The long sunset of life is never more inspiring than when it shines wisdom into our lives through our friends, family, and community. Everyone needs help to overcome the challenges life presents, as this interview chain letter video by CBC's WireTap proves. The video starts with advice for a 6-year-old and ends about a dozen interviews later with advice for a 93-year-old.
My favorite piece of advice, and one I wish I could have shared during the Great Recession, is this tip for a 29-year-old: "Getting laid off can be a blessing in disguise." Or this hilarious tidbit, to a 9-year-old:
"Age" is both a number and a complicated social construct
Take a step back and consider the amazing collection of wisdom in the world today that is only contained in our minds. There are many things we have yet to record about living with the challenges in the 21st century. But let's be honest: Age is about way more than time.
Age impacts how we think of ourselves, and communicate with each other, right now. There is no scientific test to guess your "true" age, even though we'd all really appreciate one. As a social construct, age is, oddly, constant. It is tied back to our concept of what it means to be healthy, which is tied to our definition of happiness, which is tied to our economic status, which is tied to historic inequality with regard to race, ethnicity, class, gender, parenting, sexuality, religion. ... The list of what goes into our social "age" is endless.
We associate every year of the average life with some sort of yearbook of memories based on the lives of people we've never met (and sometimes that's great!). Often our exact age, however, means more to other people socially than it does to our actual health status.
While it's incredibly complex, our real age still reveals much about our society from which we can learn. Age distribution in countries, for example, show us how the broad arm of war and peace reaches from decades past into our future. A country destroyed by violence may find itself with huge generation gaps that the elderly and very young are faced to bear alone. The number still counts for something.
There are times when age can mean a lot personally, too, and not just for celebrating birthdays, graduations, or anniversaries. When polled in 2012 by Pew Research, the majority of Americans supported keeping the Social Security retirement age the same, an issue that is tied to the fact that some better-off Americans are living longer than poorer Americans.
These pieces of advice we take to heart have the power to change how we live, which makes it all the more important to listen skeptically even while living optimistically. Good advice is out there, and often found in unexpected places.