By Julie E. Bloemeke, Joe Earle, Judi Kanne and Donna Williams Lewis

For the past 55 years, Older Americans Month has been observed in May. This year’s theme, Engage at Every Age, celebrates the many ways that older adults contribute to our communities. It also reminds us of the importance of staying active and involved as we get age.

We asked several older Atlantans for their thoughts and insights about aging, and here is what they shared with us.

Pat Beatty

volunteer and board member of the community group We Are Neighbors Helping Neighbors, member of Community Emergency Response Team for Dekalb County

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

I enjoy the freedom to be myself even more. To not always get dressed up every day. I enjoy “senior discounts.” I enjoy the decades of memories in my beautiful head.

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Aging is a gradual process. Tick tock. Make every moment count. If you are doing something good and something to help people and the planet your life will always be rich. Also save some money while you are young. Enjoy your money also. Relish all of your experience. The pleasant and not-so-pleasant make up the whole person. But remember that time passes very quickly. You may be in your twenties today, but look out…here come the 30s, 40s and beyond. Trust your gut and your instincts in every situation. If your Grandma or Grandpa give you advice or ask you to do something, take heed.

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

The most surprising and pleasant thing about getting older for me is that my thirst for knowledge and experience has become even more insatiable. I feel like I want to absorb everything. Know everyone. Go everywhere. Yummy!

What are some common misconceptions about aging that you’d like to dispel?

There are many misconceptions: a. older folks do not like to have fun; b. we do not still love and enjoy sex and loving intimate relationships; c. we are no longer useful in the workplace; d. that we are not a force to be reckoned with in the political arena.

Mark Perloe, M.D.

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Give up trying to keep score. Many of us have a mental book where we write down and keep score on who has done us wrong. Forgiveness is a powerful way to find peace and feel connected to others who can enrich your life.

Cynthia Williams

retired teacher

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

I love the freedom I now have to choose my own schedule and activities. I have more energy to try new activities and challenge myself. I am much more outspoken now.

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Do everything possible to keep yourself healthy. Prepare yourself financially for your ‘golden years.’

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

Many of my most rewarding experiences have come during person-to-person exchanges with the Friendship Force of Greater Atlanta [a travel club]. We share our planet with a lot of fascinating people, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet many of them and to experience their cultures.

Randa Barto

avid traveler

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

One of my grandsons recently said to me, “Grammy, you can really move your body around well for a woman of 68.” I love him even more because he was off by 10 years—I’m 78!

Brandt Ross

retired CEO and volunteer teacher

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

Being an older adult and living in a senior residence, we have the pleasure of choosing what we want to do. Things that we have to do (other than doctor appointments) begin to diminish because we don’t have house problems, and children and grandchildren responsibilities are, for the most part, pleasurable ones. It is the best time of our lives.

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Don’t pretend that it isn’t going to happen. Exercise and good health are vital ingredients to a good life. Start planning when you begin work and be diligent in saving and investing. Having a family mandates action. Proper insurance is a necessity. Any plan is better than no plan.

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

Being lucky to have a wonderful family and having had great life experiences, every day is a blessing. Stay active and engaged and stay away from negative people.

Greta Glenn

actor and board member of Atlanta Theatre-to-Go

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

My advice to younger people on aging is that you are never too old to have fun!! When I was a child, my siblings, some of the neighborhood kids and I would “put on” talent shows on our front porch. We had so much fun then! Now, in my golden years, I get to participate in professionally produced stage plays and films that are even more fun!! There is a car commercial on TV that says, “adults are just kids with bigger toys.” Life does not end after retirement! You can still have fun!

Willard Womack

retired airline pilot

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

There is a lot for freedom being older. You can be yourself, good or bad. If you were good while young you will be better, if bad you may be worse.

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Keep yourself as healthy as possible. No smoking, moderate drinking, no drugs and stay fit. You will need to be fit.

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

How much I still learn every day. Never, never stop learning. Also, I am doing things now that I only dreamed about when younger.

Lee Buechele

actor, director and board member of Atlanta Theatre-To-Go

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Beware the Statue of Liberty Fallacy! I’ll explain. I grew up 20 miles from New York City. Folks were always visiting the Statue of Liberty. From some vantage points nearby, I could see it. Every time I had a choice, I decided: ‘Today I’d rather…whatever. I can always visit some other time.’ Fast forward—I’m 69 years old, lived around the U.S., in Europe and Korea, traveled extensively, and never visited Lady Liberty! So the advice is: Take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Don’t assume you’ll get a second or fourteenth chance.

 

Samra Robbins

co-founder of Backpack Buddies

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

The very best part of being an older adult is having grandchildren. Life’s gravy!

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Make sure you save enough money so that you can enjoy yourself.

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

I love having a retired husband. Special time together.

Barry Kanne

president of TGA Communications LLC

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Don’t worry about it. Aging is only the opportunity to gather real data from the experiences of life. Aging is the mechanism to have the time to do the gathering. Today, aging is only a state of mind and if you keep your mind young, then you will maintain the outlook of youth, but from a perspective based on the knowledge you have acquired along the way. It’s fun to have many of the answers to life’s questions from the position of ‘been there and done that.’

Susie Davidow

retired director of the Blonder Family Department for Special Needs at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

The freedom to do what I want, when I want, without concern for what other people think.

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

I could say eat your vegetables and all that, but I’ll just say enjoy every stage of your life.

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

I’ve been surprised at how courteous people are to me as an older adult. I’m grateful for the courtesy and respect.

Kathy Parker

retired CDC health education specialist and community volunteer

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

Freedom to make each day different, if I want to do so. And have a routine as well. As an older adult, still in very good health and blessed with needed financial resources, I feel free to pursue just about anything I want. I love to exercise my body and my mind, I love to travel, I love to volunteer and advocate, I love to be in touch with friends around the world. Atlanta has so much to offer older adults—a great symphony orchestra, theaters, museums, adult education classes, parks and walking trails, MARTA.

Linda Kobrin

retired retail professional

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

One thing is being retired. That’s top of the list. I don’t have to ask anyone if I can be off to go somewhere. It feels free.

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

Be anxious for nothing, be patient. That’s one of my favorite Bible verses. Be thankful and prayerful and make your requests known to God.

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

The wisdom that I’m now able to show, and having people listen to me and respect me.

Sondra Ilgenfritz

Founding Artistic Director, Atlanta Theatre-to-Go

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

One of the most positive experiences I’ve had in my 80s was discovering that adventures are still possible. I am currently on a four-month cruise around the world, something that would not have been possible until I was free of work and domestic responsibilities, as enjoyable as those were.

Susan Longley

personal coach, fitness trainer and AEA certified water aerobics instructor

What do you enjoy about being an older adult?

I enjoy my freedom. Everything I do now is because I want to. I don’t feel the pressure to please or impress others as much. I launched a career at age 65 that is keeping me busy and fulfilled. I have control over my schedule, so I can also do fun things, but I feel like the discipline of working keeps me young.

What advice do you have for younger people about aging?

It will happen. You have a lot of control over how it occurs for you, but you will age. Think about what you want to accomplish and stay focused on meeting your goals. Try not to meet other people’s goals. Even if what you want to do is off-the-wall, you are better off doing it than not. Also, life is a lot longer than you realize. You have plenty of time to enjoy lots of different aspects of it.

What is the most positive or surprising experience you’ve had as an older adult?

I always exercised, but much of it was competitive, such as running marathons. Now I find that I enjoy being active for its own sake. I’m surprised at how easy it has been to maintain my health and fitness. I realize that I do a lot with diet and exercise that many people don’t do, such as following a mostly vegan diet, but for me it is totally worth it not to have any health problems.

What are some common misconceptions about aging that you’d like to dispel?

That you have to become mentally and physically unhealthy. There will be some decline in your abilities as you age (there are no Olympians in their 70s), but not enough to make you ill. This is another aspect of staying true to yourself, because what you will find when you get older is that you have maintained the abilities that you have put the most focus on. Olympians do end up winning medals in the Senior Olympics. And accomplished writers still publish books in their 80s and artists still paint and sculpt. One woman I know had her family in her 20s, and enjoyed it so much that she adopted three more kids in her late 40s so she could do it again. So another reason to put that focus on what matters to you!

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