We love being grandparents, don’t we? But talking about it is like explaining to someone what it’s like to ride a roller coaster. To say it’s thrilling, has its ups and downs and is nothing like anything you’ve ever done before doesn’t quite cut it. It’s so much more.
Being a grandparent is more rewarding than even we Nana’s and Papa’s fully appreciate. Beyond the mystical connection, the laughter, the passing on of wisdom and stories, or the sense of an ancient story being retold with us as players, there’s more. Consider what we learn from our grandchildren…
They Remind Us of Our Past. Never forget the wonder of childhood. The more we remain childlike (not “childish”) – learning new things, exploring and growing – that’s how we stay healthy and make life interesting! If you’re having trouble remembering how it felt to experience that sense of wonder about the world, just follow your grandchild around and observe. Talk about awesome!
They Teach Us the Power of “Play.” In childhood, we heard the admonition to “act our age.” But for the older adult, it’s time to reconsider. Acting our age is too restrictive and based on faulty assumptions and an unenlightened view of aging. To age successfully requires us to never act our age. This includes not letting anyone else set expectations for our aging. Instead, we need to keep growing in all aspects of our lives, and “playing” by trying new things we’ve always wanted to try, but never had the time. Consider what author and anthropologist Margaret Mead told us she did on her own aging journey: “I was wise enough to never grow up, while fooling most people into believing I had.”
They Live as Though Invincible. Dr. Ellen Langer, a Harvard University researcher, conducted a now famous study back in the late seventies. Using older men as subjects, she immersed them in an environment from twenty years earlier. Room trappings were from the fifties. Conversation about fifties-era topics was in the present tense. Recorded radio programs were fifties vintage. This immersion resulted in the men acting in ways similar to their twenty-years-younger self: walking more, carrying their own luggage, doing things that had been previously been done for them. The results after only one week were stunning: vision, hearing, cognitive skills all improved. Even the photos of the subjects before and after improved, with subjects looking younger. What were Dr. Langer’s conclusions? When we are aware – mindful of what we are doing and what expectations we have for ourselves – our bodies will follow; that is, our bodies will attempt to align with those expectations.
To the extent we think of ourselves as more capable, or healthier, or growing, our bodies will attempt to reflect that view. Our bodies reflect our mind. Therefore, if we “act our age,” within a cultural context that sees old as declining, it’s more likely that’s exactly what will happen. However, if we act younger, more optimistic, more confident about what we are capable of, we will indeed continue to grow. The conclusion? Learn from your grandchildren. Keep the child alive and never “act your age!”
About the Author
Dr. Roger Landry, MD, MPH received his MD at Tufts University School of Medicine and his MPH 9 (Masters in Public Health) at Harvard University School of Public Health. He is a retired, highly-decorated full colonel, former chief flight surgeon at the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office in Washington, preventive medicine physician who has spent over a decade smashing stereotypes of aging, and redefining the possibilities of older adulthood.
Dr. Landry has been featured nationally and internationally on radio and TV with NBC, FOX News, ABC and CBS as well as BBC and 2GB radio. Dr. Landry has also written exclusive articles, and been called on as an expert in the field of aging, by publications such as US News & World Report, Huffington Post US/Canada, About.com –Assisted Living, Expert Beacon and eHow and makes regular appearances on MBLN. Dr. Landry was also featured in GRAND Magazine, Senior Planet, Journal of Aging and Health, Denver Post and ThirdAge.
His book Live Long, Die Short received endorsement Gold Honors Award with Living Now Book Awards and top pick by MORE.