Lately I’ve been interviewing a number of older adults for another new book. As I’ve sat down face-to-face with these good folks in their eighties and nineties, they have told me about the joys and challenges of aging. Though there are many common threads in their stories, there is one thing that might surprise readers: the full range of emotions they feel.
Perhaps surprisingly, almost all had glistening eyes and quivery voices at some point during our time together. For many, the emotions bubbled to the surface as they told about the death of a spouse after decades of marriage. For some, it was as they shared difficult stories about war, surviving the Great Depression or the pride of serving one’s country. For one couple, the tears began to flow as they opened up about the death of their infant daughter sixty years ago.
There were also stories of travel and adventure. Of career choices, dreams unfulfilled and roads never taken. There was lots of laughter, too. Then there was both sadness and frustration in the voices of those who shared concerns about the instant-gratification virus they see running rampant in today’s world.
What does this mean to us, including the Boomers and the Generation X, Y and Z’s? In our busyness, it’s easy to overlook the fact that older adults feel a full range of emotions. While it’s easy to see them laughing and happy, we have difficulty acknowledging that they may be lonely or depressed, afraid or rejected.
As I listened to their stories, I was reminded again that long life is shaded in many hues, much like a 64-color box of crayons. I wonder in this new year, will we be more attuned to the feelings of older adults? Will we sit and listen to their stories and affirm their full range of emotions? I wonder.