At 68 and 62, OG and I are definitely feeling our age these days. (I won't go into the symptoms--I'm sure you're all familiar with them to some extent.) But compared to Mel Brooks (90), Norman Lear (94), Stan Lee (90), Dick Van Dyke (91), and Betty White (95), we're babies. Listening to these legends talk about aging was as entertaining as it was enlightening. The documentary also featured a number of people who are not household names but who continue to write, paint, dance, and perform the piano as if they were at least thirty years younger.
So what's their secret?
OG and I discussed this at some length and reached the following conclusions:
- They have all been blessed with remarkably good health. It's hard to overestimate the value of that. However, Carl Reiner also interviewed 100-year-old Kirk Douglas, who fought back from a massive, debilitating stroke with the ferocity and sheer strength of will of his signature character, Spartacus.
- They are very physically active. One of the women interviewed was a 98-year-old yoga teacher and ballroom dancer. Most weren't quite that active, but all exercised regularly and had for decades.
- They are all basically upbeat, cheerful, optimistic people. Even though a few of the oldest used canes to get around, they all talked about how much they look forward to each new day, viewing it as another opportunity. How many of us can truly claim that?
- And last, but most important: they all do something they love, something creative. They can't wait to get back to it every day and can't imagine not doing it. This seemed to be the key common element. Additionally, and possibly equally as important: these creative pursuits aren't solitary hobbies. The artists share their art with others, and therefore have the potential for achievement and reward, both emotional and financial.
So where does writing fit in? Even allowing for the fact that the majority of the people featured were entertainers, I was struck by the number who write. Carl Reiner and Stan Lee both said they couldn't imagine what life would be like if they didn't have a computer to go to every morning and write. Did you know Betty White has written several books?
The inescapable conclusion for me was that writing has to be one of the best ways to maintain vitality into advanced age. The act of writing stretches our creativity, our vocabulary muscles, and our emotional reserves. It keeps our brains active and challenged. Each new book we send into the world offers the possibility of reaching others who appreciate our efforts and vision.
I have an idea for one more series I want to write after I finish my current WIP, but lately I'd been wondering whether I wanted to continue to write after that. Now, I think it may be the key to keeping my marbles and enjoying life to the fullest if I'm lucky enough to last into my nineties.