With Seniors, Less Is More, Most of the Time

With Seniors, Less Is More, Most of the Time

“Less is more” is an aphorism all of us have heard: understated fashion is more elegant; in home décor, chosen “statement” pieces work better; and in writing, what is left out often says as much as what is left in. In Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, for example, the main character Jake bemoans the hopelessness of his love for Lady Brett Ashley because his manhood was maimed in the war. When Brett leaves him alone one night, Jake says, “It’s awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.” This terse lament leaves the reader to imagine Jake’s loneliness and despair.

A sign at one popular yogurt place which also features blaring music says, “If the music is too loud, you’re too old!” Seniors don’t need loud music to blast them out of their chairs in order to feel emotion. Less is more.

Less is often more with seniors, too. Even with impaired hearing, seniors don’t care for the raucous and the loud. Their sensibilities are too refined for such things. A sign at one popular yogurt place which also features blaring music says, “If the music is too loud, you’re too old!” Seniors don’t need loud music to blast them out of their chairs in order to feel emotion. Less is more.

Nor do seniors need wild entertainment, crowds of people, and lavish events to feel satisfied. When an adult caregiver learned that her elderly charge did not feel well enough to go to a popular restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, the pair ordered in and had a quiet celebration in the elderly person’s home. Without the hubbub of “the game” and lots of noise and people, the pair were able to reflect on several historical shows about the pilgrims and feel the real meaning of the holiday.

Less is more.

Elderly people cannot do as much as they once did. They are not up to crowds, standing in long lines, constant noise, or frenetic activities.

Are any of us up to those things? Maybe seniors can teach us something about this. Often we can do with a lot less of everything and enjoy more peace.

In frantic modern day life, stress levels are high. The American Psychological Association reports that a Stress in America survey reveals that Americans’ stress levels are unacceptably high from health, prevention, and coping points of view, and in the eyes of Americans themselves. Dentists interviewed by ABC News reported seeing increased bruxism (tooth erosion and cracking) even in young patients because of night time grinding of teeth from stress.

In our society, ads, news, and entertainment all shout at us. We are in a continual state of over-stimulation. Even a simple plant will wither away if it is exposed to shouting and stress. Why should people be different?

Maybe the answer to modern-day stress is to be around seniors more. They know, better than anyone, that less is more.

For seniors, too, less is more when it comes to downsizing to a more manageable residence without stairs and complexities. Smaller spaces with many hand bars can be safer than big spaces for those desiring to age in place. Less can be more in diet as well. The National Institute on Aging conducted a study that showed that calorie restriction reduced blood pressure, bad cholesterol (and increased good cholesterol) while lowering some risk factors related to heart disease. Calorie restriction is linked to longevity. Less is more. 

Yet there is one area of life where less is not more for seniors. As opposed to other age groups who suffer depression from using the Internet too much, seniors liven up with increased Internet use. Once retired and over the age of 50, adult users of the Internet reduce their chance of depression by about 25%. Isolation is warded off by participating in chat rooms and social media.

Less is more in many situations. Yet friendships and socializing—even over the Internet—are some things that most of us, including seniors, can’t get enough of for overall well-being.



American Psychological Association (n.d.). The Impact of Stress. Available online at http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/impact.aspx.

Cire, B. NIH Study Finds Calorie Restriction Lowers Some Risk Factors for Age-Related Diseases. September 1, 2015. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available online at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2015/09/nih-study-finds-calorie-restriction-lowers-some-risk-factors-age-related-diseases.

Cotten, S. R., Ford, G., Ford, S., Hale, T.M. (March 2012). Internet use and depression among older adults. Computers in Human Behavior. 28(2): 496-499. Doi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.10.021.

Abstract available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074756321100238X.

Friedman, E. (August 27, 2008). Many Turn to Teeth Grinding for Stress Relief. ABC News. Health. Available at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5661148&page=1.

Morrison, C.M., and Gore, H. (2010). The Relationship between Excessive Internet Use and Depression: A Questionnaire-Based Study of 1,319 Young People and Adults. Psychopathology, 43(2):121–126. DOI:10.1159/000277001).

Ravussin, E., et al. (2015). A 2-Year Randomized Controlled Trial of Human Caloric Restriction: Feasibility and Effects on Predictors of Health Span and Longevity. The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 70(9): 1097-1104. Doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv057.

Tompkins, P. and Bird, C. (1989). The Secret Life of Plants. New York: Harper & Row.