The approach of Valentine’s Day will undoubtedly have many of us wondering what we’ll do to prove our devotion to a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, family member, or any number of loved ones in our lives. Some will feel the pressure to measure up to the expectations of a celebration rooted in Roman fertility rites and a lottery to pair off women with men. Others will deem it an overhyped “Hallmark holiday” destined to make us feel lonely and unloved on Valentine’s Day.
Either way, across the world February 14th is inextricably associated with love. And while love is often depicted as the province of dewy young paramours, it is senior citizens who have lived long enough to really know enough about it.
In his research into life advice from older adults, sociologist and gerontologist Karl Pillemer has amassed quite a few love notes from people of a certain age. Here are seven pieces of wisdom he’s gleaned from 700 seniors with a collective 25,000 years of marriage:
- Seize the small stuff. Many seniors recognize the significance of all the little opportunities we have each day to strengthen our relationships. We can either bring positivity and support to our daily interactions with one another or be dismissive and disinterested. Choosing the former can have a huge impact on the health of our love connections.
- Take interest in their interests. One older gentleman confessed he never dreamed he’d be attending the opera and ballet with his wife. But he soon realized the power of showing interest in her passions and the effect it had on their marriage. Women, too, are wise to join their partners in a favorite hobby. Learning to golf or even pulling up a chair while he’s fishing can reap deep relational rewards.
- Everything you learned in kindergarten. Seniors realize that all we need to know in life, we really did learn in kindergarten: be nice to one another; say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Despite the possibility for familiarity to breed contempt, we can choose to treat one another kindly and gently.
- Opposites may not attract. Much is made about the magnetic combination of two completely different souls. But many older people (as well as research into the phenomenon) contend that there is a lot to be said for couples who share the same interests, basic personality traits, and – most importantly – the same core values.
- You two are number one. Careers, obligations, and the arrival of little ones can put a tremendous strain on a couple’s ability to carve out time for themselves. But prioritizing alone time on a regular basis is imperative, according to older and wiser adults – especially when the nest is empty, and people need to reconnect as a couple.
- Stay the course. By and large, senior citizens are of an era when greater value was placed on the contract of marriage. They also advise not to rush into matrimony, which may account for their determination to stay the course once the knot is tied. Rather than giving up when the going gets tough, many seniors recommend effective communication with their partners, expressing their feelings clearly and early. “Never go to bed angry” is sage advice from many an older person – even if it takes all night to work it out!
- Be open to love – at any age. One senior shared these wise, lovely words: “Love at any age is a beautiful thing. Don’t give up trying. Keep an open mind and leave room for love and companionship, no matter what stage of life you’re in.”
While Milwaukee may not be known as the City of Love, there is certainly a lot to love about it and plenty to do here on Valentine’s Day. Two events in particular are a must for those looking to put a little heart into Cupid’s big day: Candlelight Night at Interstate Park in St. Croix, WI, and Romancing the Stars at the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
At Eastcastle Place, we’re thrilled to have long-established couples who are discovering all that community living can add to their lives and their marriages. Many of our residents have also made some great new friends. Meaningful relationships are key to life at our historic senior living community near the shores of Lake Michigan. And on Valentine’s Day, we’re having a fun cocktail social to celebrate love in all its forms!