Seven Characteristics of Optimistic Older People

Updated on February 21, 2018
MsDora profile image

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 likeable.

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

-- highly trained or skilled in a particular activity

Calypso King of the World

The Mighty Sparrow performing at age 79 (2014). Photo by Hayden Roger Celestin
The Mighty Sparrow performing at age 79 (2014). Photo by Hayden Roger Celestin | Source

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 Br.Colombia celebrates 102nd birthday (2014).

Photo by Rick Collins
Photo by Rick Collins | Source

(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 (2.4 mins.)

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+.

Photo by Walt Morris
Photo by Walt Morris | Source

(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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Dora Weithers

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      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        7 months ago from The Caribbean

        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!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 

        7 months ago from United States

        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.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        16 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • Dolores Monet profile image

        Dolores Monet 

        16 months ago from East Coast, United States

        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!

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        16 months ago from The Caribbean

        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.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        16 months ago from Central Florida

        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?

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • CatherineGiordano profile image

        Catherine Giordano 

        17 months ago from Orlando Florida

        Thanks for reminding everyone that age brings wisdom.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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 profile image

        Scott S Bateman 

        17 months ago

        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!

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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 profile image

        Denise W Anderson 

        17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

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

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • lifegate profile image

        William Kovacic 

        17 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

        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!

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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.

      • grand old lady profile image

        Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

        17 months ago from Philippines

        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.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        17 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        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.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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 profile image

        Faith Reaper 

        17 months ago from southern USA

        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.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • Homeplace Series profile image

        William Leverne Smith 

        17 months ago from Hollister, MO

        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! ;-)

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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.

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 

        17 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        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.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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 profile image

        Nell Rose 

        17 months ago from England

        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!

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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.

      • lambservant profile image

        Lori Colbo 

        17 months ago from Pacific Northwest

        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.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • whonunuwho profile image

        whonunuwho 

        17 months ago from United States

        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

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 

        17 months ago from USA

        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.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

        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.

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        17 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        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.

      • Sadia Mushtaq profile image

        Gollu GameZalot 

        17 months ago from Saudi Arabia

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

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

        Dora Weithers 

        17 months ago from The Caribbean

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

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        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.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        17 months ago from Olympia, WA

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

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        17 months ago from USA

        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.

      • Purpose Embraced profile image

        Yvette Stupart PhD 

        17 months ago from Jamaica

        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.

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