“How are you?” can be a dangerous question to ask an older person. They may tell you.
Sometimes it seems as if all older people do is share their litany of physical ailments. Conversations that once focused on movies seen, say, or ideas considered now seem to be mostly about aches and pains, operations and medications, pills and physicians. It quickly becomes tiresome, in the way that hearing the same thing over and over can bore the listener to tears.
Don’t let this become you.
Of course everyone develops physical problems as they age. It goes with the territory. But endlessly talking about them indicates one sad fact: These people are thinking only of themselves.
The easiest way out of this rut, this quicksand of self-absorption, is to think of others. Other people with problems worse than your own. Odds are, they’re in the majority. And they could use your help.
One of the best things about getting older is having more time freed up on your schedule. Use this time to give back.
Over the past few weeks, for example, my wife and I have participated in a fund-raising walk for the Stroke Awareness Foundation and as volunteers at Courageous Kids Day, the annual outing for families of children suffering from cancer. Every other week I record audiobooks for people whose disabilities prevent them from reading or holding a book. My wife belongs to two philanthropic/educational groups (PEO and To Kalon). She is a regular health-care advocate for her mother, who lives in a senior-living facility. And there are myriad other ways for us all to get involved.
Try looking outward, not inward. You’ll find yourself rewarded well beyond all expectations.
And if that doesn’t work, if you still think you’re the center of the universe, get a cat.