As people journey through life, it is common for them to reflect on past decisions and actions, often leading to feelings of regret.
This phenomenon has intrigued researchers and psychologists for decades, and there is a growing understanding of the science behind why people experience regret as they grow older.
Regret can be defined as a negative emotion associated with a person’s belief that they could have achieved a better outcome if they had chosen differently in the past.
Working too hard
One common regret expressed by centenarians was not spending enough time with family. Meyers described this as a “typical” regret among the supercentenarians they encountered.
Villatoro added that some regretted life’s hardships and world events that disrupted their stability and prevented them from having more children.
Another regret that emerged was working too hard. Villatoro shared the story of Juan Vicente Pérez Mora from Venezuela, the oldest validated person ever at the age of 114.
Quality time with loved ones
Mora had wished he had worked less, as he had dedicated his life to hard physical labour on his family’s farm.
Villatoro explained that Mora’s family had spoken about his regrets of not exploring different career paths, which would have allowed him to spend more time with his loved ones.
This sentiment resonates with findings from previous studies, which indicated that many individuals in hospice and palliative care also regretted prioritising work over family time.
Not travelling more
Not travelling more was another common regret expressed by centenarians. For instance, Evangelista Luisa López, who grew up in Santa Fe province, Argentina, and later moved to Mar del Plata, wished she had travelled more throughout her life.