A secret to youthful aging?

If we hear the same comment enough times from enough people, it’s tempting to start believing that they might be on to something. This has been happening to me. When in a social situation I disclose my age, they react with (feign?) surprise. I turned 85 in August. ”You don’t look (or  act) like an 85 year old,” they say.  Some go on to describe an elder family member whose age is about the same as mine, but who to them seems older than I am.

Unless they are indulging in idle flattery, these folks think they observe a more youthful demeanor than they expect see in someone in his mid-eighties. Some attribute this to activity. “You’re so active,” they say. Maybe that’s it. An admittedly elderly singer, I sing in two church choirs and a large community chorus, and perform as vocalist with a large swing band. Occasionally, I land a part in a play or musical. These pursuits all demand several rehearsals every week. I also lead a weekly class for seniors reading and analyzing the plays of Arthur Miller, and there’s a twice-weekly exercise group at the Y. So, yes, I stay busy, and that’s a good thing, I suppose. My body sends me reminders of my age all the time, though. Does it ever.

My own theory differs, though. I am convinced that the social dimension of such pursuits is what nourishes our spirit and keeps us young. Last week offers a perfect example.

Road Scholar (formerly called Elderhostel) offers a week-long program called Choral Voices, which brings choir and choral singers together in one place to learn and rehearse several pieces of music, under the direction of a skilled conductor, ultimately presenting a concert in the community at week’s end. Such a program seemed custom-made for me, and I signed up for the one at Abingdon, Virginia, a lovely town located in rolling hills at the point where North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee come together. Road Scholar also offered grants to caregivers that would cover most of their expenses. As the principal caregiver for my bride of 57 years, I applied and was awarded such a grant.

When the week ended, I returned to my home feeling refreshed, rested, restored, whatever “R” word you can think of, glowing with thoughts of 40 new friends, some couples, most singles, all retirement age or older. They came from Florida, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Saskatchewan, Utah, and Virginia. All of these friendly, warmly welcoming people delighted in their shared experience. Many do this every year and were planning to return next year to Abingdon to sing together.

Can this be a secret to aging joyfully? It is for me. I am certain of it, and I plan to return to Abingdon next year to make more friends. And make music with them.







One thought on “A secret to youthful aging?

  1. I’m a couple of decades behind you…I’m inspired by your example (and intimidated…I couldn’t BEGIN to keep up with that schedule). I’ve no doubt it’s the willingness (even eagerness) to engage with the world and pursue new opportunities keeps you “young.”
    I was happy to see your new post and hope this finds you doing well. I think of your and your wife more often than you’d imagine.


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