Simplifying as a sign of wisdom

If you’re an older person—or hope to live long enough to be described as older—you may be interested in the topic of aging well.

In a recent New York Times article titled The Science of Older and Wiser, the author explores the definition and role of wisdom in living well into old age. A life-span psychologist describes five elements of personal wisdom:  self-insight; the ability to demonstrate personal growth; self-awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history; understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute; and an awareness of life’s ambiguities. A geriatric neuropsychologist adds that simplifying is also a sign of wisdom, speaking of people who give possessions away while they still can.

I think the surest way to become a person who ages gracefully—to become someone who is able to adapt and accept losses that cannot be changed—is to start practicing now. And I hope that working toward a simpler life in middle age will make it a habit rather than one more mindset and set of behaviors to change when I am older.


The Lessons of Life, a NY Times piece on wisdom from two years ago, features practical advice from six American elders who participated in the Legacy Project at Cornell University.

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