Our plan is to finish out our years aspiring to meaningfulness and purpose. We know we’re not alone in this ambition, but, unfortunately, we also know some who age with regret. We have thoughts on that (we’re against it) to share.

We reread a recent reprise of research presented in Bronnie Ware’s The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.

These are the top five — or, depending on your vantage point, the horrifyingly, heart-breakingly, bottom-scraping worst:

  • I wish I’d lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish I’d allowed myself to be happier.

Of course, day to day those regrettable choices are made — selling selves short, putting work ahead of life, suppressing feelings, losing touch, and filing “happy” under “maybe later.” But only when it’s too late does the whole truth appear: a lifetime of regret.

Bummer. Seems like we could’ve given ourselves a talking-to and lived wide open sooner. Life’s short.

And btw, about that research. We say whoever got sent out to ask people nearing the ends of their lives what their regrets were — well, they drew the short straw. We prefer the more inspiring Harvard assignment begun in 1938: determining what makes people happy and what they think about retirement.

That research continues, with the No. 1 retirement challenge identified as how workplace-departing people can replace “the social connections that had sustained them for so long at work.”

People need people.

The answer isn’t Zoom. “People who fare the best in retirement find ways to cultivate connections,” says the study. “And yet, almost no one talks about the importance of developing new sources of meaning and purpose.”

No one, that is, except every senior living community that brings people together to socialize, share and grow. Because where we ought to be is where life’s so full (robust, vibrant, fulfilling, engaging, etc.) regret won’t fit.

Read more if you like.

The Top Five Regrets of The Dying
You can buy it on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org.

The 5 most common regrets of the dying - and what we can learn from them
From Stylist magazine. 

The Harvard happiness study.

Mildred & Val are long-time Rally friends with something to say about aging.