Friday, April 15, 2011

Four Lessons From the World's Oldest Man

Today, Walter Breuning, the world's oldest man, died at age 114.  I read this synopsis of his life, and I found it to be quite interesting.  It is amazing to think about all of the things that Mr. Breuning has experienced in his life, all of the changes in society that he has witnessed, and all of the wisdom that he has accumulated through his experiences.  Here are a couple of things that stuck out for me:

1. Work and retirement:  Mr. Breuning retired from his first career at age 67, but he continued to work in some capacity until age 99.  "One of the worst things a person can do is retire young," according to Mr. Breuning.  Work keeps your mind active and gives you a purpose.  He doesn't mention it, but it also helps to make your retirement savings last

2. Embracing change:  "Every change is good."  There is a false stereotype of a senior citizen who pines for the good old days (i.e. back in my day).  However, Mr. Breuning's philosophy is to embrace change and see its positives.  Although computers and technologies made many of the jobs his generation did obsolete, he views technology as an improvement which makes life "so much easier".  Fighting change is a fruitless battle, so it is better to accept it since it is going to happen whether you like it or not.  Accepting the inevitable is better for your mental health in the long run.

3. Appreciating what you have:  Mr. Breuning talks about how different life was when he was a boy.  A hot bath required fetching water, heating in on coal-burning stove.  Travelling meant getting on a horse, a train, or on your own two feet.  In contrast, today we can turn on a faucet and get instant hot water, and we can hop on a plane and get anywhere in the world within a single day.  Those of us who grew up with hot water heaters and air travel take them for granted.  When the hot water heater breaks or the flight is delayed, it feels like the end of the world.  We forget that for most of civilization, people lived without those luxuries.

4. The power of community:  Speaking of his friends at the retirement community where he lived, Mr. Breuning says, "Yeah, we're all one big family, I tell you that. We all talk to each other all the time. That's what keeps life going. You talk."  You can have all the money in the world, but what truly keeps us connected are the people around us:  friends, family, neighbors, co-workers.  They are our support system.  They are what help to bring sanity to our lives.

Walter Breuning lived a typical American life:  work, marriage, friends.  He wasn't exceptional in terms of his fame or his monetary wealth.  However, he is an example of the wisdom that exists all around us in everyday people.  Sometimes we all need to be reminded of this everyday wisdom from somebody who has truly seen it all.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Breuning.  After 114 years, you deserve it!

1 comment:

  1. His words are just inspirational for us, wasn't exceptional in terms of his fame or his monetary wealth. However, he is an example of the wisdom that exists all around us in everyday people. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of this everyday wisdom from somebody who has truly seen it all. His managed life is our inspiration.

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