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What If You Could Go Back?

January 09, 2015 by Sherpa

The first week of 2015 is coming to a close, and many of us have been busy making resolutions we hope to keep. It’s also a time to look back on 2014 with all of the achievements made and challenges faced.

But what about regrets? Even Sinatra said he’d had a few. Feelings of regret may lead–at least they do in my mind–to the fantastical and ultimately futile question, “What if I had a time machine to go back and make a change?” Or on the flip side, “What if I could go to go to the future and see how this turns out?”

The real question is if time travel existed, would I give it a try? Maybe. Though my answer might be a bit different if I were older.

According to a Pew Research study from last year, Americans over the age of 50 are more likely to say no to a trip through time. Only three percent of seniors surveyed said they would use a time machine compared to their younger counterparts, of whom 11% would be so bold as to turn back the clock. Maybe older people have worked through their regrets at the stage in their lives. Or maybe they are smart enough to know mistakes were meant to be made, and by fixing them you’d be coming home to a strange parallel universe upended by butterfly-effect ripples.

Yet older adults may still have their reasons for wanting to change the past. An article in The Atlantic asked a 90-year-old science fiction writer why he might want to travel in time, and he gradually began coming up with regrets. “My older son died of problems associated with colon cancer. I wish I could go back and make him have a colonoscopy as soon as problems began to appear. Or put a light in the hall so my wife didn’t fall over our cat in the middle of the night and break her leg. Or [tell] my younger self not to go out golfing with my brother in shorts and get a bad sunburn on my legs… Nothing that would affect the course of life but would avoid pain.”

While the older adults who were asked about time travel initially balked at the idea, the exercise did draw out regrets they had in their lives and made them think how they would have done things differently. As discussed in a previous Sherpa blog post, looking back on regrets is an important step in making a decision to move forward. As a sales counselor you may hear things like “there’s no need to look to the past.” Tell your prospect that by knowing their history you can understand them better. Bring up decisions they’ve made in that they are happy with and compare them to the one they have to make now.

Sales counselors have a real chance to inspire and be a resource for prospective residents. Rather than ask what they would do if they could go back, imagine what their past selves would say in the present. Or what their future self might thank them for. If we look at the potential benefits of senior housing, including among others, socialization and increased independence, then there can be less to regret and more living to look forward to. After all, if you’re going to be traveling toward the future day by day, you may as well do it in style.

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