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Wisdom, the gift of old age

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” ― Frank Lloyd Wright

For a long time, I sought motivation. I read books about how to be rich and famous or how to achieve goals or how to change habits. Books helped me, but I didn't feel the authors’ advice resonated in my soul.

Several years ago, I finally understood a very simple and powerful thing: my best motivators turned out to be very old people; in my case, my mother and her friends.

Many of my mother’s Russian neighbours in San Francisco lived lives in the Soviet Union filled with unspeakable hardships. Yet, when they visit together, they have so much fun! How often I have seen men in their eighties and nineties singing folk songs with strength and vigour as their wives dance and laugh!

They love life. Plain and simple.

I adore this strong wish to live life to its fullest; to appreciate every day and cherish it. They know life ends one day, but they certainly don’t dwell on it!

We were at a Russian party celebrating my mother’s 84th birthday two weeks ago. The room was filled with her friends. Svetoslav is older than my mom; he is in great physical shape, writing a book on psychology and enjoys an occasional glass of port.

After singing a long and ardent folk song, filled with love, drama and adventure, he gazed out over the room and raised his glass: “To our dreams!”

The room hushed.

“What is YOUR dream?” I asked in the brief silence.

“My dream is to live to be 100 and beat that damn record!” he thundered and downed his glass.

“What record?” I prompted earnestly.

“There is a Japanese man, 105 years old. He is the world's oldest competitive sprinter. He ran the 100-metre in 42 seconds at age 100. My goal is to run the 100-metre when I am 100 in 40 seconds!”

Svetoslav waved one arm expansively and a fierce happiness lit his eyes.

“I love your dream! It is really big!” I cried.

It was so unexpectedly wonderful, it brought tears to my eyes. It made me realise that at any age you can set your bar as high as your imagination soars. Svetoslav was not joking, he was very serious and training regularly.

“I have to do it!” he added, and his gaze swept the room as if awaiting some challenge. His chest swelled and he seemed larger and even more dynamic than before. His wife of so many years slid silently to his side and reached up, touching the side of his face with extreme gentleness. He looked down into her eyes and it was as if an unseen light passed between them. The silent room erupted in cheers, and the bottle of port made its rounds.

During this dinner, my aunt Lidia, a musician, called my mom from our home town Irkutsk, Siberia. She is 92 years old. I asked her what keeps her going?

“Nina, I play Bach every day. His music gives me strength and harmony.”

I sat in awe. Then, I mentally knelt down in respect. I imagined her, petite and with her straight, upright posture, sitting behind the old piano I remember my entire childhood.

She still plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor with passion.

These “old people” teach me so much; to believe in love and romance at any age, and to be strong and active, not as a goal, but as a way of life.

They showed me that curiosity about the world and each other grows stronger as we age, and humour is the balm that soothes our hearts, just as laughter chases away our fears.

They educated me on how to look to the future: to be brave simply by the way you live and act every day.

I thought about how simple it is to look to older people who can inspire you. They are right next to you, in your circle – your parents, relatives, colleagues, friends. They might not be famous authors but they know important life lessons to share with you.

Wisdom is the gift of old age. Let's recognise and honour the teachers that surround us!

Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at www.ninalondon.com

Nina London with her mother Vera (Photograph by Tatyana White)

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Published June 17, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 15, 2021 at 7:27 pm)

Wisdom, the gift of old age

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