“It makes sense that the way we have looked at aging in the past does not make sense in the present.”
by Yoojin Rhee, Stanford Student
After almost a quarter at the Stanford Center of Longevity, the main takeaway I have is a change in perspective of my life – present and future. Aging is not inherently bad. Although it is a bit too late for me to adopt some of Laura Carstensen’s ideals from A Long Bright Future, it is not too late to change my ideals and mindset. Our lifespans are only going to get longer, and it makes sense that the way we have looked at aging in the past does not make sense in the present. As we live to be older, we should also understand that we now have more time.
It was refreshing to hear that although these two women had reached the middle of their lives, they still had ambition and they both were looking forward to an exciting future.
Through my interviews with older individuals, I have noticed that most “regrets” stem from missed opportunities and actions that have not yet been taken. Future goals are often positive. Interestingly enough, a couple of the adults I interviewed seemed to accept Carstensen’s idea of using the first half of life (50 years or so) to learn, and the latter half of life to give back and embrace a career. Stanford custodian Annie, 48 hopes to rise in her career and become a leader. My mother, Mihyang, 49, is currently a research professor, and hopes to become a barista and write a book about Korean culture. It was refreshing to hear that although these two women had reached the middle of their lives, they still had ambition and they both were looking forward to an exciting future. They weren’t even thinking about retirement. This is the attitude I wish to take. Life is an exciting journey and I should be looking forward to the process of finding a career, becoming a homeowner, starting a family, and even all of the knowledge I will acquire. Being “old” doesn’t have to be miserable.
Yes, I will become weaker, more prone to illnesses, less agile; however, I will also be wiser, I will have experienced happiness, sadness, frustration, and love.
After a long phone call back home to my parents this Thanksgiving, I realized that at the end of the day, the things that matter go back to relationships and love. My dad’s favorite holiday memory was his wedding on Christmas Eve, and he is most grateful for meeting his wife. He cherishes his family the most and regrets nothing in his life. I also value these moments and understand that as I get older, the relationships I build are more important than any exam, job, or house. In the future, my dad, who is 49 years old, wishes to continue to work at Yonsei University as a good professor. His journey is just beginning. My mother’s favorite holiday memory is a New Year’s party with family and friends in Hawaii (our home). She is most grateful for meeting my dad and having her two daughters. She cherishes family. The only regret she has is wasting time in college and wishes she had done more of the things she loves earlier. As I was on campus for most of break, I also talked to Stanford senior librarian, Peter Blank, 66. He is most grateful for being able to help others. Again, this is a value rather than an item. At 66 years old, he shows no signs of slowing down or looking to retire. Rather, he enjoys giving others the opportunity to learn and accumulate knowledge about the world.
At the end of the day, the things that matter go back to relationships and love.
I wish I could have spoken to my grandparents about their lives. I realize now that I actually don’t know their opinions on many things, nor do I know much about their life experiences. There is a bit of a language barrier between my grandparents and I, and I hope to overcome that. I also know that I don’t need to succumb to the negative stereotypes that millennials receive when it comes to growing up, nor do I have to succumb to the negative stereotypes of getting older. Yes, I will become weaker, more prone to illnesses, less agile; however, I will also be wiser, I will have experienced happiness, sadness, frustration, and love. I will have learned a tremendous amount over the years and will have the ability to teach those younger and less knowledgeable than I.