Today I had a fantastic spontaneous conversation with a lovely older couple. (No, that’s not them in the photo, but it captures their energy nicely.) We only talked for 10 minutes, but I learned a lifetime of lessons!
I was in Montréal at Costco and had just got some food for lunch. The seating area was packed and there were no free tables. I spotted a table for four with an older man and women taking up two of the seats – sitting across from one another. I was by myself, so I ventured over and sat down beside the woman. They both sort of stiffened up as I sat down and then did their best to pretend there wasn’t a stranger sitting 12 inches away at their table. As I started to eat, I casually said: “Il est très occupé aujourd’hui, n’est-ce pas? ” To which the woman replied: “Our French isn’t very good.” So I repeated myself in English: “It’s really busy today, isn’t it?” Then after a minute of small-talk about the summer heat, our conversation took off.
Lesson: Nothing is awkward unless you make it awkward.
Take a chance and talk to someone new! Sit where you need to sit and make the best of it – who knows what might happen? Each busy elevator, bus or subway offers an opportunity to connect with someone new.
The conversation started with the man telling me about his son-in-law’s father who would eat two giant Costco hotdogs late in the afternoon and then go home to have a full supper. Not surprisingly, it was a short story that didn’t end well. We discussed health and lifestyle habits and their effects on longevity. That’s when the man told me that he is 88 years old. He introduced the woman as his wife and told me that she’s 77 years old.
Lesson: You’re allowed to tell a stranger your wife’s age, but only when she considers it a proud accomplishment, not a state secret.
The husband mentioned they were both living on pension income. He said that one day recently he’d done a quick calculation. “I figured that over the years I’d paid roughly $20,000 into the company pension plan. Since I retired, I’ve drawn over $200,000 out of the plan!”
Lesson: I don’t really have a lesson for this one – I just loved the look of glee on his face when he told me this.
They told me how physically active they’d always been. Curling, skating (this is Canada after all), swimming and working out at the YMCA. The husband told me that 12 years ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He sought treatment right away and was on the go again in no time. A year later, one of his workout buddies from the YMCA was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. The man told his friend: “I had the same thing – you’ll be fine!”, but his friend could only hear the word ‘CANCER’. “He died within the year – worried himself to death,” the man reported.
Lesson: This is a direct quote from the husband – “A positive outlook and attitude is the most important thing you can have in life.”
Yes, the couple are both physically active and in good shape, but they believe strongly that your attitudes and beliefs are just as important.
Since I was wearing short sleeves, I pulled up my right sleeve to show them my barcode tattoo. I explained how I came to have an expiry date and that I am currently thirteen years beyond that date. This kicked off the show-and-tell portion of the day, so the husband unbuttoned the top button of his shirt to show me the scar from his heart surgery and the wife pulled down the neck of her blouse to show me hers. I pulled down mine, to show them I have never had any surgery on my heart. Then we all took turns congratulating each other on doing such a good job of not dying yet!
Lesson: If you approach people from a place that is real, honest and genuine, it’s easy to connect with someone. (Please note: I can’t guarantee that they will show you their chest within 10 minutes!)
They husband told me that all of his friends are now dead. He said that it’s very rare that he meets someone who’s active in the community who is older than he is. Then he remembered one – a woman in their dart league is 93 year old. The wife told me that the 93-year old is a very good dart player and she still gardens and walks every day.
Lesson: Being physically active is important, but so is being socially active.
Finally, I pointed out one other factor that I believe contributes to their longevity. “You have each other,” I said. They looked tenderly at each other and smiled. “I guess we do,” said the husband.
Lesson: It’s good to be in love with your partner. It’s better to be in love
and best friends with your partner!
and best friends with your partner!
I have no doubt that this couple will keep on enjoying life and each other for years to come!