UN International Day of Happiness: Interview with Doris Potter

Doris Potter is one example of an extraordinary senior who is proving that age is just a number! Read her full story below about how she's learned to live life to the fullest and have a positive attitude at any age.

Earlier this year, the UN declared March 20th, 2013 as the International Day of Happiness. Revera, a leading provider of seniors’ accommodation, care & services took that opportunity to release its Report on Happiness. In the report, Revera highlighted several important facts. One is that older Canadians are much more positive about aging than younger generations. This is interesting as there are several negative stereotypes associated with aging, such as the idea that seniors are grumpy.

However, attitudes on aging vary and are shaped by one’s experiences and outlook, and I recently had the opportunity to chat with Doris Potter, who is 92-years-old and has lived happily in a retirement home since 2008. Her philosophy is to “make the best of life while you can.”

A few years ago, Doris’ only daughter moved away from Toronto to become a farm owner in Virginia.  Although Doris was initially sad when she heard the news, she shifted her attitude towards thinking “wouldn’t this be a great chance to see Virginia?” Indeed it was and Doris has been able to travel often to visit her daughter. Age does not stop her and she has just adapted by learning to rely on additional services that enable her to continue living life to the fullest.
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So how did Doris come to adopt such a positive attitude about aging? By her own account, she led a good life as a child growing up in the Beaches. Her mother was a semi-invalid but, despite this, Doris had quite a normal childhood. Music was a big part of her life (she’s a tenor banjo player) and she fondly remembers how things were different in the “old days”—she could take the streetcar which only cost 25 cents for three rides!

Doris attended Business College after high school. During the war years, it wasn’t easy to find a job. She and her sister developed an entertainment act and performed for audiences at lodges and theatres. Then she obtained a job as a cost accountant and advanced in level of responsibility over the years. After she married, she was a stay-at-home mom while her children were in school. Her husband, Aubrey Victor Potter, was a police officer with the Toronto Metro Police and served with the Homicide Squad, then later in retirement he became a Public & Community Relations Officer for the city of Toronto.

Aubrey and Doris were married for 54 happy years. They loved to travel and spent many happy holidays in the Caribbean. When he was back in Toronto, Aubrey walked 3 miles a day. During one of their morning walks, Aubrey fell and injured his upper spine. Unfortunately he never came back from the hospital. From this experience, Doris affirms that “you need to accept life’s fate.” Certainly family helped; their support then was just as invaluable as it is now.
Read more on successful aging: Eight Secrets of Aging Well

Of their three amazing and supportive children, their oldest son followed in his Dad’s footsteps to become a police officer, currently retired. Sadly, their middle child passed away last year to cancer. Her daughter is married and living in Virginia, and Doris’ grand-children and great grand-children offer much happiness in many ways.

With such a full and active life, despite its fair share of challenges, Doris' optimism has seen her through and she is pleased to participate in all of the fun activities offered at Revera within such a friendly community. “It’s nice to be around people your own age. Everyone has a story to tell," she says of her experience.

She believes that happiness is dependent on own’s temperament and that one's personal outlook is a mirror of their life. Individuals need to accept the downs that occur and be happy when good things happen. Sometimes, they need just to make adjustments. “When my daughter moved away, I could have cried the blues but instead I chose to embrace this as a new possibility," Doris adds. "In summary, make the best of your life.”
WATCH: Comfort Life TV Living in the Present

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What do you think of Doris' experience and outlook on maintaining a positive outlook throughout life? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!


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