Lessons from the ‘Oldest Old’: Happiness is a Choice We Make
January 10, 2022
Hosted by Ron Roel
Several years ago, John Leland, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote a series of articles following six men and women for a year, chronicling how people in one of America’s fastest growing demographic groups—those 85 and older—led their lives. The series became the basis for his book, “Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year among the Oldest Old,” which became a Times bestseller, and, as he wrote in the Times, “No work I have ever done has brought me as much joy and hope, or changed my outlook on life as profoundly.” In today’s episode, Leland talks about his experiences writing this remarkable, hopeful and often surprising book, and the lessons he learned about our pursuit of happiness. Certainly, the examination of “happiness” in today’s frenetic society has become a frequent topic in recent years, the source of best-selling books and wildly popular courses among Harvard and Yale students. But Leland’s unique perspective explores what sociologists often point to as the paradox aging: How can people whose bodies and minds are in decline be happier than those in the “prime of life?” He’ll explain what happiness means, relating it to a sense of fulfillment and purpose, and how a positive attitude can help contribute to overall health and longevity. As he takes us along his heartfelt journey with these elders, Leland talks about the role of gratitude in fostering happiness; how older people find happiness alongside great pain, hardship and loss; and how to live in the moment—still thinking about living long—but not forever. Leland, who previously dubbed himself a chronic “grumpasaurus,” offers a valuable collection of lessons he learned from the oldest old, noting that the good things in life—happiness, purpose, contentment and love—are there all along, whether we’re young or old. We just need to choose them.
Monday at 12 Noon Pacific Time on VoiceAmerica Variety Channel
Thanks to advances in medicine and health, most of us are just at half-life when we reach our mid-40s, with many potentially productive years ahead. But there’s no road map to prepare us for this period. That’s where 45 Forward comes in.
My show provides you with strategies to shift the traditional waiting-for-retirement model to a journey of compelling life chapters. Each show tackles an aspect of health, finance, family and friends, housing, work and personal pursuits as part of an integrated plan. Experts discuss topics like revitalizing relationships, creating mini-retirements, managing the maze of technology, finding your next homestead and caring for aging parents.
The show instills confidence, and hopefully some comfort, amid the stresses permeating today’s society. Fear of the future is not knowing how to prepare for it. 45 Forward does not proffer prefabricated answers, but helps you shape your life amid the daily anxieties of our time.
I’m a veteran journalist who spent a wide-ranging career covering business, politics and social issues, the last two decades focusing on the blend of diverse life skills I call successful aging.
I have written extensively on aging topics, spoken at conferences, radio and TV shows, and launched several entrepreneurial ventures, discovering along the way that the path to aging well also requires an unexpected entrepreneurial vision. I spent 20 years as a writer and editor at Long Island’s daily newspaper, Newsday, helping to found Act 2, a weekly section for 50-plus readers. I created Roelresources.com, a website offering practical advice and inspirational essays for people ages 40 and above. I have been a volunteer and consultant to AARP Long Island, writing articles, advocating for seniors, and developing action plans for the AARP Age-Friendly Communities initiative.
I am active in programs and organizations that support seniors, such as the National Aging In Place Council and the Senior Umbrella Network. I have developed a special expertise in family caregiving, as one of four brothers who took care of their mother for almost 25 years. I regularly collaborate with many professionals who provide services and support for older Americans, and I am completing a book for caregivers on Long Island, “The Caregiving Navigator/How to Plan, What to do, and Where to Turn When Caring for you Aging Loved Ones. And Yourself,” scheduled for publication in early 2021.