“What do you regret when you look back on your life?”
That’s what Karl Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University, founder and director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging, and author of “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans” and “30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage,” asked hundreds of older people as part of Cornell University’s Legacy Project.
As he writes on Quora, he was unprepared for the answer he so often received: “I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying.”
Several years ago, when Pillemer, a world-renowned gerontologist (someone who studies older people), met June Driscoll, a particularly spirited 90-year old woman in a nursing home, she told him, “It’s my responsibility to be as happy as I can, right here, today.”
That interaction inspired Pillemer to find out how a generation that’s experienced the most loss, troubling historical events, and illness could possibly be the happiest and to pass this knowledge down to younger generations.
Pillemer launched the Legacy Project in 2004 and asked more than 1,500 Americans over 65 years of age about the most important lessons they learned over the course of their lives. In “30 Lessons for Living” he refers to his subjects as “the experts” because they hold more tried-and-true wisdom than any self-help book or pundit could possibly offer.