An adage suggests wisdom comes with age. But do we really gain new knowledge as we get older, or is it just that we have learned how to use and apply it as we mature?

There are some folks who say that we seniors are “stuck in our ways,” and that we’re unwilling to change or conform to the changes brought on by modern life and the evolution of society.

Still others are under the impression that we get more conservative and intolerant as we age, not only in our politics, but in our views of how others conduct themselves.

It’s a worthy debate, and one that can be argued by all sides. Personally, I believe we can view each of those scenarios in a positive light.

It is, of course, inevitable that we’ll learn new things with each passing year. After all, as human beings, our ability to gain knowledge, experience and expertise are not only an essential part of the aging process, but also a vital part of what characterize us as human beings.

That is unless we choose to lock ourselves away in total isolation, withdraw from any contact with the outside world and live in total seclusion.

To quote a lyric from the Jefferson Airplane, a band that knew a bit about shaking things up:

“Life is change. How it differs from the rocks.”

I think the acquisition of knowledge is something to be valued, but I also think that it takes a certain amount of wisdom to be able to apply that knowledge in pertinent and precise ways. Knowing how to do something isn’t as important as knowing how to apply it to solve problems and help ourselves and others find solutions. I may know what it takes to make my car run, but if my car breaks down, it would certainly help to know how to use that understanding to get my vehicle fixed and back on the road.

As far as being “stuck in our ways,” well, we seniors aren’t the only ones who like things a certain way. Most people are creatures of habit. We like to have our meals at a certain time, we watch TV shows we find most entertaining, and we have specific routes we take when we drive to the places we frequent. So why should it be any different as far as how we look at our world. I agree that flexibility, accommodation and a willingness to absorb change are admirable qualities, but I also believe that we’ve earned the right to have our own opinions and ideas about what makes for right and wrong.

There are those who will disagree, of course, especially those whose political views and belief system may differ from mine. I welcome and respect that. Nothing changes or progresses without a free exchange of ideas. There’s no value in being obstinate.

However, at the same time, we should appreciate the fact that people form their values and opinions over time. As older individuals, our moral values are based on what we’ve observed in our own life experiences and what was handed down to us from our parents and their parents before them. We may not always agree with one another, but we do have the right to say and believe what we want, just as long as it doesn’t intrude on the rights and respect others are due as well.

These days, political correctness seems to be a shifting sensibility.

Or as someone once said, live and let live. Or better yet, do unto others as we would have them do unto us. As long as we keep that rule in mind, we’ll be well over halfway toward finding common ground.

Mark your calendars

One of the major problems facing seniors these days is abandonment, especially as it concerns people who are confined to a care facility and subsequently forgotten by those charged with overseeing their well-being. It is, in a very real sense, a form of elder abuse.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., the East Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability will sponsor a Patient Abandonment Forum at the South College Parkside Drive — Auditorium located at 400 Goody’s Lane in Knoxville. A panel of experts from Covenant Health, Sweetwater Hospital Association, Tennova Healthcare, the University of Tennessee Medical Center, and the Tennessee Department of Human Services — Adult Protective Services will share their experiences with this issue and lead an important discussion of this growing problem.

Learn about what you can do to combat this epidemic and protect yourself and your loved ones from being a victim of abuse and abandonment.

RSVP at and confirm a reservation. Use this knowledge to save your life or that of someone you care for.

Lee Zimmerman is a Maryville resident and longtime freelance music writer, reviewer, critic and blogger. Email:

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