Today, Monday 1 October, is International Day of Older Persons. It’s about celebrating, acknowledging, and supporting the 700 million people over 60 in the world (a number that will rise to 2 billion by 2050!). It’s about protecting their human rights and appreciating the vital role they play in our society.
So in that spirit, let’s take a moment to reflect on just why older people are awesome.
1 — Old people tell the best stories. Every person who has lived to a ripe old age has had a wealth of experiences. Some people might need some encouragement to share their tales (while you can hardly keep others quiet!), but it’s worth it to hear about their life. They’ve lived through world events that you only know through history books and documentaries: mine them for their stories, epic and small, because there’s so much gold in there.
2 — They give the best advice. Decades of life experience mean that whatever trouble you’re facing, it’s likely that an older person can relate. One 2010 study found that they were consistently better at considering other people’s point of view and settling conflicts. They have an emotional intelligence honed by years of living, and you’d do well to listen to their advice.
3 — They’ll tell you what they think. How many times have you been frustrated trying to decipher the hidden meaning behind someone’s vague behaviour or passive aggressive comments? Not with older people! You very often find that older people have a much thinner sugar coating on anything they say. They won’t mince their words and waste precious time with false politeness.
4 — They’re more optimistic. In today’s world it can be easy to get overwhelmed and down by the stresses of life or turmoil of global happenings, and sometimes an older person can give you a bit of perspective. Contrary to many a stereotype, studies have repeated found older people to be more optimistic, better at accepting troubling news and situations, and better at dealing with stress than their younger counterparts.
5 — They’re just better at stuff! Again, the stereotype may be of a grandma struggling to turn on a computer, but it turns out that they’re actually better at lots of tasks. For example, one experiment found that older people made better air traffic controllers — despite slightly less sharp short-term memories, they were better because of superior navigational and spatial processing abilities. With their years of experience, they also have better work ethics, maintain relationships for longer, and have huge amounts to offer almost any situation.
Older people are important to every part of our society. Their presence enhances the lives of younger people of all ages, their wisdom holds lessons we should all learn from, and their perspective and positivity is something that every person in the world needs sometimes. Today, take some time to appreciate the older people in your life.