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CT senior adults advise on approaching New Year’s resolutions: ‘Find something funny to say every day’

abby weiss

The start of 2023 means the emergence of a common New Year’s tradition: making resolutions and forgetting about them months later.

According to a University of Scranton study, 80% of people who make resolutions don’t stick to them. This is because the part of your brain that controls habits and impulses tends to thwart long-term goals, psychologist Carlos Alós-Ferrer wrote in “Psychology Today.”  To succeed, Alós-Ferrer recommends having a step-by-step plan, a form of measurement and a concrete time frame. The resolution also needs to be doable and relevant to you, he said.

Peggy Ann Rose, 83, a resident of Wesley Heights in Shelton, has learned through years of trial and error to consider these qualities when drafting her 2023 resolutions. To become a more active person, she plans to go on a walk at least once a day, whether it’s around the building or outside.

It’s a simple plan, one she can visit daily and that has the immediate benefits of improving her health and socializing on walks. Rose said her past resolutions have been too vague or large, such as “to lose weight.” Rose said she makes resolution that will benefit both herself and other people, such as being a better listener around her loved ones.

Psychologists say the respect and well-being of others is one of the most common sources of motivation. Other senior adults in Connecticut have used this selfless reasoning when describing their 2023 goals.

Larry Mitchell, also a resident at Wesley Heights, said his main incentive for keeping his New Year’s resolution of staying active is so he can be in good health at his grandson’s wedding next fall.

Jo Fuchs Luscombe, a resident of Meadow Ridge in Redding and former state representative for Connecticut, is concentrating on helping new residents adjust to Meadow Ridge and assisting with their health needs. Luscombe said after a difficult year of losing a loved one, she plans to take more time for herself and focus on what she enjoys most, which is helping other people. She served a representative for Westport for 10 years, worked at various charities and started Westport’s first rotary club for women.
“It’s important to remain mentally alert and mentally capable of coping with whatever life brings,” she said. “And I hope that I can continue to stay that way.”
Dick Farrell, 89, a resident at Meadow Ridge, said if a resolution is important enough to someone, they will want to revisit it every day. Farrell entered 2023 with the goal of spending time with loved ones and being more empathic, especially with people with different viewpoints than his. For him, keeping an open mind has made him more patient and a better listener.
“My children think I’m getting mellow, and what used to drive me nuts doesn’t drive me nuts anymore,” he said.

Walter Belske, a Wesley Heights resident, is also focusing on family, as one of his resolutions is to continue taking care of his wife of 69 years, who has Parkinson’s disease. Another one of his resolution’s is to take his medication every day, as being healthy allows him to help his wife. Belske said that to reach any goal, no matter what size, one has to be willing to put in the work. He especially learned the importance of sticking to a routine while playing for the New York Yankees in the late 1950s.

“When you’re playing in sports like that, you have to follow it and keep doing the same things day in and day out. So I got used to that,” he said.

Jack Neafsey, 83, a Meadow Ridge resident, said when it comes to making 2023 resolutions, he advises people to “be honest, be cheerful, find something funny to say every day.” He also believes people are likelier to stick to their resolutions if they continue a healthy habit rather than start a new one.

“You don’t give up cigarettes on January one, and then start smoking again on December 31. That’s a hard start and a hard stop. I don’t think that works particularly well,” he said. “I think what you should be doing is continuing to be consistent with your philosophy, whatever that happens to be.”

Neafsey has committed to the same resolution every year: to keep moving. He tries to walk five to six miles daily and enjoys golfing and swimming. As a former athlete, he looks forward to his daily exercise. The activity improves his physical and mental well-being.

Rose, on the other hand, sees the Jan. 1 date as source of motivation. She isn’t certain her resolutions will stick, but it’s important to her that she tries every year.

“When you have a new year, you have a fresh slate. You haven’t been there before,” she said. “It depends on where you are in your life. But I do think that you should think ahead a little bit. ‘What am I going to do this year? How am I going to make it a better year for myself? And maybe others around me?’”