If someone knew the secrets for aging well, you’d want to know them, right? Turns out, someone does. Dr. George E. Vaillant has been involved for his entire professional life with three long-term studies of how people age. Longevity studies are more reliable because they record what’s happening at the time, instead of relying on what old people remember.
If whiskey and cigarettes really are the secret to long life, a longevity study will support that.
As Dr. V. interviewed and recorded the lives of hundreds of people over a span of fifty, sixty, seventy years, he learned that the most successful agers perfected certain strategies (and he published a book about it, Aging Well.) Dr. V. asks his study participants this question (among others):
Whom would you be most willing to inconvenience if you needed help?
One of the concepts of aging well is asking for help when you need it, but that’s not always easy. Depending on your personality, it can be awkward, or feel intrusive. We don’t want to bother another person, and maybe more importantly in our go-it-alone culture, we don’t want to feel obligated or dependent. We may even consider it an invasion of our own privacy.
Yet, the freedom to inconvenience others is a mature coping strategy. It’s a tool, a skill. Something to get good at. Perfecting the art of asking for help can lead to a better old age.
Knowing this, I bit the bullet recently and asked my neighbor for help. We were going on a trip for a couple weeks and I needed someone to get my mail (because dealing with our city’s post office is like one of Dante’s circles of hell.) I didn’t feel 100% comfortable about it, but I thought about Dr. Vaillant, and figured it would be good for me. So I went next door to make my very first request.
My neighbor was delighted to help. I gave her my house and mailbox keys, along with my cell number in case the house caught fire.
After my vacation, when I went to pick up my mail, she and I talked and laughed for a few minutes, and I said I’d be happy to reciprocate.
Not only did we reinforce our relationship, but it felt good to know I was practicing a skill that will help me, later in life.
Of such things is maturity made.
Does this idea resonate for you? Who in your life are you most willing to inconvenience?