Act Your Age: Ammunition for Active Aging

My 90s Club cozy mystery series features able. alert, and active people in their 90s who live at Whisperwood Retirement Village. The inspiration for the series came from meeting a woman years ago at a pool party. She was slim, attractive, the only one in the pool, and she was swimming laps. She was 91 years old. 91! I hadn’t realized until recently that, from that moment, she became my role model for someone in their 90s. That’s what I visualize and expect. That is the possibility.

When the writers in my critique group read the draft chapters for the series, they objected to the idea that a 91-year-old could do anything but sit in a wheelchair dribbling Pablum. My characters were

unrealistic, they said. Unless my characters followed the standard thinking of what 90 year olds should be, then my story was unbelievable.

Now think about this. We’re talking about stereotypes here. If the media wants to produce a drama featuring a believable 90 or 100 year old, who’s it going to be? They’ll probably present someone who is hard of hearing, walks with a walker, sits in a wheelchair, languishes in bed, or is a bit dotty. And that’s the kind of person my critique groups wanted. People who fit the stereotype, what they considered the probability.

All of us have dealt with these negative messages our entire lives. Lurking inside our minds ready to appear with the least encouragement at any age over 25 is the phrase, “You’re too old.” How many times do you say, “I’m getting too old to. . . .”?

Apparently many of us are desperate for role models, even decrepit ones to tell us how we’re supposed to be. They’re hard to resist. So if you need ammunition against the stereotypes of aging, go to You Tube and find out how many 90 and 100 year olds are dancing, skydiving, running marathons, etc. Here are some other examples.

James Henry Arruda taught himself to read at 92 and wrote and published a book at 96. His book is entitled, In a Fisherman’s Language, and in that book he shows “how a life powered by commitment, hard work, and determination can redefine a person at any age.”

Yvonne Dowlen, an 88-year-old figure skater, says “as you grow older, if you don’t move, you won’t move.”

In 1986. Margaret Hagerty decided to quit smoking and start running. Now at 91 she holds the Guiness World Record for the oldest person to run the 26.2 race on all seven continents. Her comment: “Trash self-doubt. Dare to be yourself!”

Musician B.B. King performed more than 70 shows last year at age 90. His comment: “I never use that word, retire.”

Psychologist Hedda Bolgar Bekker received an Outstanding Oldest Worker award at age 102. At the time, she was seeing patients from 16 to 20 hours a week, giving lectures, appearing in videos and contributing to articles and books.

Romance novelist Phyllis Whitney’s last book was published when she was 96. She died at 104.

Fauja Singh at age 100, ran the 26-mile Toronto Marathon, crossing the finish line in about 8 ½ hours. Nine younger people finished after him.

Many more examples are bouncing around the Internet. Don’t adopt expectations and attitudes that cut your life short. Don’t drop out of the race until you reach the finish line.