Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! In light of this popular holiday, we wanted to share words of wisdom about love from those who know most about it: senior citizens! Karl Pillemer of Cornell University and the Marriage Advice Project “did in-depth interviews with more than 700 retirees, 65 and older, who were married for an average of 43 years. The longest marriage was 76 years between a 101-year-old woman and 98-year-old man,” according to USA Today. Here are some tips for timeless love from those who have been married for decades, or who have been around long enough to learn some important lessons about love in general!
Follow your heart - but also your head - when choosing a spouse or partner. There has to be an element of falling in love and being twitterpated (as Thumper would put it), but an element of practicality is important, too. For instance, do you and your partner have similar views on finances, religion, and the importance of careers or work/life balance? Some disagreement is inevitable, but it’s generally better to be on the same page about the big issues.
Make sandwiches together! Pillemer found something interesting in his research: some couples found that arguments tended to happen when basic needs weren’t being met (like food, for instance). According to the article, “One surprising finding from [Pillemer’s] research is retirees said that sometimes their marital arguments might be related to one or both of them needing to get something to eat. Whether it's low blood sugar or just the need for comfort, food seems to help tone down conflict. One couple said when they were having a tiff, she offers her husband a sandwich, and he offers her a cup of tea.” What a great way to maintain a healthy relationship for the long term! (For the record, feel free to offer a glass of wine in accordance with the Mediterranean diet for seniors!)
Do things to make yourself happy as well. What does this mean? In any relationship (whether long- or short-term), it is not healthy for one person to be serving the other all the time, or for one person to take precedence over the other. But when both people respect and understand each other’s need for autonomy and self-fulfilment, they are better prepared to be great partners for each other.
Say and do the small things. Marriage is one of the most intensely personal relationships that people can have, and it’s made up of millions and millions of microinteractions. Small things like a smile, a compliment, saying “I love you,” a hug or kiss and more all matter. Don’t allow these small actions to dwindle as your relationship progresses - instead, make them part of your daily routine. As Gandhi is attributed to have said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” By doing and saying the small things regularly, you get in the habit of loving, respecting, and showing affection to your partner.
So there you have it - tips on timeless love from seniors who have been there and done that! And for those of us without any Valentine’s plans, here’s a fun video to watch of 102-year-old Dorothy Custer BASE jumping to celebrate her birthday! For everything else senior care related, please contact Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses to see how we can help your family!