A fellow over sixty and I were talking recently about how clear
our memories are getting to be. Not about the stuff that happened
yesterday or why I opened the refrigerator door just now. No,
that seems to be getting murkier by the day. But what happened
thirty or forty years ago is increasing in clarity. Both of us were
fascinated by this. Who would have expected the older we get the
younger we would remember?
It's called life review: revisiting times past, people left or
gone, feelings, events, occasions and everyday memories of a long,
full life. This processing is an integral part of defining who we
are by understanding what we have done. Often, for the first time,
we begin to comprehend why we did something and how that impacted
our lives and the lives of others.
In younger days, we traveled far, took risks, enjoyed rewards and
incurred the costs of the choices we made. It all seemed to
happened so quickly. We were already off to the new job or love
before we had really processed 'why?' or 'what if?' There seemed to
be no time to pause. Events drove us ever onward. Like Alice's
White Rabbit, our mantra was, "I'm late. I'm late."
Now, we have become the person who came through it all. We are not
at the end, but we are certainly a lot further from the start than
the finish of this life. Something in us clicks in and there we
are, watching scenes from our youth playing out like a movie in the
mind. We have the time to revisit incidents in our lives both
profound and mundane. Freed from the passions of the moment, we can
finally understand, appreciate and become reconciled with the
person we were. There is room for acceptance and forgiveness of
ourselves and of others.
Life review isn't just loosing oneself in nostalgia. It is an
important part of life's course. It grants order to a life that
didn't seem to have a theme as we were living it. Ideally, we are
discovering balance in our existence. At the best and highest
level, we are finding peace and understanding before our life
For those with us now, there is an opportunity to appreciate more
fully who we are. Those lucky enough to be with a life-long
partner can find new richness and depth. We may become sharers and
want to teach. Perhaps we become listeners because we have found a
new patience. Joys are simpler; sorrows, less searing. Our
perspective becomes a long one. Perhaps this is why so many
societies honored and valued their elders?
So, sit back and enjoy the reruns.
Aging in place, it's no accident.
Scott Funk is Vermont's leading Aging in Place advocate, writing
and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and
their families. He works as a reverse mortgage consultant.
You can access previous Aging in Place articles at