Thursday, November 09, 2006

How area seniors make these years the best
By Helen Dennis

This week's column is based on contributions of about 30 adults who attended Torrance Memorial's Advantage program called "Conversation With...." The "with" person is yours truly. The overall theme was successful aging with a focus on making the best of the rest of your life.

Attendees were between 60 and 87 years. Some were working full time; others part time and others were retired. Here is what "making this time the best time of life" meant to this stellar group of men and women:

For some, the best time started at the beginning of the day. "Getting up in the morning is a gift." I recall a similar statement made by the renown cellist, Gregor Piatigorsky. At one of his lectures at UCS's Thornton School of Music, he was asked what gave him pleasure. Piatigorsky, in his early 70s, replied, "Waking up in the morning and being able to wiggle my toes. I know I am alive." Simple pleasures are important even to the "great ones."

For others, the best time meant freedom: "Having my own schedule, no financial worries, going places when others are at work and having no obligations." Others felt free to "do what I want to do, be who I am, and free to do nothing and decline invitations."

Everyone valued time. This life stage is a time to "reinvent myself, be more focused, take care of myself, help others, smell the roses, spend the day with a friend, recognize there is no time to waste and realize what's important." Material items were considered less important than they used to be. "I don't need high density television." And spirituality was of much greater value than any material goods.

Activity and relationships were important. Individuals enjoy walking, playing bridge, taking classes, preparing for holidays and traveling. Relationships with family, friends and grandchildren ranked high.

During the meeting, an attendee mentioned that one of his gratifying activities was visiting frail and ill patients in the hospital. He would spend time with them and bring each patient a flower on a regular basis. "This small act means so much to them."

This same man stayed after the session and chatted with me. What he did not say during the meeting is that these acts of kindness occur while he is being treated periodically as an in-patient in the same hospital as those he visits. He cares for others, while the medical team cares for him. Giving has no boundaries.

A closing theme of our meeting centered on freedom. Some perceive older age as a time of zero responsibility and ultimate freedom. The reality is that our life stage requires us to assume a profound responsibility, one that has shifted from our children and family to us. Our responsibility is to do everything in our power to remain fit, vital, and as engaged as possible. No one else will do it for us. And perfect health is not a prerequisite.

The timing of our topic was fortuitous. The essence of the evening is captured in a recently published book, How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life (Nelson Books. 2006, $24.99) by Mark Victor Hansen and Art Linkletter. The book begins, "If you're lucky, you're going to grow old." "Aging is not optional. That means if you want to enjoy life, there is only one thing you can do: don't get old. Grow old."

Growth is reflected in our expanding and deepening capacity for wisdom, spirit, knowledge, talent, love and healing ... there is no end. And yes, to grow older means that we can get better with age.

I recently heard Linkletter discussing his book as the keynoter at a conference. He was impressive. At 94 he didn't miss a beat, was hilarious and didn't use a note.

Think about what makes this time of your life -- your best time. Feel free to share your thoughts with me.

I extend a special thank you to the 30 contributors to this column. As we know, life is not a dress rehearsal. And this group knows it. Enjoy and have a good week.

Helen Dennis is a specialist in aging, with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Send her your questions and concerns in care of the Daily Breeze Today section, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503-4077; or fax to 310-540-7581, or e-mail to

Find this article at:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Election Day
Micheal Kinsley
New York Times

...Recent elections have seen the rise of self-styled militant moderates, following the flag of white-horse candidates starting with the businessman Ross Perot and continuing, so far, through Gen. Wesley K. Clark. Business and the military are two fertile breeders of excessive self-confidence, but the only essential qualification for a white-horse candidate is a total lack of experience in running for or holding elective office. And the only essential requirement for white-horse voters is to be, like Howard Beale in Paddy Chayefsky’s movie “Network,” “mad as hell” and “not going to take this anymore.” It is not essential to know why you are so mad, or what exactly you’re not going to take.

The militant moderates drove “Crossfire” off the air after the comedian Jon Stewart appeared on the show and declared it was “hurting America.” A Tocqueville-type outsider examining the condition of American democracy at this moment might well raise an eyebrow over the growing power of unelected television comedians to set the political agenda. But this complaint is on no one’s list. Just don’t get your militant moderate started on TV evangelists, though...

For a charmingly recherch√© complaint, check out “Activism, Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America,” by Dana R. Fisher. Fisher, who teaches sociology at Columbia, is upset about the professionalization of grass-roots campaigning, which he believes has sliced the bottom rung off the political ladder and keeps inspired young people from entering politics and pointing it in a more salubrious direction. In fact, many aspects of politics that used to be volunteer work — not just dialing telephones or licking envelopes, but making strategy — are now businesses...

Michael Kinsley is American editor of Guardian Unlimited (, the Web site of The Guardian of London. His column appears in The Washington Post and Slate.