6 Steps to Successful Senior Living

February 27, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.
Colleen L. Reece
Colleen L. Reece

...by …by Colleen L. Reece

…by Colleen L. Reece


"Eighty-five and fully alive” best describes me. I give thanks each morning for another day to love, live, and perhaps be a blessing to others. Six small steps help me overcome adversity and live joyfully. 

1. Down with Drab. Mom lived to be almost 96. When asked why she always wore bright colors she replied, “The world can be drab enough without my adding to it.” Soon her senior friends abandoned bland clothing. I followed in Mom’s footsteps. My closet contains a rainbow of colors. 

2. Gracious Giving. Folks in the small logging town of Darrington where I grew up faced hard times after the Great Depression. Yet when families lost homes or possessions due to fire or flood, neighbors gave what they could ill-afford to spare. It knit the community together as nothing else could have done.

3. Responsive Receiving. Sometimes we receive gifts we actively dislike. My brothers and I were taught to hide our dismay; that it is the thought behind the gift that counts. We learned to say, “Thank you so much. It’s really nice of you to remember me.” 

4. Kindness and Timely Tact It is never fun to be forced into a position where adhering to the truth may hurt someone’s feelings. A friend who could seldom afford new clothes buttonholed me. “How do you like my new dress?” I inwardly cringed. The orange and purple colors played havoc with her red hair. I exclaimed, “What interesting material! Where did you find it?” My evasive answer may well have saved our friendship. 

5. Love-inspired Listening. The story is told of a small boy whose elderly neighbor’s husband passed away. The child went to see her. When he came back, his mother asked, “What did you say to her?” “Nothing,” he said. “I just crawled up on her lap and we cried.” Listening is one of the most important and perhaps least understood of the gifts we can offer others. People in pain need to be heard. Refraining from offering advice or relating similar experiences shows the person sharing that we care. 

6. Healing Humor. It is impossible to measure the value of humor. Laughter cannot solve problems. It can change the focus from negative to positive. After my cancer diagnosis in 2012, my niece and I met with my surgeon, oncologist, and radiation oncologist. The oncologist looked at the results of my tests and said, “This is not going to be a walk in the park.” 

Decades earlier, my father, who had no earthly possessions to bestow on his children, left us a legacy of laughter. It once again came to my rescue. I stuck both thumbs into the air and announced, “I am a woman of faith, a logger’s daughter, and I am a survivor!” 

After a moment of shocked silence, laughter erupted. Relieved expressions silently shouted, Here is someone who will work with us. 

Humor had once again done its job. It still does. 

Although this advice is directed at seniors, I believe all ages can benefit from these six steps, both now and later in life.

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