Seniors share Top 10 list of marriage advice with younger generations via Facebook

February 03, 2012

GERMANTOWN, Md. - “Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable,” according to abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher. And that’s all well and good, but Duane McKenna doesn’t know much about love’s unquenchable flame. “The reason we’ve been married 61years is that we’ve got good genes, so neither one of us has died yet,” he jokes.

Clearly, humor plays a large part in maintaining a long-lasting marriage. But there are other qualities some of these seniors – who have been married anywhere from 55 to 71 years – credit for their success.
In an era when one in two marriages ends in divorce, and many don’t even bother to tie the knot, residents at Asbury’s senior-living communities will be sharing some practical yet inspirational insights for creating a partnership that will weather the storms that so many contemporary relationships don’t. Currently, a Top 10 List of advice is being posted on several communities’ Facebook pages. 

For instance, McKenna, an illustrator, shows his wife how much he values her cheerful disposition by making her a Valentine each year that focuses on one of the year’s highlights. Last year, he tried something different, making a giant heart in the snow with his footprints below their 6th floor apartment. Says McKenna’s wife, Liz, “It is kind of romantic being married to an artist, but what I value most is his kindness. He always praises my dinners, even though sometimes they’re lousy!”

K.B. Hatfield sums up his 71-year marriage like this: “It all boils down to love, trust and appreciation. My wife gives me a massage every day that helps my health condition, and I appreciate it. If you have that appreciation for the other one, you’re going to live a long time in a marriage….But you also have to overlook the faults and appreciate the good qualities. After a while, you see the other person’s side – maybe she’s right and I’m wrong.”

John and Lois Eberhard agree with that assessment, but they think major social changes have made marriage a bit tougher these days. “It’s so easy to think about getting a divorce when things are hard because so many others have done it,” John says. “When we were married, we didn’t know 16 other friends who had gotten divorced.” Adds Lois, “We also put up with being poor a lot better than you all do these days!” Because young couples started out with so little and the economy was booming following World War II, it was easy to assume that things would always get better – and they did, Lois explains.

Myrna Holtz – married 70 years in May – still goes ballroom dancing with her husband, Don, and does “all the things we enjoyed when we were dating, like holding hands, hugging and kissing. I think the longer my hubbie and I are married, the stronger our love gets. Every single day we’re married, we’ve told each other we love each other. We’ve never taken each other for granted.” As for practical tips, she has those, too: “You always have to respect the other person and treat them the way you would like to be treated. You also have to talk out your disagreements, look at both sides of the problem and then work together to come up with the right answer.”

John and Berta Seepe, married 55 years, still enjoy traveling in their RV, and have logged some serious miles over the years. “You’re confined to a small space, so you have to be able to get along.” It helps, she says “to have some things for yourself. I have crafts and hobbies, and my husband likes to hunt and fish.”
All couples agree with Berta’s final advice, which is, “You have to have patience, and trust and appreciation have a lot to do with it,” adds Berta. “We live in a microwave society. People don’t want to put the work into it. Marriage takes both people working at it.”

Asbury Communities, Inc. provides management and support services for a system of continuing care retirement communities for older adults. Asbury Communities is ranked Leading Age and Ziegler Capital Markets Group’s AZ 100 as the 15th largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living organization in the country.

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