By Stan Butterfield

A Glass Half Empty

I think the nature of a lawyer’s job sometimes lends itself to a negative viewpoint. You are paid to anticipate or solve problems. This means that you naturally gravitate towards what’s wrong with a given scenario and then try to determine what can be done to fix it. When Gordon B. Hinckley was president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints he was in his 80’s and 90’s. A repeat guest of CBS newsman, Mike Wallace, Hinckley was famous as an optimist often saying, “It will all work out.” On the other hand, he is reported to have also repeatedly remarked when the Church’s attorneys would come to visit, “Here come the bad news boys.” It is natural for lawyers to be perceived in this way and not without reason. As a probate lawyer that focuses on elder law issues, most of the time I am reminding people of what bad thing can happen if they don’t take a particular course of action. Even this blog is generally a catalog of problems and remedies that can be pretty sobering at times.

elder couple walking together

A Glass Half Full

All that being said, I have had reason to reflect on the many good things that come with age. Recently, I came across a quote from James Myers, “It’ll be fun when we’re all in nursing homes to write bathroom graffiti about the staff they can’t understand because it’s in cursive.” I laughed because my schoolteacher wife had told me schools no longer teach handwriting. After chuckling, I began to consider that there really are a large number of things that age allows you to do that younger people may not be able to manage. I started researching it a bit as an exercise in optimism. There is considerable evidence that on the whole, elderly people have better self-esteem, are more emotionally stable, and surprisingly have greater brain plasticity. On that last one, the science seems to indicate that because of our life experience and the multiple neural pathways we have had to develop over time, we are more likely to use both sides of the brain to accomplish tasks as opposed to the way a younger person does things. This is discussed in more detail in this article,

My work allows me to interact with a wide variety of elderly people and it has been fascinating to learn of their experiences. In little old Polk County, Oregon I have visited with people that played baseball with Fidel Castro, hunkered down with Vice President Richard Nixon during a riot at an embassy in Venezuela, stood on the steps of our courthouse with Nelson Rockefeller. These are all eye poppers, but the breadth of the everyday experience is even greater and the wisdom that can come from what a long life brings really is an advantage that you cannot gain in any other way. I may be growing older, but I am also growing better.