ASHEVILLE, N.C. — We keep reading articles that state 40 is the “new” 20 and
50 is the “new” 30, 60 the “new” 40… well, I am here to tell you that 80 is the
“new” whatever you want it to be.
I just celebrated my 80th birthday and it is a blast. While talking recently to a
couple of my girlfriends who are a few years older, we all agreed that we have
discovered the word that describes this time in our life: freedom.
What does freedom mean? Freedom to do, say, be anything that brings you closer
to your true self. No longer do we have to wear masks so others will see us as they
want us to be. No longer do we have to say what others want to hear to be in synch
with their ideas, thoughts and experiences.
We are so over the need to “be liked.” This freedom is such a gift. It is like a warm, refreshing body of water that washes over us. Can you see us floating, face up, smiling and even laughing as we move around this body of water, not knowing where it will take us? That is part of the joy, the excitement, the warm pleasure of movement.
Each day I wake up and am open to whatever this day brings to me. Asheville is a great place, not only for the younger population, but for those of us in the Third Age. The College for Seniors, which now is called OLLI (Pittsburgh
has the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), offers life enrichment programs where we can continue our love of learning new skills, share our ideas or simply get off our butt and move our bodies.
Last year I even learned a new skill … how to play Texas Hold’em Poker. My love of the theater has brought me many roles. Last Fall, played in Moss Hart’s
play, “Light Up The Sky.” I portrayed a professional ice skater with a Brooklyn accent, no less.
I am so in love with life. I am so open to the beauty around me wherever I am.
And the people I meet … new to me each day. I love hearing their stories, their experiences and realize their experiences are mine. This age has brought me to a
place where I no longer have judgment or criticism of other’s experiences. Each
of us is on our own path of life. Even though our childhood experiences, good
or bad, may color what we do as adults, we each have our own choice to live our
lives now as our very own person. Can you feel the power in that?
So 80 is not only a joyous time but it is a time to be powerful. As we all know, our earlier years are the time for learning, careers, marriage or relationships, taking care of others.
And as I reread this sentence, I realize that these older years are, or can be, the
same… with the big thought at the end of taking care of ourselves. Taking care of ourselves can be a new thought. And that is where the word freedom comes into play. If we take care of ourselves first, our needs and desires, then everything else falls into place. We will be happier and the people around us will be happier. We won’t be so needy at this age. And what a relief that is for our loved ones. They will know we are happy, independent, adventure-seeking adults. We are healthy because we take care of ourselves and do not rely on others for that purpose.
My life at 80 is richer, more satisfying and awesome than at any other time of
my life. And I have had some great experiences from teaching ballroom dancing
on cruise ships around the world, owning an organic vegan restaurant in Miami,
being the associate producer of two award-winning docu-dramas for PBS,
singing and dancing in Summer Stock, being a major fundraiser for non profit
organizations, owning bed & breakfasts and cultivating organic gardens… to
name a few.
Now I get up each day and am so grateful and want to share myself in ways that will touch other’s lives. I believe that not one adult or child should go hungry and so participate in the work of a food bank.
There are other ways to go hungry, too. So I believe in the work that symphonies
do to bring music and culture to the children in our schools, and the good work that community foundations do by presenting grants to organizations who address unmet needs.
To close on a more personal note, I now have the freedom to enjoy my family.
And, to close on a more personal note, I now have the freedom to enjoy my family.
And joy I have. My daughter, Melinda, is a managing director of The Focusing
Institute in N.Y. and she and my son-in-law Mitch have raised two great sons,
my grandsons Adam and Alan. Adam graduated from Oberlin College and was
immediately offered a position in his field of Bio Gen Chemistry, and Alan will
graduate Vassar College next year and will be working for an organization for
farm animal advocacy.
My son, Paul Marks, is a highly respected acupuncturist in Asheville. And
he, too has a great sense of the quality of life and lives it in a joyous way. His
daughter, my granddaughter Emma, is in her first year at Clark University.
I can’t imagine what the world or life will be like when these three grandchildren
become 80… but I’ll let you know.
(Suzanne Rosoff, a Pittsburgh native, was Director of The Women’s Division of
the United Jewish Federation and an associate producer at WQED-TV. She now
lives in Asheville, N.C.)