7 older adults share the life lessons they'd give to their younger selves.
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Ad Council + Meals on Wheels

If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

First off, no, we have not invented a time machine to actually help you do this. Second of all: This is serious! You can't just do the "Back to the Future Part II" thing where you give your former self a copy of a book of sports scores so they can bet on every game and win billions.

We see you, Biff Tanner. Both of you.


If you're like me — and it's totally fair if you're not, and I'm just a bit weird — you're probably taking a few minutes to think carefully about what you might say to a version of you from years or decades before. Would you suggest doing things differently or to keep on the same path? Would you talk of future love or caution about loss? Would you prefer to reveal what's to come or keep it a surprise?

Meals on Wheels posed this very question to some of the lovely humans who use their services across America. They shared the moments that moved them and the things they wish they’d known when they were younger. Here are seven of our favorites.

1. "Don't play tennis on Mother's Day — unless you're playing with her." — Stanley Smart

All images by Mark Seliger, used with permission.

Reserving Mother's Day for tennis matches is just one way Stanley "Royal" Smart honored the memory of his mom. For years, she sent birthday packets to friends and family on their birthdays. After she passed away, he took on the responsibility in her memory.

Stanley wants his former self to stay in touch with family and always "live life to the fullest."

2. "Stay open to adventure." — Lola Silvestri

Lola Silvestri always loved the fun and adventure of ice skating. Little did she know, it would end up being the hobby that led her to her beloved husband, Larry.

The two met at a rink in Santa Rosa, California, where Larry was training to become a professional hockey player. After two years of dating, they married. For 70 wonderful years, they shared a life of love, adventure, friends, family, and fun. She'd tell her younger self to "carry on with a sense of humor" and remember that close relationships with family and friends "mean everything to have a happier life in the years ahead."

3 & 4. "Never go to bed angry." — Charles and Maude Spann

Charles and Maude Spann have been married for an incredible 76 years. Their daughter Carol calls them the "most loving and understanding parents" and an "incredible pair."

As the family tells it, Charles fell instantly for Maude — and her fashionable pageboy haircut — after seeing her at church with his mother. After they married, Charles and Maude traveled the world, including a family cruise through the Panama Canal, where they held a surprise renewal of their wedding vows.

Though time has slowed them down, their love has kept them young at heart. They'd want their younger selves to know one thing: Accept each others' flaws and, above all, never ever go to bed angry at the person you love.

5. "Finish school." — Anna Bach

Anna Bach has a lot of advice for her younger self, particularly about prioritizing education and work. Along with focusing on her schooling, she said she'd tell her younger self to “have family a little later in life to save a little money. Buy homes and all that first before starting a family." Why? "Once you have a family, you are tied up, kind of," she says. "Buy a home first, because the rent you pay is all the time gone, and you have only receipts to show.”

6. "Don't be afraid to try something new. You can find adventure around the corner." — Phyllis Keppler

For Phyllis Keppler, wanderlust has always been a part of life. Working as a journalist, she had amazing opportunities to travel the world, from the jungles of South America to the deserts of the Middle East to active war zones, sometimes with her young children. Phyllis wouldn't have missed a second of any of it — and she'd encourage her younger self to dive in to new opportunities without hesitation.

“Don’t be afraid to venture out and try something new. Don’t always cling to what you know and traditions. Give it a try. I’ve done some strange things in my lifetime, and I don’t regret it at all.”

7. "Don’t always go with the flow. The flow always goes downhill." — Louis Clarizio

Louis Clarizio knows a lot about unconventional paths. In 1950, he became one of only six white professional baseball players to ever participate in the Negro Leagues. His career with the team didn't last long, but his love of baseball still keeps him going today. To his younger self, he'd share a choice batting tip: "When you get in the batter’s box, never look at any of the ball players. When you scan the field, scan only between them. Never look at anybody, just always scan between them. Then I guarantee you that ball will go between them when you hit it.”

However much we'd want — or wouldn't want — to send messages to our former selves, we can only guess what we might say, or whether it would have any impact on what happens next.

The best thing we can do is to listen to people who've lived much of their lives and learn from the words of wisdom they have for us.

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