“Oh, I have everything I need.” That’s a statement older people often make. Ever tried to buy a grandparent in their 80s a gift, and asked them what they wanted? Chances are that’s exactly what you heard, probably followed by “so don’t buy me anything”. And they mean it. Statements like that may frustrate would-be gift givers, but it IS a positive. It’s great to have everything you need.

The thing is, many of us probably do have everything we need, right now, without even realizing it. It’s coming to that realization (and feeling like we also have everything we want) that can be more difficult. Does it just take age to get to that point, or can we work on acquiring wisdom at a younger age? What makes a person content?

It’s not the amount of stuff. Older folks often end up giving away the majority of their stuff, as they move into assisted living centers or in with family. Or they leave the bulk of their stuff home or give it away to travel around in 200-300 sq ft trailers. Of course, not every older person is perfectly content, but I haven’t ever heard one talking wistfully about wanting the latest gadget. They might go shopping, if they can, but it’s for a pair of shoes that won’t hurt their feet or to get the grandkids a treat.

It’s not money. Sure, knowing that you can live indefinitely on interest or dividend income helps. But even senior artists living in New York City on what is a pittance for the area seem perfectly content. They seem joyful and grateful. And they’re living on what they can earn with their own two hands. Says the article, “One might think that getting older, with relatively little money, in a city so focused on wealth and consumption would create bitterness and depression. However, Jeffri says, these artists show how a lifetime of engagement and passion is a model for health and well-being.”

So what do older people seem to want? Time with family and friends. Maybe to see the world or the sunrise, or to sit and watch people at the mall or in a park. A good deal on an early supper at the Old Country Buffet. (See time with family and friends.) To see their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren happy. To pass on advice. To sleep restfully, and to be able to get around without aching joints. (Or just to be able to get around at all.) To volunteer or do work that interests them.

In other words, they’ve figured out what’s important: Loved ones, health, and the chance to do something interesting with their day. They don’t live for “someday”, because they know, quite clearly, that there might not BE a someday. They live in the present. They enjoy the things they do have, and the people they encounter. They find something interesting in just about everything. Of course, they plan for the future too, but for the most part, they’re already IN their future.

We are too. Every day. Maybe we just need to realize it.