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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Monday, November 14, 2011

Role models for aging well

                                   When the autumn weather/Turns leaves to flame/
                                   One hasn't got time/ For the waiting game.
                                                          (From "September Song")

 Ninety-nine people out of one hundred given a choice would prefer to be young.  Aging, of course, is inevitable.  Some try to hold it back with nips, tucks, hair dye and aberrant  behavior, but even a face lift will eventually fall.  Nevertheless, with our culture's emphasis on youth, attempts to freeze time will continue.  What we need are more role models for aging--people who age well and show the rest of us how to do it.  
   Some celebrities have managed to make aging attractive and I don't mean just with appearance:  Sean Connery, Judith Dench, Helen Mirren, Madeleine Albright, Lesley Stahl, Bill Clinton, Bob Schieffer and so many others.  All of these people are still vital and purposeful.  Having purpose and good health are two main traits of those who age well.  
    My mother-in-law, who is 86, has several health issues including severe arthritis, but she is far more youthful than some some women thirty years younger.  She is passionate about 
music, particularly jazz.  She drives to every concert within a twenty-five mile radius of her condo. She goes alone if no one else wants to go.  She reads, plays the piano, and takes classes in the UNF Ollie program, classes for the over 55 group.  Jewelry, mostly costume, is one of her weaknesses.  I've never seen her without her "dangly" earrings.  When she goes out, she wears one or two necklaces and bangle bracelets.  Many of her clothes have an animal print design.  She dresses exactly as she wishes.  She will always be young  because she thinks young and finds purpose in life.  When her husband died, she grieved but soon took up her life again.
       The last half of life is a good time to share our wisdom and help others.  Many seniors find great satisfaction doing volunteer work.  My aunt, who is now 91, worked as a volunteer at the hospital in her city.  She worked in the gift shop one or two days per week and made the pink or blue bow for the babies' bassinets.  She made many friends and enjoyed it very much.  I remember my 80 something neighbor, Blanche, buying a pantsuit when they first came out for women and were considered a little daring (if you can believe that).  Her sister asked her, "Blanche, aren't you too old for pant suits."  Blanche answered, "If they make them in my size, then they mean for me to wear them."  It's a positive, forward attitude that keeps us young.
     Everyone can't be blessed with the good health that youth requires, but we can approach our health with thoughtfulness by having regular check ups and a healthy lifestyle.  Even if ill-health does find us, we don't have to give in to it.  My mother, though she had incurable cancer the last two years of her life, dressed well, wore wigs when her hair left, and called friends to keep up with them.  Regardless of what age brings to us, a youthful attitude, a focused purpose, and doing something for others will keep us happier and will make us seem young.

                                               Two sisters, ages 65 and 68, don't let
                                               age stop them from climbing and hiking
                                               in the mountains.

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