Tips on getting smarter as you get older

Laura Hambleton / Special To The Washington Post /

Published Mar 22, 2013 at 05:00AM

What are the tricks older people use to stay wiser, a step ahead? Here are tips from successful people:

• Cal Ripken Jr., Hall of Famer: Think about the next thing.

“You don’t live each day remembering who you were. Baseball almost seems like another lifetime ago. You need to do something that makes you feel good day-to-day. Just as you have a sense of accomplishment as a baseball player each and every day — you have a goal to win a game or success as a hitter or make good plays in the field — I need to feel I am accomplishing something.”

• Jane Goodall, primatologist: Walk with the dogs.

“When I’m in England, which is home, where I grew up, where my sister and her family live, there are always dogs. There I get my relaxation walking the dogs where I used to scramble as a child.”

• Maya Angelou, poet: Forgiveness.

“The most wonderful thing, as soon as possible, is to forgive yourself. People do only what they know to do, not what you think they should do. Not because they were experienced or were exposed to this and went to this school and have this degree. We think they know, but not necessarily. ... I forgive anyone who comes in my earshot.”

• Tom Hayden, 1960s radical: Choose your openings.

“I don’t miss the rush of being a young revolutionary. People who have those feelings at old age need to get a grip. You need to play your role, which is to carefully observe and listen and see if you have anything to offer.”

• Susan Stamberg, NPR host: Find young people.

“I think the big key is keeping young people in your life. I have some very good friends who are considerably younger than I am — 10 years, 15 years younger. My son is one of them. He is a good friend to me, as well as my child. He’s way across the country, which is part of why I go out there in the winter. That keeps me thinking.”

• Sugar Ray Leonard, ex-boxer: Give your best, still.

“Don’t expect things to be handed to you. Don’t expect entitlement, work hard for what you want, and work hard for what you dream for. Give yourself every opportunity to make those dreams become a reality. There are no shortcuts. The way you age gracefully, as far I am concerned, is to always give 100 percent.”