Advice from centurions and others, James Clarke, Hampton School

Through my volunteering work at a local charity for the elderly, I have been surprised by how much I have really enjoyed spending time with older people.  I have found that once you take the time to really have a conversation with them they have so many stories to share because of course they have been around for a lot longer than me. 

I decided to interview some older people so I could to find out what advice they would pass onto a fifteen year old.  On the left hand side of my house is a lady who has just turned one hundred years old.  On the other side we have a married couple who are both aged eight-nine years old.  I also chose to interview a ninety year old at the charity I help out at plus speak to another centurion there who in fact turns one hundred and one in the summer.

So my question was simple – what advice would you pass onto someone my age?  The answers I received were detailed and everyone was really pleased to talk with me.  They enjoyed thinking back and were pleased to help me get some information for this article.

Monica, age 89 said to me that “having a good husband and caring family around anyone is the key to a good life” and that “you’ve got to stick together through good times and not so good times.” She thought that this was where so many people went wrong today.  We talked about the different stages in her married life more than her childhood and how the world had changed through the decades she had seen. She said that people are in a constant rush these days and that shops should be shut on Sundays so that families could spend quality time together.  I can’t imagine a time like that but I really hate shops so think it sounds like an excellent idea.

When I spoke with Mrs Martin my other neighbour who had just celebrated her one hundredth birthday she said “James, eat three proper meals each day and walk whenever you can to stay healthy.  Don’t get lazy or fat.”  Mrs Martin has poor vision but apart from this she is healthy and still manages her own garden and even volunteers at the charity where I help out at with flower arranging.  I thought how unusual it must be to have a volunteer age one hundred years old and what she said confirmed that staying active and keeping busy had helped her live as long as she had.  She was inspirational.

In April, I visited the local charity I’ve mentioned and attended their Easter lunch where I had some time to talk with ninety year old June.  June I found out had lived alone now for many years following her husband’s death.  June was not as upbeat as the others I had spoken to so far.  Her health was up and down because of some memory problems and she explained to me that it made her feel down and even though she’d been on her own for many years she told me she “still miss my husband every day and when they play Walk Alone I always cry because that was our song.”  I felt sorry when I spoke to her and realised that that old age wasn’t always such a happy and joyful experience for some people.

Finally, I chatted with the other centurion Pauline.  She smiled non-stop and apart from using a walking frame and me having to talk loudly because of her deafness she really didn’t seem as old to me as she was.  We laughed and she was more interested in asking about me and she kept teasing me about different things.  She told me she eats lots of sweets and has a small whiskey every night before bed which she smiled saying “it hasn’t done me any harm has it?”

So did my series of interviews give me a good set of advice from people with many years behind them.  It confirmed that these people’s lives were less complicated than mine.  They had fewer things and had fewer choices.  But they all seemed content when looking back like they’d made the most of everything they’d had and their families and

The best line I noted was from neighbour Monica though who said “grab every chance and treat other people along the way how you would like to be treated then you’ll be just fine.”