There is, indeed, beauty in aging!

There is, indeed, beauty in aging!

As 2013 is coming to a close, I am sitting with gratitude for the women who opened their hearts and lives to be part of The Beauty of Aging Documentary Film Project. Five of the seven women filmed are no longer living – Betty, Judy, Shirley, Lavada and Hedda. All of them lived long and quality lives and can be seen in the films on the website: http://www.beautyofaging.com

Some of the lessons I learned from them are to stay actively engaged in life, be connected to other people, animals and nature, work on my attitude by going with the flow and seeing things in a more positive light, be of service, develop and use my creativity, be mindful and live in the present moment. I’m still practicing many of these qualities and I delight in knowing that I can draw upon my memories and the footage of these women to remind me.

Many people who have seen the films on the website and “Greedy for Life” say they are less afraid of getting old since viewing the vitality of these old women. It excites me to know that others have gained inspiration from these women’s stories.

Do you have some favorite older people whom you would like to honor? Please “share their story” on this blog and help spread the word that there is, indeed, beauty in aging.

Many blessings to all of you who follow this blog for a loving, healthy and peaceful New Year.

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Remembering Erv Windward

Remembering Erv Windward

On October 26 of this year, Erv Windward, husband of Shirley Windward (co-stars of the documentary short “Greedy for Life”) died at the age of 97. I attended a memorial gathering to celebrate his life. I was taken with the stories about Erv’s caring and skill as a vocal teacher. It seems that several of his students had studied with him for more than 40 years. Most came not only to sing but to be around Erv and Shirley’s wisdom.

While we were filming “Greedy for Life”, I remember Erv’s deep voice and twinkle in his eyes. We had the privilege of filming one student’s lesson and I was amazed that despite Erv’s hearing problem, he could detect even the slightest need for a shift in tone. It was clear he had a passion for teaching.

I’m holding a place of deep gratitude for the opportunity to film and become friends with both Erv and Shirley Windward. You can enjoy clips of “Greedy for LIfe” under “trailers” on the website:  http://www.beautyofaging.comImage

No slowing down for this amazing 95-year old woman!

No slowing down for this amazing 95-year old woman!

Yvonne Rich has traveled extensively, mostly to the grape growing regions of the world or where there are very tall mountains.  She has been teaching wine appreciation to all levels of students for nearly 40 years in the wine cellar of her Altadena home which is pressed up against the Angeles National Forest.  Yvonne has an interest and passion for a vast variety of things and loves to spend time with friends playing tile rummy, sharing meals and wine, and reading books for her book club.  This amazing 95-year old who lives in the hills of Altadena, CA has no interest in slowing down!

Story and photo submitted by Barbara Balik

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90 Year-Old Edee is Young in Spirit and Heart!

On February 28th 2013, Edith Shuman, aka “Edee,” turned ninety years old.  Most people would regard this as quite an accomplishment.  In Edee’s case, however, she has glided into her tenth decade with such grace and style, that it all just seems quite natural, not extraordinary at all.  It’s as if her geriatric years never really began – she is still SO YOUNG in spirit and in heart, her family and friends all think of her as being a contemporary.  She walks every day.  She maintains an exhausting social calendar which includes movies and plays and concerts and parties.  She’s a regular at bingo.  She’s an awesome mahjong player.   And, she’s a tireless grandma to her two grandchildren in Las Vegas and her four grandchildren in Southern California.  And, just recently, she became a “first-time” great-grandmother, although, even at ninety, she seems too young to be a great-grandmother.  Family and friends come to Edee daily for her wise counseling and advice.  No matter the story content, you can always count on Edee to listen without judging.  It is no wonder everyone who knows her says they want to be Edee when they “grow up.”

Written by Marilyn Howard. Photo by Barbara Balik.

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Pro-Aging Campaign Takes to the Stage by Gaea Yudron

When I was in my mid 50s, it began to feel urgent that I understand the events and patterns of my life, and I started to write. Epiphanies, dark nights of the soul, wrong turns, dead ends, delight, deep insight, I turned all of it over and over month after month. It is a worthwhile and sometimes challenging endeavor, something gerontologists call life review, as I discovered along the way. Some of that writing is contained in my new book Songs of the Inner Life. It is satisfying to have told some of these stories. It’s a big giveaway, this time of life.

It became clear to me that I didn’t buy into the prevailing beliefs and attitudes about aging. As I looked at others my age, I began to realize how much we are all affected by pervasive stereotypes and negative reactions to aging. I have always been oddly attracted to unpopular causes and aging certainly is unpopular our culture.

I decided that I would take up aging as a form of art. I wanted to live the later years fully myself, to set a good example (SAGE) for others, and to encourage older adults to embrace aging rather than trying to imitate youth, which is unsatisfying and quite unrealistic. We need strong old people. When old people are strong, it inspires young people. Then they can look forward to becoming older, rather than fearing or being disgusted by age.

In 2008, I created Sage’s Play and began to think about what I could to to help shift the current paradigm on aging to a more life-affirming view. I held conversational circles and workshops. I worked one on one with people using hypnotherapy and rapid eye technology. I created an Audacious Aging Kit with pro-aging messages as an antidote to all that over the hill stuff.

One day I decided to write a musical revue about aging. That was 4 years ago. I’ve been collaborating with composer Laura Rich and we have created 20 songs and a variety of dramatic scenes that illuminate topics and issues about aging. It’s been a very satisfying project, and a rather big one, too. I suppose it’s good that I had no idea what I was getting into when I started. I might never have begun. I’m excited about what we have created though and glad that we are nearly done.  We’re in the final stages of developing the revue, and we’re starting to look at how to produce and promote it. We decided to launch a fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo to see if that might attract sponsors and fans. The campaign runs through early November. Here’s the link.  http://igg.me/at/new-wrinkle/x/609750 I know there is a whole tribe of old people like me out there in the world, and that makes me feel happy. As we find each other, we will be catalyzing social change and a fresh vision of aging. It’s already happening. And to that I say hoorah and whoop de doo. Visit us at www.sagesplay.com

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Are you an Elder?

I have invited people to “share your story” of a favorite elder on my blog. The question has then arisen. Who’s an elder?

The women in The Beauty of Aging Documentary Project were all over the age of 80. I considered them elders – not just because of their ages but also because of the wisdom, attitudes and wealth of life experiences they shared. Each in their own way had a gift to impart to others. Giving back and a social conscience were attributes of many of them.

Shirley Windward not only co-founded the Windward School, she was committed to helping young people find their voice through writing and believed and supported them along their journey. At an event at her school for her 90th birthday, many people gave testimonials of the incredible help and inspiration they received from Shirley.

Lavada Campbell loved being with young people and had a youthful spirit. She also liked giving advice and saw her role as being a helper to those in need. During our first interview with her for our film project, she frequently told my partner, Lisa Thompson Morrison, how she should proceed with her then boyfriend (now husband). Lavada considered herself to be an elder with wisdom to share.

Most everyone would consider Hedda Bolgar to be an elder – not only because she lived to be 103, but because of her incredible wisdom and generosity of spirit that she shared with so many people. Hedda once told me a story about a former client who called  to talk to her many nights of the week despite no longer being a client. Hedda did not feel imposed upon but rather was glad to be able to give the gift of help.

In the life cycle, we often learn from people older than ourselves. At some point, we become the elder to younger people and hopefully impart and share our wisdom. I have found as well that I learn a lot from younger people. For instance my wise and gracious daughter, Jessica, is a teacher to me in many ways. I am so grateful for what I learn from her.

Do you consider yourself an elder? Who are the elders in your life?

90 Year Old Anna Pennington is One of the First Women to Fly

A few months ago, I (Pilar Walsh) began writing a screenplay about the Lumina Pavilion that was a major entertainment attraction for over 70 years in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. It’s call Lumina Love and I found out about this woman who had received her pilot’s license here in Wilmington, NC. One of the first women.  I fell in love with her photo and was using it then realized thru some research, since my script was set in 1928, I couldn’t use it, since her photo was taken in 1941.  But I was so fascinated with her and googled her name.  I found she was still alive and living near the airport.  There’s even a street named after her. I found someone who had just taken her up in a plane and he gave me her phone number.  The rest is history.  I met one of the most amazing women I had ever met in my life.  Here is some more into on her below:

Anna got flying lessons for her 16th birthday and earned her license, authorized “from zero to 80 horsepower,” she likes to say with a chuckle. And six months or so after the United States entered World War II, she married James “Skinny” Pennington.
Three quarters of a century later, at age 90, Anna Pennington still has her head in the clouds. She keeps her membership in Burgaw-based Chapter 297 of the Experimental Aircraft Association. And, just last month, she climbed aboard “The Spirit of North Carolina,” a World War II-vintage A-26C Invader light bomber, operated out of Wilmington by George Lancaster, for a quick spin over the Lower Cape Fear. “That was something else,” Pennington said, grinning with delight. “You have to crawl through this little port to get into the cockpit, and you can just imagine a little old lady like me doing it. But the view was wonderful. Of course, I had been in something similar some years ago, a Coast Guard Albatross.”
Anna Pennington still knows her planes – and always has.

“I can’t remember when I wasn’t fascinated by airplanes,” she said. “When I was 9 years old, there was an article in the paper that said the biggest airplane in the world was going to fly over Wilmington.” That would have been the Dornier DoX 12-engine flying boat.
“I thought it was going to fly over my house, but it didn’t,” she said, still with the wistful tone of a kid who missed the ice cream truck. “Since it was a seaplane, I guess it flew by out at sea.”
Born in 1922 in the Friesland section of the Netherlands, little Anna immigrated with her family when she was just a year old. Her father, Spike Feenstra, was a devoted violinist, but a farming accident when he was a boy deformed one of his fingers and ended his dreams of a professional career. Instead, Feenstra, advised to seek a warm climate for his health, sought work with Eelco Tinga in Castle Hayne, bringing along his wife and their three girls. Anna was the youngest.
Like many Dutch immigrants in Castle Hayne, Feenstra would make a solid living as a flower farmer. (Some of his fields were taken over by the government to expand Bluethenthal Field during World War II.)  A few myths have grown up around Anna Pennington. She wasn’t the first woman licensed as a pilot in North Carolina. In fact, she was the third, and the second in this area.

And she was never a WASP, a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, volunteers who transported planes, towed targets and handled other flying chores to free up men for combat. Pennington wanted to join badly, but she lacked the minimum flying hours the WASP required. Also, she was underage; WASP pilots had to be 25 or older.
Still, Pennington was an aerial pioneer. When the Army Air Corps took over Bluethenthal Field for the duration, she helped Skinny ferry planes down to a small air strip near Carolina Beach that local pilots used to take tourists for jaunts over the ocean.
These days, in a book-lined living room in her bungalow on Anna Pennington Lane, she treasures her memories. She has two roads named for her in New Hanover County: The other, Anna Pennington Drive, runs by the old Pennington Flying Service hangar, which Lancaster now uses to store his A-26.

Story by Pilar Walsh –  soulucetfilms@gmail.comImageImage

Finding Meaning Even With LIfe’s Challenges

The women in The Beauty of Aging Documentary Project (http://www.beautyofaging.com) found meaning and purpose in their lives even with the challenges that life offered. When Lavada Campbell was diagnosed with lung cancer she said “this is another growth spurt in my life”. She looked at it as a time to assess what was important to her in her life and weed out what wasn’t. When Shirley Windward moved into an assisted living home and I asked her how it was to move from her apartment of 30+ years?  She said, “wherever I am is home”. During a temporary stay in a care facility, Shirley wrote 32 poems about her experience, finding both meaning and humor. Hedda Bolgar noticed she was getting more frail at age 98 and knew that she wanted to be able to move better and be healthier for her life so she started working out with a trainer. Being available to her clients by having enough strength to work as well as do other things she enjoyed gave her a sense of meaning and purpose. Judy Lainhart moved into an assisted living center at age 85 after a very late life divorce. After a period of adjustment she started running a women’s group so that she could use her psychotherapist’s skills. As she said, “I’m looking to participate and use my skills..it reminds me of who I am.” Despite life’s challenges and shifts, these women created meaning and held good attitudes into their older years.

How do you find meaning and purpose in your life?

97 Year Old Woman’s Driver’s License Renewed for 3 Years

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Doreetha Daniels turned 97 in April of this year. Always a good driver, she was granted a license renewal for 3 years. We often hear people say that older people should not drive. Doreetha shows us this is not true for everyone.  

 

Doreetha went back to school in the last few years to get her AA degree. She generally takes 2-3 classes per semester and is quite excited about what she is learning. She is close to her 2 sons and their families; one of her sons lives with her. She was quick to correct me when I said she lives with her son, no, he lives with her.  

 

Her several grandchildren got together with her this year for her birthday and took her out to dinner and to see the Alvin Ailey dance company. She was thrilled! It was her first time seeing these dancers. 

Doreetha exudes a positive attitude about life. You can enjoy a short video clip of her at:  http://www.beautyofaging.com/doreetha-daniels.html