What if you’re not roller blading in your 90’s?

What if you’re not roller blading in your 90’s?

I recently posted a story on my film Facebook page, The Beauty of Aging, about “skateboarding mama” who is 91 and roller blades along the ocean front in Santa Monica. Like many others, I am impressed with her vitality and spunk. It’s inspiring to hear stories about people in their older years staying active and involved. All the women in my documentary project were examples of this kind of engaged living,

But what if you can’t roller blade, work out with heavy weights, or dance to the wee hours of the morning? What if you have health issues and need to live a quieter life? What if the many examples of inspiring older people feel like pressure to be like them when you can’t?

What I learned from the women in my documentary project and the research about aging is that attitude is a key factor. As Connie Goldman, author and researcher says, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you deal with it.” If physical limitations occur, how do you incorporate them into your life and enjoy what you can?

Shirley Windward, one of the co-stars of my documentary short, “Greedy for Life,” is a prime example of a woman who had a good attitude. She used her writing of poetry to help her deal with some of the challenges in an assisted living center after she had a stroke. Instead of complaining, she wrote and used her humor to adjust.

I know for sure that I will not be roller blading in my 90’s. I”m not doing it now while 70. I do love watching my grandsons in their rollerblading class at the park but don’t see that in my future.

What calls me is remaining active in my way by doing free form dancing, light weights and walking, engaging my mind and my creativity with new ideas and explorations and staying connected with friends and family. Throw in some travel and I’m good to go.

What about you? What calls you? Are you accepting of where you are now? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Speed dating for 70-90 year olds?

Documentary filmmaker Steve Loring’s film, The Age of Love, is due out in New York in November. According to the website about the film: “THE AGE OF LOVE follows the humorous and poignant adventures of thirty seniors in Rochester, NY who sign up for a first-of-its-kind speed dating event exclusively for 70- to 90-year-olds. From anxious anticipation through the dates that follow, it’s an unexpected tale of intrepid seniors who lay their hearts on the line, and discover how dreams and desires change—or don’t change—from first love to the far reaches of life.”

http://theageoflovemovie.com/ (click on The Trailer)

More and more I am reading about projects, films, books, and activities that highlight the older older population. In my own film project, The Beauty of Aging, all of the women interviewed and filmed were over the age of 80. They were all engaged in life despite any challenges they had.

It seems that we are developing a different cultural mindset about what it means to be an older person. Yes, some people are ill, disabled or otherwise unable to be active. That does not mean that there’s a disease called aging. Current research supports the belief that good attitudes, active engagement in life with people, projects and activities, creative involvement, and a network of support all bode toward a good old age.

I don’t know about you, but I find all this inspiring and a source of hope. It’s great to have these role models for a lively life as I move toward my 7th decade. I often draw upon my memories of the women in my film project as sources of encouragement and motivation. When Hedda Bolgar says that “the best time is now” at age 100, and Lavada Campbell calls her diagnosis of lung cancer “another growth spurt” in her life as she is into her 80’s, or Shirley Windward wrote 32 poems at the age of 93 when in a recovery center after her stroke, I go WOW. These are some amazing women! I’m grateful to have known and filmed them and enjoy sharing their stories with you. http://www.beautyofaging.com (check out Trailers, The Women and Hedda tabs)

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic, the Age of Love film, and any stories you want to share!

Is it Aging or Illness?

“It’s hard to tell what is age decline and what is disease… I’ve had a very challenging life with disease after disease after disease. I shouldn’t be here, but I have a tremendous will to live; a joie de vivre alternating with debility.” Joni Mitchell at age 70

This quote by Joni Mitchell raises the question: what’s aging and what’s illness?

I often hear people comment when they don’t feel well or have some body part that isn’t working as it did before, “oh it’s just aging, what can I expect?” But is it? If we expect that we will decline with age, perhaps we will. Yet not everyone automatically declines with age. As Joni reports, some people have health challenges throughout their lives that do not relate to age. Some report that they feel better with more energy as they get older.

Aging is not a disease. It is another stage of life that for some is easier than others. The factors that make a difference with this vary from person to person.

In recent years there is a lot of study in the field of psychoneuroimmunology that looks at the relationship between mind and body. Apparently how we view things and talk to ourselves impacts our physical state. We are not necessarily causing our illness and no blame to the individual is intended but our attitudes and self-talk affect how we feel.

As Connie Goldman says in my film, “Greedy for Life”, “It’s not so much what happens to you but how you deal with it.”

I’d love to hear from you about this topic. What’s your experience?

“Living Juicy”

“Living Juicy”

photo_2I’m excited to tell you about Rhea Goodman who is “living juicy” and has much to share about how to do this. In her words:

“Part of Living Juicy is aging well, and part of aging well is embracing aging, without being conned by the numbers, or the stories in our heads about what aging looks like. I believe that age is a mind-trip, a numbers game. In fact, we can create a new model for aging! I do this by listening to the wisdom of my body, noticing what I eat, enjoying myself while I walk, run, play,stretch, make love, do yoga, dance, swim, learn new skills. I pay attention and embrace what I love to do, and then DO IT! I go for whatever rings my bell that is oriented toward life.”

Rhea certainly walks her talk, calling herself a cultural creative who has always been interested in alternative modalities such as healing, dance, cultural anthropology, the environment and many more. She has a weekly radio show  called Living Juicy from Santa Fe on KSFR, 101.1 FM on Thursday nights at 6:30 mountain time. Her show is Webstreamed live on www.ksfr.org

Be sure to check out her website which has tips on how to live juicy, archives of  over 300 of her radio shows and other bits of interesting information: www.livingjuicy.org

Rhea exemplifies “the beauty of aging”. I’m excited to add her to the ever growing list of amazing older women who are living their lives fully engaged, providing positive role models for all women.

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

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