Top 10 Regrets of the Elderly

Ross Quade | Death | 17 Apr, 2015 | No Comments


The word regret, when used as a noun, is often defined as a sad feeling about something that has happened. When used as a verb, it can describe feeling sad about a missed opportunity. No matter how you define it, regret is an emotional factor that typically involves a negative experience. So why do so many people allow them to exist? We are all familiar with the phrase, “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda” or some version of it. Young people expect that they will rectify their regrets during their lifetime. However, most people do not and proceed to create more of them.  Let’s explore what elderly men and women say are their biggest regrets in life and why.

1.   I would have lived life for me.  

This is the top regret that elderly people have. Due to fear or unwavering compromise, they chose to do what others expected of them. They set aside their dreams and their wishes to make someone else happy. Although that choice can be regarded as a selfless act, seniors wish that they had not made certain sacrifices. This regret can cause resentment and bitterness for elderly people. They look back on their life and realize how much energy and time they wasted living for others. They do not feel fulfillment and joy about decisions that were influenced by someone else, particularly when the recipients of their concessions do not recognize or appreciate them.

2.   I would not have worked so much.

This regret comes from almost all elderly men. In the last century, men have been the main financial support for their families. Many worked a standard nine-to-five job while others worked several jobs to make ends meet. Regardless of the workload, they missed out on truly living. They forfeited extracurricular activities or were too tired to enjoy evening and weekend entertainment. The women who worked outside of the home regretted not having time for household duties when they did arrive home. Many men and women worked longer hours and extra days to earn more money, but they never spent the savings or booked vacations. They simply worked to ensure a nest egg for their future or in case of an emergency.

3.   I should have spoken up more.

Many people wish they had the courage to express their feelings at any given moment; however, they consistently suppressed them. They settled with a closed mouth to keep the peace, which stifled embedded truths and desires. Elderly people have developed medical conditions such as ulcers as a result. They wish that they had taken a stand and stood up for themselves. The elderly talk most about their regret in not opening up to specific individuals. “I regret not telling _____ that I loved him.” “I regret not making amends with _____ before she died.” They believe that their life course would have been dramatically different if they had just said what was on their mind.

4.   I would have spent more time with family.

This regret is about more than time missed because of work responsibilities. It is also about family conflicts that now seem trivial and kept them away from seeing family members on a regular basis. The elderly are often able to overcome this regret with the birth of grandchildren. Their life experience has prompted them to reflect on their younger years. The importance of spending quality time with their loved ones rings true for them. With limited mobility and more idle periods, they can reap the benefits of family dinners and visits. Their priorities changed in their golden years.

5.   I should have followed my dreams.

Even the happiest people among the elderly wonder about dreams deferred or dreams never pursued. It is a common regret for seniors. They played it safe and chose a reliable career or they never moved outside of their hometown because comfort, familiarity, and security dictated their actions. They wanted more, but feared change and disapproval from their family and friends. Now later in life, they think about the unachievable accomplishments and unfulfilled passions of their youth. The elderly long for an experience that is beyond their reach because they opted for contentment. Their life may have been a successful and prosperous one, but could they have been happier?

6.   I could have taken better care of myself.

Waking up with aches and pains is no fun. Every older person will tell you that. They will also tell you that those ailments would be less if they had done things differently. The majority of their health problems can be linked to poor exercise and eating habits. Sadly, some of them that are former athletes are still suffering from old sports injuries. Elderly women regret the havoc that the sun has caused on their skin because they did not avoid long hours in the sun or did not take precautions with hats and sunscreen. They also suffer from high blood pressure and cholesterol levels from fatty foods, as well as contend with the effects of stress, which is more prevalent now at this stage in their life.

7.   I would have traveled more.

The elderly population says there was always a reason not to go away for a vacation, such as that they were low on funds; had too many work duties; or kids were in school. Everyone thinks that they have all the time in the world to see the Eiffel Tower, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Grand Canyon until they look around and realize that it probably will not happen. Do you remember when the film The Bucket List premiered? Shortly afterward, people of all ages started making their own bucket lists. It became popular to choose certain places to visit before they died. The motivation was inspired by inevitable death. A conversation with a group of elderly people probably generated that movie script.

8.   I should have appreciated (_____) more.

The blank portion of this regret is normally filled with: life, my friends, my family, or a specific person’s name. We all know that tomorrow is not promised and no one knows this more than the elderly. They have endured the passing of many people. They focus on their last conversation, their last face-to-face meeting, and that person’s appearance. They ponder the sincerity of their relationship. Was I good to him or her? Did I say I love you? Did they know it? Those unanswered questions bounce around in their heads. The elderly may struggle to come to terms with how they took people and things for granted.

9.   I could have taken more risks.

What is considered risky to you will not seem so to another. But the fear keeps people in their comfort zone. Elderly people regret adventurous undertakings that they passed on: worrying about treading deep water prohibited them from swimming in beautiful lakes and oceans; or taking themselves too seriously prevented them from laughing as loud as they wanted to. The elderly think of all the things that they got worked up over and shake their heads in disbelief. They calculate the number of times that a risk would have made for a more favorable result than the choice they made.

10.   I would like to have more time.

If the elderly had more time, they could do all of the above. They remember when they were kids and time seemed to flow slower than molasses. Aging seems to have sped the clock up for them. Knowing that there are fewer years on the horizon has caused the elderly to wish for more. They want the opportunity to be present in a moment that they glossed over once; they want to raise their children a little differently; to listen to them more intently; and to track down old friends and reminisce about holidays and long forgotten events. With an extension on their life expectancy, they can get a second chance with all of their regrets.

If you want to leave a legacy of satisfaction and happiness, live your best life. Today. No regrets.


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