How many times have you heard, “I’m too old to try something new!” Have you ever said that? I was proud earlier this year when my dad bought himself a new iPhone just before his 83rd birthday. It inspires me when I see older people exploring, taking risks, learning and still growing.
One legacy trait I loved about my nearly 90 year old friend Tony Hostetler—he loved to try new things. In his late 50’s, he rode a bicycle across the entire United States. In his late 80’s, he was hoping to take a bicycle trip from the Canadian border to Key West. That didn’t quite work out but he became the champion “spinner” at the gym on his stationary bike. He bought a new red sporty car at age 88 and was so proud to show me the navigation system in it. Just a couple months before his death when his health was failing, he took a caregiver on a two-week trip to visit his home area, family and some of the churches he used to pastor. He would try new suggested drinks at Starbucks. Tony wasn’t afraid to take a risk. I firmly believe it’s what helped to keep his mind sharp right up to the last day of his life.
Allan S. Teel, M.D., writes about the “dignity of risk.” The terminology originated out of de-institutionalization of developmentally disabled. But Dr. Teel says the idea applies to the elderly when medical experts, children and others encourage their aging parents to take risks and try new things. Always playing it safe is not a philosophy that leads to a fulfilling life. There is richness that comes when there is an opportunity to succeed or fail, and the opportunity that comes from choices. Dr. Teel writes, “Too many of our parents are either meekly acquiescing to the choices we made on their behalf or are equally unable to assess the full future consequences of these decisions.” His main point is—you are never too old to try something new and take some risks.
Clearly with risk comes responsibility. The risks should be measured, the responsibility taken seriously. But to paraphrase Robert Perske, there can be crippling indignity in safety.
And so my message is simply this: Have the courage and the generosity to allow yourself and the elders in your life to live their remaining years taking risks and trying new things. You both may scrape your knees, or worse, but you will be living—not just waiting to die.
QUESTION: What one new thing do you wish to try this year? Share it in the comment box below.