that a marital relationship needs constant attention in spite of the kids.

I was shocked, in focus groups I did in preparation for the book, how many young parents couldn't even remember when they'd gone out on their own or spent much individual time together. The oldest Americans' argument is: Develop a babysitting exchange. Even if you don't have any money. I had people who grew up in the Depression. One couple said, "We returned our disposable soda bottles and went to McDonald's. Love advice from the elderly was just an opportunity to be away.

Even if it's something as artificial as a weekly date night where you scrimp and arrange for babysitting and go off on your own, you simply must do it. If you lose yourself in this middle-aged blur of work and kids, you really won't do your kids any good. One hallmark of these long and harmonious marriages -- and this is a piece of advice, too, that older people explicitly give -- is to marry someone a lot like you.

Both the elders and research say, not so much.

For this Valentine's Day, BuzzFeed...

Marrying somebody who is very similar to you -- in the trade, we call it homophily. Homophilous marriages, where the partners are pretty similar across a range of domains, tend to last longer and be happier. What seems to really make the difference are core shared values. For example, work and the importance of work, the number of children and the way children are to be raised and goals for children, how important money is, spiritual and religious values to some extent.

If there's core value similarity, that seems to really make for these longer and happier marriages. There's no magic bullet. But marrying someone who's fundamentally similar to you, especially in outlook, worldview, and values, really does seem to make a difference.

It makes everything else much easier. You might ask, in our complex multicultural society, is that really a good thing to recommend? What they would say is, you can have differences. Sometimes differences do spice up a relationship. But if you have two people who are, for example, strongly committed to two different religious traditions, you've got to be aware Love advice from the elderly you're going to have to work around that in your relationship.

If you have other kinds of strong value differences, it's important to be aware of those and deal with them. I've spent a lot of time interviewing young people. Love advice from the elderly course, I'm speaking anecdotally. I know a lot of them as a college professor. I think that's a problem. I think the elders would say it's a problem. Understanding how your values align is very important early on.

This is related, and it may Love advice from the elderly obvious, but virtually all of the elders in long marriages say the key to their success was learning how to communicate effectively on important issues. People who were divorced very typically attribute it to a communication breakdown. I had several couples in the study who had gotten divorced and then remarried.

One couple was actually remarried almost a half century after they were first divorced and began to have a very positive relationship. Almost always that was attributed to learning how to open up, to have open and successful communication and to really talk to one another. He Asked + Elders For Advice On Living And Loving. One of the biggest regrets of Love advice from the elderly very old was, I wish I hadn't spent so much time. Finding Love After 60 – Advice from the Sixty and Me Community .

As far as finding someone or them finding you I have done OLD, meet up groups, volunteer. If you want to know about love, ask someone with a lifetime of experience.

the book, “30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, “ Even the toughest old guys said you have to be able to convey your.

MORE: Wicd not validating authentication services

News feed