GREEN

6 Wise And Funny Lessons On Aging -- From Animals

05/15/2014 07:00 am ET
Gravity Giant Productions via Getty Images

SPECIAL FROM Next Avenue

By Jill Yanish

Aging gracefully can present challenges. Human role models, like, say, Betty White or George Clooney, can show us how it's done. The animal realm can, too. Just for fun, we pulled these six examples of animal inspiration. Enjoy!

1. Tortoises — Take life slow and enjoy the ride tortoise Tortoises are one of the most ancient creatures on the planet, living up to age 150. With an average speed of .17 mph, they're not winning sprints, but they are highly effective burrowers and have evolved to survive the harsh conditions of the desert. They endure. Tortoises may not be what you'd call the sexiest animals around, but they teach an important life lesson: Slow and steady wins the race.

2. Elephants — Share your memories elephants Elephants' brains, the largest among land mammals at about 10.5 pounds (10 percent of their body weight, vs. a human's 2 percent), are complex. They have the ability to grieve and elephants have been observed performing burial-like ceremonies. Elephants also have excellent problem solving skills; the well-known example of Asian elephant Bandula unhooking the shackles on her feet and then freeing other captive elephants shows a keen intelligence. Scientists have found that older elephants are better at making crucial decisions, such as searching for food and protecting the herd from predators, because of their remarkable memory. We humans can look to elephants for inspiration to share our lifetime of experiences and use our hard-earned knowledge as leaders.

3. Dolphins — Stay true to your friends and family dolphin kiss Dolphins are extremely social and form tight-knit groups, called pods, which range from five to hundreds of members. These aquatic animals are so loyal that they have been observed staying with sick or injured pod members. Dolphins can be friendly to humans, and there are numerous news stories of dolphins rescuing people from drowning and from sharks. Their sense of community and altruism exemplifies how we should approach relationships, which play a critical role as we age. Older adults tend to lose social connectivity after they retire or as their adult children move out of the house or start their own family, so it's vital to maintain close ties with friends and family — our pods.

4. Zebras — Own your uniqueness zebra different Each zebra has its own stripe pattern — no two are alike. Researchers hypothesize that zebras' stripes help them hide in the grass, making it difficult for their predators to discern an individual outline to attack. Another more recent theory is that the stripes ward off pesky insects. Their unique coats set these mammals apart looks-wise from all other animals, but their hides also save them. The human lesson is to be grateful for the skin you're in.

5. Rabbits — Adopt a healthy lifestyle. rabbit vegetables Rabbits epitomize a healthy lifestyle. These little vegans eat mainly green leafy foods. Plus, they are active and agile. Their physically fit and flexible bodies allow them to do the binky, which is often referred to as the "happy bunny dance." This move is when rabbits jump into the air and twist their head and body in opposite directions. If we humans ate more vegetables and hopped (or even walked) around all day, maybe with practice we could do the binky, too.

6. Monkeys — Keep having fun monkeys playing Monkeys groom each other on a daily basis for two reasons: hygiene and social interaction. This co-grooming goes beyond the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" mentality because of the social bonding that stems from this activity. Monkeys can make most anything fun — even caregiving. These mischievous, curious primates teach us the importance of social bonds, and also to remember to have fun.

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