Our ability to live longer, healthier, more productive lives is one of humankind’s greatest accomplishments. Did you know that most 65-year-olds today will live into their 90s? Some researchers believe that the first person who will ever live to 150 is alive today.
Many of us worry about what our lives will be like in our final years. After spending 9 months doing in-depth interviews with remarkable 80, 90 and 100-year old’s, I have come to some surprising conclusions about 'old age'. These extraordinary folks taught me some incredible lessons about what it takes to thrive into our later years.
In my podcast called A Life's Story, I have interviewed some impressive folks: Folks that have done or are still doing extraordinary and courageous things. For instance:
-A 99-year-old WW2 veteran turned transgendered widow fights discrimination from the very government for which she fought.
-A 103-year-old goes to work as she has every day for decades.
-A 94-year-old grandma gets ripped off, defrauded and gaslighted by her adult grandsons. Fights back, and wins.
-A 92-year-old model, staged the mother of all comebacks at age 70 and is more in demand now at 92, than she was at 22
- A 91-year-old retired advertising executive writes 45 books after his retirement
-An 86-year-old waves her Senior Olympic medals at the medical community who wrote her off.
These octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians are vibrant, they are happy, they are involved in the world and are just as contemporary as you or I. Truth be told, I fell a little bit in love with each one of them as they shared their incredible and dramatic life stories with me. Moreover, they have shared their wisdom about life, love, and loss.
Just a few of the takeaways:
1. To live long and thrive, maintain a sense of purpose in your life. Your purpose could be your work, it could be speaking on a topic you believe in, it could be improving your slice of the world. Robina Asti, still an active pilot, founded the Cloud Dancers Foundation at age 99 with the mission of bringing joy, hope and resilience to aging members of the LGBTQ community. This mission is in alignment to her own surprising life story. Purpose gives us the reason to get up in the morning and purpose is what makes us feel that today will be better than yesterday.
2. You can always do something. 86-year-old Eleanor Pendergraft was so immobilized from MS she could barely lift her feet to inch her walker into the gym. On day one at the gym, she merely sat in a chair and tried to lift her leg off the ground. Each day she did a little, then a little more. Over a few years of 'doing something' 6 days a week at the gym, Eleanor beat back her MS, proving wrong her doctors who told her she would 'never get better'. I spoke to Eleanor shortly after she had won a Silver medal for running in the National Senior Olympics. Running! Eleanor taught me that no matter what condition your body or your circumstances may be, you can always do something….and doing something, no matter how small, beats doing nothing 100% of the time.
3. Don't let your pain outweigh your joy. 103-year-old Millie Keller has outlived all her lifelong friends and family. However, Millie maintains control of her emotions. Rather than fall into despair about the inevitable, Millie finds joy in those friends and family who are still around her, laughs easily, and engages in the world by going to her job – yes! Her job that she loves. Despite saying goodbye to so many in her life, Millie is not lonely. Her warm personality and astonishing self-sufficiency turn new acquaintances into friends almost instantly. I count myself among those.
Leslie Gold is a broadcaster, public speaker, and radio talk show host from NYC known as “The Radiochick”. For more wisdom and to hear their amazing life stories of these extraordinary folks, listen to “A Life's Story” podcast, on Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, and most other podcast platforms. The Life's Story team also offers for-hire personal audio documentaries to capture forever the life story of your parents or grandparents. Info at www.alifesstory.net