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Four Life Lessons That I Learned From My Elderly Patients

I’ve always had a soft spot for old people. Not only are they generally kind and patient, they also have a wealth of wisdom to share. It is truly a treat and a privilege to be taking care of our senior citizens whose extra decades living on this earth have given them unique perspectives that the younger generations could and should learn from. Many of my favorite conversations in the clinic are with my senior patients, and they have taught me much about life and given me advice that cut through the noise. Let me share with you some of the pearls I have received over the years.

Move or die

Not to be dramatic, but there is a lot of truth to it. There is a reason why we tout exercise as one of the pillars of health; without it your body will come crashing down, quite literally. Physical activity is good for both mental and physical health. Not only does it help release chemicals in your brain that make you feel good and improve mental health, it also turbo charges the biological processes that make your body work as efficiently as possible. From improving circulation to promoting bone health, this is one advice that you ignore at your own peril.

Stay curious

All of my happiest geriatric patients have one thing in common: they are all naturally curious people. Even though they are at an age where they no longer have to worry about finishing school or finding a job, they see learning as part of living. There is something so refreshing about learning for the sake of learning. Not only does it give them joy in life to acquire new knowledge and skills, it also helps them stay mentally sharp. But don’t take my word for it - this is a fact that is backed up by science. Research has shown that learning new things late in life can help decrease one’s risk of dementia. Sounds like a worthy endeavor with very little downside.

Dress the way you want to be seen

One of the endearing things I have noticed about the older people who come to the clinic is that they always look like they made an effort in the way they dress. As someone who appreciates good fashion, I certainly welcome this formality and do not hold back on the compliments. One time a patient responded by telling me that she was raised to believe that how you dress is how you choose to be seen. It is also an act of mutual respect. I think it’s time that we revive this social etiquette; who knows - this might be the first step to instilling more civility back into our society.

Let the small stuff go

Some days my hectic schedule prevents me from running on time, so sometimes my patients would need to spend some extra time sitting in the waiting room. While some of my patients would get understandably impatient and sometimes even agitated, most of the older folks tend to keep their cools. Why? Because they know that there are just some things in life that are not worth sweating over. Most of them have had their fair share of unfortunate events and setbacks in life that they are able to keep things in perspective. This is the one trait I look forward to having when I get old.

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