I teach a writing group at a retirement community in Santa Fe chock full of retired professors, scientists from Los Alamos Lab, architects, lawyers, artists, entrepreneurs, you name it. The members of the group are picking up a pen later in life, full of rich stories of World War II, life in Dallas before it was a big city, Santa Fe before the roads were paved and riding across the country in a 1930s car long before the interstates were built.
They are teaching me more than I am teaching them. The biggest lesson I have learned is not to listen to our cultural narrative about aging. For one, these folks, who range in age from their late 70s to 94, are vibrant and curious, attending lectures, the Opera, plays around town, movies, volunteering as a business mentor. And they are out exercising right up to the limit of their abilities. The 94 year old came in with a bandage on his left hand one day. I assumed he had blood work done. “So what’s with the bandage?” I asked. “Ah, I was playing doubles squash and my partner, a retired doctor, hit me with his racket. He smashed my hand, then fixed it up.”
The group was all a buzz last week. A woman had approached one member and asked him about joining our group. After he welcomed her, she said she might be there that week or the next. By way of introducing her, he handed me a blurb from one of her books which reads: ”Mozelle Richardson is a best selling novelist who received her BA in Journalism in 2004 at the ripe age of 90 from the University of Oklahoma. She raised four children in Oklahoma City with her late husband, W.T. Dub Richardson. She now lives and writes in Santa Fe, New Mexico.” You do the math.
We will get older, if we are lucky, but we need not get old voluntarily.