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Seven Characteristics of Optimistic Older People

MsDora, former teacher and counselor, is fascinated by the prospect of joyful aging. She explores and shares habits of happy seniors.

Not everyone age 70 and beyond is senile and miserable. Drawing from the lives modeled by my aunts and great-aunts, my visits to nursing home residents, stories told and written (some referenced below), it is encouraging to observe that some older folk remain healthy in mind and spirit despite their physical decline. They highlight the positive elements in life's struggles; they make people laugh; they prove themselves likable.

While we comfort those who succumb to the pain and suffering of the various old-age diseases, we may also be comforted in the company of those who infect us with their positive attitudes.

Listed below are seven of the character traits usually found in these sunshiny older folks.

  1. Accomplished
  2. Adaptable
  3. Affable
  4. Appreciative
  5. Ardent
  6. Assured
  7. Awesome
Calypso King of the World: The Mighty Sparrow performing at age 79 (2014). Photo by Hayden Roger Celestin

Calypso King of the World: The Mighty Sparrow performing at age 79 (2014). Photo by Hayden Roger Celestin

(1) accomplished

-- highly trained or skilled in a particular activity

The term "accomplished" usually conjures up lists of academic degrees and accolades, and many older people can produce such. However, many others are self-educated, having knowledge and skills which may not even be taught in the classroom. They used their time wisely, learning and becoming experts in their fields of interest.

For example, there are many Caribbean calypsonians who learned songwriting and rhythm from each other and emerged as social icons because of their sterling performances. Among them, The Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco from the island of Grenada) born in 1935 is known as the Calypso King of the World. He has received many awards including the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2015.

Whether they learned by formal or self-taught methods, older people who accomplish their goals are usually happy with themselves and pleased to share their victories with the world.

(2) adaptable

-- able to adjust to new conditions

It does not take a far stretch of imagination to visualize people age 70 and over relocating, even migrating; changing jobs, starting new businesses several times in their lives. Some changes may have been desired while others may have been caused by unfortunate situations like financial difficulties, or natural disasters.

Those who develop the habit of adjusting in stride become the individuals whom younger people seek out, to learn from them the skills of overcoming. When they have "been there and done that" and survive with positive lessons to share, they make good friends for people of all ages.

(3) affable

-- friendly, good-natured, or easy to talk to

Of all the older folk known to me, past and present, my maternal grandmother was the most affable. Her pastor once told me, "When the burdens of my ministry begin to feel heavy, I go sit at the foot of your grandmother's bed and we talk. When I leave, I am ready to take on the world."

In her 70s and 80s, her soft voice and her sweet encouragement attracted people to her. She received visitors from several other churches besides the one she attended, and everyone in the village called her Granny. Whereas my cousins and I avoided some of our older relatives whom we thought were too grumpy, we often fought for space to sit beside her.

There are many grandmothers like mine (grandfathers too) who cheer up their visitors, who inspire with old stories, who share jokes and laughter, who make the young ones feel that there is always reason to be happy. These are the people who influence us to celebrate their lives instead of mourning their deaths; and our memories afterwards are mostly positive.

Dr. Jean Scott from British Colombia celebrates 102nd birthday (2014).

Dr. Jean Scott from British Colombia celebrates 102nd birthday (2014).

(4) appreciative

-- feeling or showing gratitude or pleasure

"Seventy years are given to us!" So it says in the Bible Psalm (90:10) titled the Prayer of Moses. In a later verse (14), he adds:

"Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives."

People who recognize this promise of 70 years feel privileged to attain it. They often express thanks for the abilities they still have instead of those they may have lost. They are grateful for the extra years after 70 and like the psalmist, they hope that singing will be an easy way to demonstrate their appreciation for the rest of their lives. Even when they lose volume and pitch, they may still try to sing. Does this remind you of anyone?

(5) ardent

-- very enthusiastic or passionate

Meet George Dawson: A Man With a Passion for Life

Passionate about life itself, George Dawson declared in his book title that "Life Is Good." Born to slaves, he always wanted to learn to read. He got that opportunity at age 98, co-authored his biography and published his book at age 102, died at age 103 in 2001.

Jim Arruda Henry has a similar story. He learned to read at age 92, wrote and published his book "In a Fisherman's Language" (fishing stories he was anxious to share) at age 98 and died at age 99 in 2012.

The passion of some older people may be to build a fence, see a foreign country, or skate on ice. Whether they downplay their passion until they become sure of support or they pursue their passion openly and consistently, their interest keeps them alive and positive. They always have something to work at, and their sense of purpose becomes infectious.

(6) assured

-- confident

Mark Twain (1835-1910), on his 70th birthday was the epitome of confidence and positive outlook in older people. His entire birthday speech is in this tone.

"The seventieth birthday! It is the time of life when you arrive at a new and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach- unrebuked."

These sentiments could have been as confidently expressed by my former college professor who still has his humor and mentoring skills in tact; or by any of the older people we know who have gained a sense of dignity and authority from decades of experience. What may sound like conceit is just confidence solidified by time.

Neva Morris (age 110) in the Red Hats Society for Women 50+.

Neva Morris (age 110) in the Red Hats Society for Women 50+.

(7) awesome

-- inspiring awe

Neva Freed Morris (1895-2010) purchased a 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis when she was 90 years old, and drove until she was 95. She had an "80-year accident-free driving record" said her youngest son, who believed that her secret was her passion for fast cars. She enjoyed singing, especially, "You are My Sunshine."

Her story is beyond awesome, but so are all the stories mentioned in this article, and the many others which will not get published. There are many older people who inspire us with their smiles, their compliments, their gestures which give our spirits a lift.

Because of the strength and wisdom they receive from their struggles to become who they are, even a "God Bless You" from an older person is awesome.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2017 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 03, 2019:

Thank you, Shannon. I love your attitude. You'd certainly be one of the cheery ones. My grandmother was one of the most pleasant old folks.

Shannon Henry from Texas on November 03, 2019:

I love this article. It doesn't matter what age people are to me. If they are positive and cheerful, I like to be around them. Of course, I understand that not everyone is happy or cheerful all of the time, but then it's a give and take kind of thing when it becomes necessary. As far as older people go, I can think of people in my life both past and present who fit both of your descriptions. Some are grumpy and mostly avoided. Others are still light up a room just by walking in.

I love that story about your grandmother. What a fantastic memory to have with you still to this day. :)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 03, 2019:

Thanks, Alyssa. Not everyone will have all seven qualities, but however many they have, they are easier and more pleasant to deal with. Glad that you enjoyed working with them. Also, you probably learned a thing or two about life.

Alyssa from Ohio on November 02, 2019:

What a fabulous and inspirational article! In my younger days, I worked in a few different nursing homes and it was always a pleasure to be able to chat with the residents. I loved hearing their life stories. Most everyone exhibited these seven qualities. I really enjoyed reading this! Have a wonderful weekend!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 09, 2019:

Dianna. I like that. So we always have something to celebrate.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on September 09, 2019:

It is always nice to read something that appeals to our age group. Thanks for the positive things you say that go well with age. we are the Napa Valley of life;)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 29, 2019:

Cynthia, good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing the adventure of your 80 year old friend. She's an inspiration for sure. God promises that we will still flourish as we age. It pays to follow His guidelines.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on August 28, 2019:

Thank you so much for some more role models as my husband and I edge up to 70... I am going to share this article with others!

This summer I was very impressed with my 80-something friend who lives on an acreage near Missoula, Montana. Her husband has Alzheimer's and life is very challenging. In her life, she has lost a much-loved adult daughter and grieved through assorted other losses that come to all of us who live long enough. This summer, though, she really blew me away. Last year she missed going to the BC Camp Meeting, and this year she was given a blessed two-weeks of caregiving vacation, and so off she drove the 18-hours to the Camp by herself, singing along to the scripture songs on CDs. She stayed with a couple of friends en route there, and with the same friends on the way back. She said the driving weather was wonderful, the car worked a charm, and she took in as many presentations as possible and slept in a tent she brought along, sharing meals with a friend on the same pad. I am so in awe of her!

Thank you for your awesome article!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 01, 2019:

Such old friends are better than diamonds (I think). He's proof that you and I can also experience such a blessing!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 26, 2019:

Amazing! I have a dear friend who is 95 this year and so active and knowledgable I can't keep up with him and I'm only 65. Thanks for sharing this. Wonderful.

Blessings,

Denise

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 24, 2019:

Thanks, Patricia. I agree that our elders are not not "revered and cherished" enough. We have to help out by cherishing each other. May your share of angels attend you today and always!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 23, 2019:

Thank you so much for this salute to those of us who are 70 and beyond. Our elders need to be revered and cherished rather than treated with indifference and disdain. Angels galore are once again on the way ps

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 26, 2019:

Thanks, Audrey. I also read the article again before I responded to your comment. We're blessed with ready inspiration at our fingertips. Hope your day is going really well.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on June 25, 2019:

I love Mark Twain's birthday speech! Having arrived at that age, a few years ago, I can completely agree. This is a return visit to your article.

Just had to read it again and get inspired once more.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 06, 2017:

Jill, my old folks were very much like yours. My grandmother was well liked by everyone, it seemed. I agree with you that "If I can be half as wise and productive as they were, I will have really done something." Long live our sweet old folks!

Jill Spencer from United States on December 06, 2017:

Your first paragraph surprised me, as I would never associate old age with misery. When I was growing up, the "old folks" were the best: kind, funny, active, interested and interesting. They always had time for you, whether it was just to talk or to do something, like whip up a batch of chow chow or hit the mall. If I can be half as wise and productive as they were, I will have really done something. Thanks for honoring the aged with this hub.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 21, 2017:

Dolores, I believe with you. The older we get, the farther away old age seems to be. Thanks for your input.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on March 21, 2017:

Hi Miss Dora - old age ain't what it used to be. You can't even judge a person's age anymore. So many seniors are so full of life, out walking, gardening, learning new skills, etc. One thing I firmly believe in for happy aging - keep moving!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 09, 2017:

Hi Shauna. Thanks for asking. It doesn't always begin that way, but sometimes after I decide on my subtitles, I try to find synonyms that begin with the same letter. I think it's It's cute and it's also easier to remember. Thanks for your kind comment.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 09, 2017:

This was a joy to read, Dora. Is it intentional that the seven common character traits of optimistic older people all begin with the letter A?

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 25, 2017:

Catherine, aging is such a wonderful experience. Thanks for your affirmation.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on February 25, 2017:

Thanks for reminding everyone that age brings wisdom.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 24, 2017:

Scott, thanks for your input. While you still have the ability, it may help to put on a new spin on the old memory. Rationalizing and changing the perspective you have can be helpful.

promisem on February 24, 2017:

Now that I'm old enough, I think one of the biggest challenges is overcoming bad experiences that stack up in our lives.

I have read the human brain is wired to remember bad experiences more than good ones as a survival mechanism. So the bad memories pop into our heads more often.

That may not be true of everyone, but for people who have a few too many bad memories, it pays to follow the advice on this Hub. Nicely done!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 13, 2017:

Denise, I think you'll be an outstanding 70 plus-er. Just keep the positive attitude you have now. Thanks for your comment.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on February 13, 2017:

Thanks for this wonderful inspiration! I hope to be like one of them when I am in that category!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 11, 2017:

Bill, I guess that if you have to, you will. It's all about enjoying the rest of your life. Thanks for weighing in.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on February 11, 2017:

That gives me a lot to shoot for, Dora. Your definition of adaptable

-- able to adjust to new conditions will need a lot of work. I'm one of those dogs that can't be taught new tricks easily. enjoyed the read!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 11, 2017:

Mona, good to see you and thanks for your input. Yea, these stories encourage the rest of us to keep on living. Let's do it.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on February 10, 2017:

This is a most inspiring story, Ms Dora, filled with stories of many awesome and amazing people who never stopped pursuing their passions in their older years. I loved every single story, but the one that affected me most was the story of George Dawson. As a senior citizen of my country, I am deeply grateful for this article that you wrote.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 09, 2017:

Thanks Linda, there are many accomplished and exemplary older people who never get the credit they deserve. We probably should just find a way to honor the ones we meet.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 08, 2017:

This is another inspiring article, MsDora. It's very interesting to see what older people have accomplished. Many of them are great examples for people in other age groups.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 08, 2017:

Dear Faith Reaper, been missing you. We are blessed to have had these saints as family members. Thank God for their examples and the memories. Thanks for sharing.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on February 07, 2017:

MsDora, this is a list we can all aspire to reach as we grow older, and let's hope we don't wait until our later years. The first person who comes to my mind is my dear Mother. She lived to be 84. I never heard her once say an ill word against anyone ever! She always looked for the good in everyone and always had something positive to say no matter the situation. She was always so pleasant to be around too. I can only hope to become a third of the wonderful she was in this life.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 07, 2017:

Thank you, Dr. Bill. So pleased that you approve. You're one of the preferred models, and I'm right behind you.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on February 07, 2017:

Excellent observations and conclusions. Going on 78, these each look correct, to me. I appreciate each day I get. I know you do, as well. Let's keep them coming, with a smile! ;-)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 07, 2017:

Peg, glad you feel uplifted, and your comment in turn leaves me uplifted. These are the kinds of gestures that give older something to cheer about. Thank you.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 07, 2017:

This beautiful recap of the wisdom and joy of older people is truly uplifting. Thank you for sharing this insightful look at the contributions and achievements of people of many years.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 07, 2017:

Nell, thanks for sharing this event with these spunky older-age people. Sounds like you had a blast. This is the kind of fun I hope for.

Nell Rose from England on February 07, 2017:

Awesome MsDora! and yes of course there are some lovely people who embrace older age with a bang. I remember a few years ago going on a coach journey down to the coast for the day. The rest of the coach party were a lot older, lots in their 70s an 80s, and it was so much fun on that coach! we sang, laughed, told jokes and just talked to everyone! it was better than the day out at the sea! lol!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Lori, you were blessed to have a friend in Tom and I'm sorry for your loss. Your grandmother must have been a saint like mine. The memories of our loved ones inspire us to be grateful to God and be generous to those around us. Thanks for your input.

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on February 06, 2017:

My friend Tom was 91 when he died last year. He was hands down the most inspiring, kind hearted, God loving, friendly, positive person I have ever known. In this life I don't know that I will ever have the blessing of knowing someone like him. I can't wait to see him when I cross over. The impact he's had on my life is enormous. I was caregiver to he and his wife. Every day he was grateful for everything. We could often hear him praying for God to bless those he loved.

My maternal grandmother was a great blessing to. I just wrote about her actually. Thanks for another uplifting piece, Dora.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Whonu, you're a good model. The inspiration in your poems will last for a very long time. Blessings!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Thanks Marlene. Happy Birthday in advance to your mother. I know that you truly treasure her for who she is.

whonunuwho from United States on February 06, 2017:

Thank you, my friend, for these inspiring and very practical guidelines for our older days. We really can be of much use and this is a time of life that we may so help our family of brothers and sisters.Blessings. whonu

Marlene Bertrand from USA on February 06, 2017:

I have to agree with you on all of your points. My mother is celebrating her 80th birthday this year and she has all of the traits mentioned in your article.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Audrey, I'm almost there and I want to enjoy the same kind of lifestyle you do. Thanks for being such a good model and for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Sadia, you got that right. Younger people need to develop these traits now if they will manifest them in their later years.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on February 06, 2017:

I'm over 70 and better than ever. I walk 2 miles every day, work out at the local Y, work hard and eat only my own cooking (vegetarian.) I love everyone, laugh at life, and stay positive even in the darkest of times. My gratitude list is over-flowing. I love life and I love this hub MsDora.

Gollu GameZalot from Saudi Arabia on February 06, 2017:

traits that younger people need to acquire, this is a very well written hub.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Eric, these presidents do enjoy longevity. Happy for them and their relatives. Thanks for pointing that out.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Bill, we're almost there. Hope meet those standards too. Thanks for your comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Flourish, you great-grandmother is still having a positive effect on your life. You are blessed. Thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Thanks Doc. An affirmation from you means a lot. And yes, we do learn from our older folk even when we are not aware.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 06, 2017:

Interesting stuff.

I think here in the US we have had around 10 presidents over 70 while in office.

I think I will start practicing these right away.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 06, 2017:

I totally agree, Dora! The ones I know all meet those standards. :)

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 06, 2017:

This was delightful and brought back pleasant memories. With a number of the older people in my life having passed away in recent years, I find that I appreciate those who remain more and more. I still recall my great grandmother's affable nature even though she has been gone for over two decades. She was such a kind and endearing person all her life, I am told (she helped to raise my mother who was especially close to her). Age simply accentuated her essential character. People were drawn to her roaring laughter and positive words. Even if one had gained weight and looked terrible, she'd tell you that you were getting prettier and prettier each time she saw you. She always made such a big fuss over people. She meant so much that I named my daughter after her.

Yvette Stupart PhD from Jamaica on February 06, 2017:

This is a great hub, MsDora. People over 70 can live positive lives and impact others in positive ways. If we start listening to them we could be pleasantly surprised what we learn.