- Aging & Longevity
The 5 Keys to Happiness-For Seniors
My Observations As An Activities Director In a Retirement Home
After observing the lives of the elderly for many years, while working in retirement homes as an Activities Director, I began to notice which of the seniors living there were truly happy and still excited about life and which were not. It didn't depend on their wealth or even on their current state of health---but on a few things that they all seemed to have in common. I called it---"The 5 Keys to Happiness"---and these residents seemed to have at least two or more of these same attributes.
The First Key
One of the first things that I noticed about the happy seniors in the retirement home that I worked in, was their ability to find happiness in little things. They seemed to always enjoy the meals they were served, while many of the others would always find something about them to complain about. They loved to talk to the other residents and make new friends. They found pleasure in their surroundings and loved to attend all the activities we offered. They seemed to be thankful about the things they still had, even though they weren't always very much. They didn't complain about feeling poorly, even when they did. I remember one sweet lady there, who was in her nineties and always seemed so pleasant and happy. When she told us her philosophy of life, she explained that although she had had several difficult times in her life she tried to always be happy---she said that, "Happiness depended 10 percent on what life handed you and 90 percent on attitude." I think she was right, so the first key to being happy is Attitude.
I remember watching the movie "Stuart Saves His Family," and it was a perfect example of the importance of attitude. Stuart would say something like, "I'm happy, I'm healthy and by gosh, people like me!"--and it changed his life. I believe that it is true that positive reinforcements or daily affirmations, can also help to put one in a better frame of mind.
The Second Key
The second thing that I noticed these residents had in common, was their ability to think about the others around them and not just focus on themselves. Many of those with health issues, were always complaining about everything going wrong daily. They were usually crabby and nothing seemed to make them happy---however, others that were also dealing with health problems, even serious cancer and surgeries, would reach out to the others around them and try to be helpful. They would volunteer to help in activities or read to others, or even push some that were in wheelchairs. Somehow, by keeping busy helping the others, they didn't seem to worry as much about their own problems. So, the second thing that is a key to happiness is Service.
As their Activities Person, I tried to find ways to help the residents to enjoy serving others. We found children nearby, in the local school, that needed help with school supplies. So, we had a yard sale and many of our residents not only helped with donations of items and money, but also manned the several booths that we set up in our yard sale--which turned out to be an all day event. We raised enough money to help many of the school children to have the needed supplies for school that year and the residents were touched at seeing the results of their efforts and receiving the many thank you cards from the children.
The Third Key
Another thing that seemed to help the seniors feel happy, was their faith. Those that believed in God and in Jesus Christ, seemed to not worry as much. They made mistakes, like we all do, but because of repentance they were able to forgive themselves and others and move on with their lives. Those that lacked faith, seemed less hopeful about their future and were continually dwelling on the past mistakes of others that had wronged them or even on their own failings. This self-guilt or lack of forgiveness of others, held them captive to their past and prevented them from growing and moving forward. They just never seemed happy---So the third key seemed to be Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
One thing that helped to bring joy to the retirement home, was inviting church choir groups to come to the home and sing to our residents. Their music of hope and happiness touched the hearts of the seniors that heard them, and their songs brought a wonderful feeling to the home.
The Fourth Key
The fourth key of happiness that these seniors possessed, was the willingness and ability to try new things--or Continue to Learn and Develop New Talents. It was hard for some to overcome their fear of failing when trying something new, but those that tried anyway were greatly rewarded by their even small successes and achievements. They became excited to find talents that they never felt they had before. One gentleman told me that he had admired the work of other artists and even had owned an art gallery in his day; when he tried some of the art projects that I made available for him to try--he was excited to find that he also had a talent in art, and he was proud of the work that he was able to create himself. The "Learning games" and art projects the residents participated in, definitely made a difference in their attitudes and feeling of self-worth--and they were happier.
A Work of Art by One Resident
The Fifth Key
The last key to happiness---or attribute that made a difference, was a Sense of Humor. Those residents that laughed more and could look at the rosy side of life were happier people. They were able to even laugh at their own mistakes and not take everything so seriously. They enjoyed dressing up for Halloween and parties in fun costumes and they participated in many of our crazy activities and remained more child-like in their behavior. They smiled more. As many have pointed out, and I must agree---laughter can be the best medicine.
I have learned many things from these seniors that I worked with over the years; and now that I am older myself, I hope to follow their positive examples and enjoy the Five Keys to Happiness myself.