The Most Surprising Regret Of The Very Old

2015-09-26_11-33-28What do older people regret when they look back over their lives? I asked hundreds of the oldest Americans that question. I had expected big-ticket items: an affair, a shady business deal, addictions — that kind of thing. I was therefore unprepared for the answer they often gave:

I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying.

Source: The Most Surprising Regret Of The Very Old — And How You Can Avoid It | Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D.

Fortunately for me personally I spend very little time worrying. It just seems to be something that doesn’t accomplish much. On the other hand my wife is an extreme worrier. I often say when she doesn’t have something to worry about she worries that she is not worrying enough. Until I read this article I didn’t realize that she, instead of me, was in the majority on this topic. She physically get sick before almost every one of our vacations by worrying about this or that.

Where she is a worrier, I am a planner or maybe a better description is dreamer.  I think about the future often and what I want to accomplish. I plan everything.  I was surprised to see that my planning evidently decreases worry. Here is a little about what the articles says about that:

Tip 2: Instead of worrying, prepare.

The elders see a distinct difference between worry and conscious, rational planning, which greatly reduces worry. It’s the free-floating worry, after one has done everything one can about a problem, which seems so wasteful to them.

Joshua Bateman, 74, summed up the consensus view:

If you’re going to be afraid of something, you really ought to know what it is. At least understand why. Identify it. ‘I’m afraid of X.’ And sometimes you might have good reason. That’s a legitimate concern. And you can plan for it instead of worrying about it.

Maybe it is because I try to be a “glass half full” person that I don’t worry as much as some.  Against all odds I try to see a good outcome for everything in life, even our politics.  Sometimes I am taken by surprise by some of the pessimistic things I see around me.  I recently mentioned to someone that when the time comes I plan on joining a continuous care retirement community so that I can maintain a social life when I am no longer mobile. The person who I was talking to said “I won’t do that because I might not get along with them and then would have to live with the conflict the rest of my life.”  I see the potential joy and that person see the potential dark side.

I hope I am able to keep a positive attitude as I grow even older than I am.  I personally experienced someone who became very spiteful in their final years. I hope I can see the joy in my life, whatever is left of it, instead of constantly seeing a dark side….

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Most Surprising Regret Of The Very Old

  • I am not a big worrier. Like you, I make plans in an attempt to cover the bases then act on those plans. There’s an old saying about worry – it’s like rocking in a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

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