The Washington Post

The keys to a better life? Everyone has an opinion.

A news item on advice gathered from 1,000 Americans age 65 and older has become one of the most popular stories on The Washington Post’s site on Tuesday — and little wonder.

Everybody has their own take on the tips, ranging from “marry someone like you” to “don’t worry about growing old.” (Add your own thoughts here.

Six reasons came from Sonia Pressman Fuentes, who lived in Washington more than four decades and was recommended by the Cornell University gerontologist who wrote the book based on the project.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes (Courtesy of Sonia Pressman Fuentes)

1. Work at your passion, if possible.

2. Get an education and as much education as you can and you need for what you want to do in life.

3. If possible, do something worthwhile and meaningful in your career — with a purpose that is larger than just your life. My fulfilling life in retirement is based on the skills and contacts I developed during my professional career.

4. Network, network, network. Get a business card and give people you meet one of your cards. If you meet someone anywhere that attracts or interests you, try to keep them in your life. Send them an e-mail after meeting them, suggest lunch and then e-mail them clippings and information that may interest them. “It’s not what you know but whom you know” is very true. I find it’s what you know and whom you know. Tell people what your interests are and what you’d like to do; you never know when someone you least expect may have a tip or contact for you.

5. Travel abroad — and do meaningful travel like Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) programs, the Peace Corps and Global Volunteers, not just meaningless sightseeing.

6. Do not be afraid to write, fax, talk to or e-mail people or organizations you don’t know if you have something to offer. The maxim “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is true. 

The advice doesn’t stop with Fuentes, either; readers shared their own wisdom on our Facebook page. Some of our favorites (with slight edits) below.

• Get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, live in a quiet neighborhood, meditate in the mornings. — Ricky D.

• Learn to roll with the punches. There’s going to be a lot of them. And don’t take yourself too seriously. — Linda E.

• Work to live, not live to work. By working to live, you will also keep loved ones close at hand. — Brian M.

Don’t try to make everyone like you. Just be yourself and the friendships you gain will be more meaningful. — Mira D.

Have some advice to live by? Add it in the comments below.

And finally some of our own favorite advice: “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” the musical reading of Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich’s famous column, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” by filmmaker Baz Luhrmann.


Book excerpts:12 ways to live a better life

Live Q&A, Wednesday at noon: Chat with “30 Lessons for Living” author Karl A. Pillemer

David Beard is a writer, editor and director of digital content for The Post. He also edits The Optimist, a weekly e-newsletter, and has been a foreign correspondent.
Bethonie Butler is a producer and a reporter on The Post’s engagement team. She oversees online comments and has also contributed to The Style Blog and She The People.


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