With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, chances are you’re not the only one asking yourself, “Would I/we be happier if…?” Especially for younger singles, the search for happiness in relationships and life generally can be particularly frustrating come February 14th. But happiness doesn’t have to be tied to circumstances or time limits. Just ask the older adults of Clermont Park Life Plan Community.
Twelve years ago Fran Shedd and Roberta Stoddard, now 95 and 89, met through a happy hour group. Now they are a couple, calling every night to chat and taking trips together to Chicago and New Mexico. But it wasn’t always this way. Both Fran and Roberta moved to Clermont after losing their spouses. Fran’s wife had Alzheimer’s, and Roberta’s husband suffered from a stroke that left him unable to speak. It was a difficult time, but they both chose to focus on the positives.
“You do what you have to do,” Fran explained. “Get up in the morning and take care of things. She needed help eating, so I cut up her food for her.”
Roberta agreed. “You just don’t think about the stress. I came and visited my husband every day for 9 months. He wasn’t in pain, so I counted his blessings and mine.”
Fran and Roberta’s spouses passed away within 6 days of each other. Fran and Roberta “kept going, and eventually drifted together.” They have maintained independent lives, but after 2 ½ years of dating, their positive-realistic outlook has never wavered.
“We plan ahead,” Fran assured, as he shared about their next trip to Sitka and Juneau, Alaska. “We look forward, just not too far.”
Fran and Roberta aren’t the only ones at Clermont who know life’s loves and losses. Like them, many of their older neighbors have found that 80+ years of life offer some key secrets of happiness.
“Learn to let it go,” recommended Phyllis Dye, when asked about how she stays active and positive. “The sun will come up tomorrow. It will. Those of us know who grew up in the Depression… We had to go with what we’d got.”
“Take your time in what you do. In every step you take,” offered Heinz Weimer, who loves taking steps with Phyllis on the dance floor.
John Ahlenius, the community’s 80-something resident thespian who still runs 5Ks and flies to Europe for week-long motorcycle rides, suggests to “be ready for change and accept it. Don’t stay somewhere you’re not happy… Don’t get boxed in, letting other people determine who you are.”
“Enjoy every day for what it is,” is Art Van Eps’s suggestion. At 84, he loves thinking back on fond memories from his younger days.
Mary Johnson (who described herself as “old enough” and helps run the community’s resident-led onsite boutique) offered a slightly different approach. “I think if everyone remembered the lessons they learned way back when — sharing, paying attention, taking care of others, remembering to smile — they would be happier. Also, a can-do attitude. Clermont Park is a community of can-do, of lifelong learners … you sell yourself short when you think you can’t do something.”
If Mary, Art, Roberta, Fran and their friends are any indication, Clermont residents certainly aren’t selling themselves short. Instead, their lives and attitudes offer some pretty priceless wisdom we’d be well to remember on Valentine’s Day and throughout life.
This story first appeared in Denver Post's YourHub. Copyright and used by permission.