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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A bi-weekly column, featuring one Christian's (a)musings on life's journey

by Barbara Dahlgren


Forever Young
Column for the weeks of May 16-31, 2008

Our baby boomers are aging fast. With over 37 million people 65 or older and an estimated 71.5 million projected by 2030, discussions about old age are no longer kept hush-hush. Some might feel the pain of a “get up and go” that “got up and went.” Yet many feel the best is yet to come.

Barbara Walters’ recent television special Live to 150, Can You Do It? Secrets to Living Longer exposed us to some promising scientific developments that could extend life. One of her guests Dr. Aubrey DeGrey, a respected but controversial expert on the biology of aging, went so far as to say, “I think that within the next few decades, we have a pretty good chance of effectively defeating aging as a cause of death.”

There are more than 84,000 centenarians in the United States and Walters interviewed some of them to learn the secrets of their remarkable longevity. Remaining active seemed to be a key point. One woman was driving a new car she bought herself for 100 th birthday and another was dating a younger man who is 94. One man plays the saxophone at a nightclub. Although not in the 100 year-old club yet, Paul Newman still drives racecars at 83 and 76 year-old Carmen Dell’Orfice is the oldest working fashion model. Carmen may have had a few nips and tucks, but I must say, “She looks mar-ve-lous, darling.”

On the heels of this special comes a new documentary at local theaters entitled Young @Heart about a Massachusetts based senior citizens chorus. Members range from their early 70s to well into their 90s and they delight audiences worldwide singing songs from Sonic Youth, The Ramones, The Clash, and Coldplay. Lyrics have new meaning when the elderly sing about loss of youth, loneliness, love, sex and even death. In fact, during the course of filming, two Young@Heart members died. Yet, all agreed that they would have wanted the show to go on…and it did.

Seeing this movie makes people feel they can be forever young, even when they are growing older. I highly recommend it. It’s a better anti-aging formula than any Botox, cream, potion, vitamin, mineral, or antioxidant on the market.

The Bible gives us insight into the aging process from God’s perspective. Long life is considered a blessing or even a reward (Deuteronomy 5:33; 1 Kings 3:14). Abraham died at a “ripe old age, old and contented” (Genesis 25:8), David died at a “good old age, full of days, riches, and honor” (1 Chronicles 29:26, 28), and Job died “old and full of days” (Job 42:17).

Gray hair is described as a “glorious crown” (Proverbs 16:31), which I’m hoping is a metaphor since I am a “natural” light brown thanks to Ms. Clairol. Older men should be “self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance” (Titus 2:2-3). Older women should “encourage the young women” (Titus 2:3-5). In Biblical times the aged were respected (1 Timothy 5:1-2; Leviticus 19:32, Proverbs 23:22) and shared their lifetime experiences with others (Joel 1:2-3; Deuteronomy 32:7).

Biblically speaking, it sounds as if the aged should remain active and involved in life as much as possible.

Consider these famous senior citizens:

  1. Colonel Sanders began franchising his restaurants at age 62.
  2. Grandma Moses began her painting career in her 70s.
  3. Harry Bernstein published his first book The Invisible Wall at 96.
  4. Granny D Haddock walked across the continental United States at age 89.
  5. Sadie and Bessie Delany were over 100 when they wrote their book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years which was made into a movie and play.
  6. Mother Jones was an active Irish-American labor organizer well into her 90s.
  7. Maggie Kuhn founded the Gray Panthers when she was 66 and championed for rights of the aging until her death at age 89.
  8. Mimi Weddell began her movie-acting career at age 65 and is still acting at 93.
  9. Clara Peller coined the catch phrase “Where the beef?” for Wendy’s commercials when she was 81.

I’m not sure if these people would be considered “forever young,” but they certainly remained as active as they could, for as long as they could.

As for me, I’m hoping to join one of those senior citizens’ choruses. “Ah, ha, ha, ha….stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…” Check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=omIrLgQO9O0. When my time comes – I’d like to go out singing and dancing!

 

 

Be sure to visit this page often to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bdahlgren@wcgsouthbay.org.

 

 

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