I have a 20-year old brain in an old body

What do people over 100 years old want you to know?

I think you will enjoy this 3-minute video below featuring  100-year-old Grandma Eileen who answers the question, “What do I ask old people?”   She answers candidly, and she may give you insight into your own future-self as you continue on your journey when you will someday enter into the wonderful developmental stage of elderhood!

“I have a 20-year-old brain in an old body.”  “My secret is that you make your own happiness, and you make the place better where you are”

This week I went to a celebration of life for 105-year-old Ina Hinds.  Ina and I visited every week at church.  She was interesting and fun. She wore beautiful hats.  Her lipstick and makeup immaculate, and she was dressed ‘to the nines’.   She was beautiful, and her vibrant spirit inspires us today.

In Las Vegas, where I live, Ina Hinds was locally famous and was frequently mentioned in local news stories for her participation in active exercise classes past her 100th birthday.

As a widow in 1992, (age 81),  Ina joined an active exercise class at the YMCA and continued regularly.

“Everybody in the class was at least 60,” said Esther Abele, more than 30 years younger than Hinds. “But Ina was always the oldest, and an inspiration to all of us. She was still coming when she was more than 100. When she got macular degeneration and could no longer drive, she got somebody to bring her. When she started having to use a cane, she hung the cane on a chair, and sat in the chair using hand weights.” Ina recruited much younger women to the class.

Ina hinds at 105 birthday party in Las Vegas Nevada
Ina Hinds at 105 birthday party in Las Vegas Nevada

There is a stereotype of old and very old people. They are often not seen as whole and capable with a collective life experience and a desire to make a difference in the world. Ina was a progressive woman. She was born before women could vote. She put herself and her children through college. She worked at the Pentagon, and she was active in many social causes.

Yet, at her memorial service, many people were surprised at her life accomplishments.  Why?  Because they did not ask her!

Ask the elders in your life what they are looking forward to.  You may be surprised.  Too often we think that elders primarily want to reflect on the past.  Ask about lessons learned from their past experiences that can help you or the world be better today. Those over 100 years old who I meet as I travel around the United States tell me that they live with joy one day at a time, looking forward with gratitude and in anticipation for each new day.

How well-known to you are the elders in your life?

  • Take the time to ask meaningful questions about their experience, their hopes and their dreams.
  • Record their stories in video or audio formats to keep for generations.
  • Create wisdom circles in your homes or in your community where elders and younger people gather to talk and share life experiences, advice, and laughter.

If you are not an elder now – you are an elder-in-waiting. Let us now look to our elders as role models, Showing us how to live with grace and joy into elderhood!


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

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