If you learn from 90 year olds about what they regret most in life you can avoid many of the same mistakes and…

If you learn from 90 year olds about what they regret most in life you can avoid many of the same mistakes and…

…enjoy more happiness and life success

via CNBC Lydia Sohn

My preconceptions about the elderly went out the window four years ago, when a woman in her early-80s came to me seeking pastoral care.

She had been widowed for several years, but her distress didn’t come from the loss of her husband. Instead, it was because she had fallen in love with a married man who couldn’t return her affections.

As she shared her story with me over some tea and a box of Kleenex, I was bewildered by the realization that people who are far past their 80s still experience the “butterflies-in-the-stomach” kind of love.

An age-old assumption

One of the wonderful and strange features of my job as a minister is that I get to be a confidant and advisor to people from all stages of life, though I primarily interact with those who are double — even triple — my age.

I became a minister in 2015 thinking that I, a Korean-American woman in her mid-30s, wouldn’t be able to connect with a congregation of people from a completely different generation and across a variety of ethnic backgrounds. But my interactions with the widow and several others clued me in on how very wrong I was.

Until recently, I generally associated deep yearnings and high ambitions with the energy and idealism of youth. I assumed that as we get older, we become more stoic and sage-like — or maybe even the exact opposite: Disillusioned by life and lacking vitality.

My kernel of new insight launched me into a rapt curiosity about the internal lives of elderly people. I needed to know: What is life like for 90-year-olds? Do they still have vocational ambitions? Do they still crave love, sex and intimacy? What are their greatest fears, hopes and thoughts on aging? What do they regret most in life?

I should note that I’m not a researcher, sociologist or psychologist, but I was determined to find answers. With a pen and paper in hand, I met with and interviewed the oldest people I know, including several congregants and their friends — all between the ages of 90 and 99.

What 90-somethings regret the most

I began each conversation by asking if they had any regrets. Their responses abounded with self-blame and deep sorrow.

They all expressed similar sentiments: “If only I had done this differently.” “If I could have seen this coming, maybe I would have done something differently to prevent this.”

I was intrigued to learn that their biggest regrets had little to do with their careers, missed opportunities or things they didn’t achieve. Rather, their pain came from failures in their relationships…

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