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Happiness Doesn’t Have Wrinkles

I feel self-care means preventing loneliness, preventing irrelevance, preventing mental stagnation by engaging in activities that promote one’s self-esteem.

Le Bonheur n ’a pas de Rides isn’t easy reading if you’re not French. In it are idioms and slang of a present-day 34-year-old French writer, who self-published her novel about an 85-year-old woman, who gets stuck in an old folks’ home in the middle of nowhere.

Why try to decipher this newly published book when you need to consult a Larousse dictionary every couple of words? Your time at the university studying French Literature was forty-five years ago. At your age, wouldn’t it be more practical to learn how to knit booties for grandkids or attend a Williams-Sonoma cooking demonstration, or lift weights at a fitness center? Isn’t it more enjoyable to sail off on a Rhine River cruise with retired folks whose biggest worry is missing reduced priced drinks at happy hour and then maybe tripping over the high thresholds for the WC or perhaps fretting over whether your accouterments for pool aerobics are “au courante” enough? Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to spend energy on volunteering to teach ESL at your local public school or sorting gently used clothing at the PTA Thrift Shop or altruistically nailing on roofs for Habitat?

Perhaps the answer to all the above questions is a resounding “Oui,” “Bien Sur,” “Absolument!”

Yet, there comes a time in one’s life when one wants to do what makes a person happy, not necessarily what everyone thinks one should do when one reaches such-and-such age.

At Duke University is a program called OLLI, which is the acronym for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; this continuing education program is geared toward retired folks who want to learn for the love of learning. All sorts of classes are offered, and the fee is extremely reasonable. If you desire to learn Qigong or how to work your digital camera, or master magic tricks for grandparents, or become versed in the plays of Henrik Ibsen, there’s a class for you. These few mentioned here comprise a small part of the multitude of diverse selections available for the taking!

Often, when people think of self-care, images of physical activity, psychological therapy, medical treatments, massages, or cosmetic procedures come to mind. But when I hear the words “self-care,” my mind leaps to learning. I like to expand on what I learned long ago. I feel self-care means preventing loneliness, preventing irrelevance, preventing mental stagnation by engaging in activities that promote one’s self-esteem. For me, there’s nothing that makes me feel prouder of myself than listening to a French speaker and grasping the content of his words, or reading a foreign book and understanding the story in its original language, or conversing in a strange tongue – not my native one – but one learned the hard way – one “mot” at a time.

To me, feeling good about myself means accomplishing something – a “fait accompli!” And that’s my definition of self-care. Perpetual learning is how I practice self-care.


  1. I agree.
    That’s how I met Erika! I took her writing class through Olli and met another would-be/wanna-be writer who became a friend and between the two of them find myself a little less lonely and a lot more entertained through their musings penned during the pandemic.
    Merci beaucoup!

  2. Erika, I very much enjoyed your story and felt very honored that you mentioned Le Bonheur n’a pas de Rides. Learning also gives me a sense of accomplishment and growth, particularly when a subject is challenging for me. Also, it is very fulfilling for me to teach when I sense that my students are enjoying the class and adding to their “self-care”, as you describe it, Erika. I totally agree with your definition of “self-care”.

  3. I agree. Life-long learning is a desire to know more, not be satisfied enough to just stop living because you reached a certain age. It is part of who i am and who i continue to be. There is so much to learn and so little time.

  4. Absolutely! I’ve often said that when I retire, I’ll be taking classes at Home Depot learning to lay tile and repair drywall. 🙂

  5. I love this article I am a senior and I believe my self care now comes with learning new things whether it’s a language a book that is difficult but you always wanted to read aka War and Peace it improves your brain and makes you proud of yourself whether anyone else is or not Good for you Erika

  6. I agree find something you love and spend time with it. You will find yourself calmer and more relaxed

  7. My grandma Leah always inspired me to never stop learning. She grew up in a mining town in Michigan’s UP in the late 1800/early 1900’s. Her formal education ended at 8th grade. But she always embraced learning new skills and was a faithful reader. Simple and basic.

  8. Je suis d’accord, Erika. I hadn’t thought of “self-care” as perpetual learning, but no doubt you’re right. I need to pile up heaps of knowledge to keep my brain from going numb. Thank you for another stimulating piece.

  9. As seniors, we’ve earned the right to pursue activities and interests that make us happy. “Self care” must be in the form of things that are not only good for us but make us feel good about doing them. Life is short! Let’s focus on enjoying it.

  10. If I don’t learn something new every day, I feel the day somehow has been wasted. And, yes, the OLLI classes here in So Cal have proved beneficial to many of my friends. Thanks, Erika, for promoting such self-care!

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