The weekend arrives. After breakfast I settle into my big chair, hot coffee at hand, to address my favourite task. The international weekend newspaper booklet is my link to the far-flung world. It’s not noted for detailed news, but for quick and objective summaries of activities which occur around the globe. Skimming through, my attention is caught and held by the report of a long-standing, scientific study that has been under way for years.
This must be a joke, I think. Such a research project is impossible. What reliable organization would sponsor the idea, and where would they get the people to volunteer?
Thoroughly hooked, I read on, the rest of the paper forgotten. To my surprise, it is indeed scientists from a well-known, respected university who proposed and started this research project, many years ago. A large group of people approaching retirement age were recruited to commit to the project. Their duties were few. The first was to make a list of things they most want in their lives, ranking them in importance. The second was to agree to be interviewed about once every ten years. At each interview their list could be reviewed, items deleted if desired, or changed in ranking position. Of particular interest is the top ten items.
Exactly what the scientists are searching for is not stated in the article. Is this an example of “pure science” where the scientists are simply experimenting to see what answers result, or do they have a definite goal in mind?
It seems that they are trying to see how our view of life changes as we age. Do our basic values vary with the years, or is it what we need and cherish that filters out of the many, and moves our most-needed into the “top ten”? If so, what are these top ten, individual or universal? Are they both? In the diversity of top-ten desires, there are two that are found so often that they are regarded as universal.
Dropping back to the group of recruits, at the age of sixty-five the article indicates that in their top-ten desires were two things: a desirable financial situation, and good health. Given that, one deduces they felt “the world was their oyster”, and anything they wished to do, they could. Jumping forward twenty years, the record shows a lot of changes in their general list, including the top-ten items. Now, as when they made their first list, the top-ten desires vary. The striking discovery is the two that are universal to this eighty-five-year-old group. They now give high rankings for a “close and loving relationship with family and friends”, and for a “familiar and reliable community situation.”
This provocative information traps me with its possibilities. It is annoying and tantalizing in the lack of verification. Fact or fiction, it does raise personal challenges. I muse: What changes have I gone through in the last twenty years of my life? Too many to count, of course. If I had been a member of that chosen group twenty years ago, what do I think my “top ten” would have been? What, indeed, are they today? An interesting and challenging exercise it would be for all “aged” folk to undertake that bit of introspection. It could prove beneficial.
Let’s suppose I know that close and loving relationships with family and friends are certainly dear to my heart, as is to operate happily in the community in which I live. What then?
Life has a habit of hitting things back into my court! There seems no escape: the answer is up to me. I must clarify once again what kind of relationship it is that I so desire, and what my community needs from me. Given that both of these situations are vital to the enjoyment and appreciation of my final years, it would be prudent for me to consider carefully. At the very least it will be interesting.
If you had been a member of that chosen group twenty years ago, what do you think your top ten (or two or three) priorities would have been? What would they be today?