Recently on “America’s Got Talent” a 75 year old woman performed a song and dance routine. (This reference is not to the Rappin Granny who was outstanding.)
Before she began I mentally cheered her on with, “You go girl!” I was reminded of a CD an older woman sent to me that captured her singing performance at a local nightspot. She was fantastic. And why not. if Tony Bennett at 80 something can still sing, others can do it too.
As it turned out, the contestant did not have a million dollar talent. How I wish she had been sensational. Because we are living longer, healthier lives, we desperately need accomplished older role models to show us what’s possible late in life.
I often mention Dr. Helen Harkenss, author of Don’t Stop the Career Clock, who has inspired me more than I can say. (I can’t reveal her age because I don’t know it, she doesn’t tell, and it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s her accomplishments that count, not her advanced age.)
Other role models of mine include 80 something David Oreck who still promotes his vacuum cleaners. Compare his sharp agile mind and youthful demeanor to that of many retirees his age whose brains and bodies have turned to mush.
Then there is 90 something Art Linkletter who writes books and does almost non-stop speaking gigs. When I was interviewed for his book, How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, he and I disagreed about living in retirement communities, but we got beyond that. He has a flexible open mind and can see other points of view.
How about 90 plus Jack LaLanne, a testament to the benefit of lifelong super nutrition and exercise. He oozes energy. How can you watch his juicer infomercial and not want to buy two of them?
Recently, I watched a video that is truly awesome. I found it in “Celebrations” the official newsletter for Older Wiser Women. It shows 80 something Yvonne Dowlen Ice skating, and doing it very well. When I tell people I ice skate, (not very well, but determination springs eternal!) a common response is, “Aren’t you afraid of falling?” Well, yes and no. I am more afraid of stepping off a curb and turning my ankle, which I have done on more than one occasion.
Fear is sometimes a healthy thing. It makes us stop and think. If forces us to face reality. On the other hand, unreasonable fear keeps us from doing what we want to do and know we could do if we tried. And if only we weren’t held back by a nagging inner voice that warns, “Be careful. You’re too old to do that.” We need role models like Yvonne Dowlen to help us overcome an age-based irrational fear of trying.
The video also makes clear that if you want a youthful flexible body in your older years, you have to start early to keep what you have. You can’t wait until you are 65, suddenly realize that you’ve almost completely lost all youthful competence and decide to try to recapture what’s lost. While some improvement is always possible, the longer you wait to reclaim what’s gone, the more difficult it is. A sedentary body rebels at being forced to do what it really doesn’t want to do anymore. There is nothing worse than realizing “It’s too late.” As entertainer Eubie Blake was known to say, “If I had known I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”
Whatever age you are now is a good time to take better care of yourself. The younger you are when you start the easier it is. And it’s truly helpful if you can find an inspiring role model to look to for encouragement.