Monday, April 13, 2015

"Because I'm Rich"

In the 1984 movie "All of Me,"wealthy, wheelchair bound Edwina (Lilly Tomlin) asks Roger (Steve Martin), "Guess what I'm going to do?"

"What?" he replies.

"I'm going to come back from the dead."

"Aaahhhh. And what makes you think you can do that?"

Her answer is as simple as it is profound, "Because I'm rich."

I thought of that scene Easter Sunday when I read a front page article in the Washington Post entitled "Tech Titans' Latest Project: Defy Death." Why it was on the front page on Easter Sunday is anyone's guess. Resurrection envy?

The still relatively young men--and it's all men--who have made gazillions of dollars out in Silicon Valley apparently refuse to allow death to cheat them out of enjoying those gazillions and are giving money hand over fist to assorted scientific and medical researchers who believe there is a way to extend their lives almost infinitely.

Emphasis on "their lives." Oh, you and I get to join the everlasting party if we, like the tech boys and Edwina, can answer, "And what makes you think you can do that?" with, "Because I'm rich." None of the treatments will be covered by Medicare.

And there's certainly something attractive to the notion of living for 150, 250, 500 years--as long as we still had the bodies of--what?--thirty- or even fifty-year-olds. Attractive at least on the surface. But as scholar and bioethicist Leon Kass argued in his essay "Ageless Bodies, Happy Souls,"immortality in this life or even the artificial prolongation of this life has more than a few downsides.

Kass writes, referring to another essay he wrote: with our finitude is the condition of many of the best things in human life: engagement, seriousness, a taste for beauty, the possibility of virtue, the ties born of procreation, the quest for meaning. ...the pursuit of perfect bodies and further life-extension will deflect us from realizing more fully the aspirations to which our lives naturally point, from living well rather than merely staying alive. ...a concern with one’s own improving agelessness is finally incompatible with accepting the need for procreation and human renewal: a world of longevity is increasingly a world hostile to children. Moreover, far from bringing contentment, it is arguably a world increasingly dominated by anxiety over health and the fear of death.
A good life after mid-life, as I say in my book, is not about cheating old age, but about making the most of every state of our lives including the days when we're forced to slow down and slow down and slow down.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Old and In the Way"

It seems passing strange to me, but Washington, DC has an all bluegrass radio station. If you're in the area or want to listen online, it's WAMU's Bluegrass Country 105.5.

Anyway I hit the preset and they were playing one of my favorites: "Old and in the Way" from the album of the same name featuring an all star team of David Grisman (who wrote it), Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements, John Rowan, and John Kahn.

I quote the chorus in my book Pears, Grapes, and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life because I thing it sums up how many of us can begin to feel as time catches up with us. Here's the chorus plus the two verses:

ChorusOld and in the way, that's what I heard them say
They used to heed the words he said, but that was yesterday
Gold will turn to gray and youth will fade away
They'll never care about you, call you old and in the way 
Once I hear tell, he was happy
He had his share of friends and good times
Now, those friends have all passed on
He don't have a place called home
Looking back to a better day, feeling old and in the way
When just a boy, he left his home
Thought he'd have the world on a string
Now the years have come and gone
Through the streets he walks alone
Like the old dog gone astray, he's just old and in the way
The saddest lyric from my point of view is "He don't have a place called home." The increased individualism in our culture and in our families makes no place called home more and more of a danger. And loneliness will kill you.

As I say in the book, the need to connect with people our own age and of all other ages is a top priority for a good life after mid-life. So don't wait.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Living to be 100

Somehow on Easter Sunday the Washington Post and Parade magazine published articles about living  longer. Hmmmm.

In "Cheater's Guide to Living to 100," Parade featured a new book by journalist Dan Buettner called The Blue Zone Solutions: Eating and Living Like the World's Healthiest People. In addition to talking about eating smart, Buttoner proposes three other solutions that parallel the ideas in my book Pears Grapes and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life.

1) Find your tribe--that is, have roots. "Who you hang out with trumps just about everything else when it comes to your health," writes Buttoner. As we get older we need our old friends. We also need, I think, new friends--particularly new, younger friends.

Yesterday we had Easter dinner with our nephew and his family. How refreshing to spend the afternoon with a young couple and their 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and 18-month-old. Between dinner and dessert we walked to the park, chatted, and pushed the kids on the swings. A day well spent.

2) Seek a Purpose. And that purpose has to go beyond entertainment and "spending my kids' inheritance." It is sad to watch people--regardless of their age--entertaining themselves to death. There's no surprise in a study cited in the article indicating, "Having a purpose in life provides a buffer against mortality, no matter your age." It will keep us from feeling "old and in the way" as I put it in my book.

3) Move It. Those who live long don't so much exercise as, "their lifestyles encourage physical activity." That's related to purpose: gardening, baking, walking to the store, chasing grandchildren, walking the dog.

There's a great future in store if we'll grab it and run.

Check out the free download of the first chapter of Pears Grapes and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life at my website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Download Your Free Chapter

Hard to believe, but a friend wants to know whether I'll speak to his marketing class. What I don't know about marketing fills volumes so we'll see how that works out.

At the same time, I can read and learn and the people who seem to know something about selling books indicate that one way to promote a new book is to offer a chapter free. So this morning I put up a free PDF of chapter 1 of Pears, Grapes, and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life.

The book is available at CreateSpace and from Amazon for you Amazon Prime members, but this way you can take a peek first.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Loneliness and Life Expectancy

"Ask people what it takes to live a long life," begins the press release from Brigham Young University, "and they’ll say things like exercise, take Omega-3s, and see your doctor regularly."

Then comes the kicker, "Now research from Brigham Young University shows that loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity." And there is no doubt that despite the internet, smart phones, texting, and Skype, people are more lonely than ever.

Tim Smith is professor of counseling psychology and special education at BJU and co-author of the study commented, “Not only are we at the highest recorded rate of living alone across the entire century, but we’re at the highest recorded rates ever on the planet. With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future.”

As we get older we can see the roots of loneliness. Children move away. Friends move away or as time continues to pass, friends die. Church attendance is down in America as is involvement for those who do attend on Sunday mornings. We can feel "old and in the way." We can feel that we're a burden on others. Add to that divorces or just unhappy isolated spouses with no energy for renewing their marriage.

It's a recipe for emotional disaster and now we learn a recipe for physical disaster.

The good news is that loneliness can be cured and the problems reversed. According to Smith, "In essence, the study is saying the more positive psychology we have in our world, the better we’re able to function not just emotionally but physically."

And reversing loneliness is more than just a good thing personally. It spreads the health when we engage others who may be lonely--particularly young people who the BJU study found are more vulnerable to the dangers of loneliness than seniors. In fact, the study found, "Although older people are more likely to be lonely and face a higher mortality risk, loneliness and social isolation better predict premature death among populations younger than 65 years."

Loneliness is one of the questions I take on in my new book Pears, Grapes, and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life. (Also available at Amazon and soon on Kindle). No one should have to die of loneliness. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Older and Wiser

This weekend I played golf with Jake, a friend who recently turned eighty. He's had some back problems so he can't hit the ball the way he used to, but he's out there twice a week with his wife or with friends. And while the ball may not go as far as it once did, it usually flies straight as an arrow.

But it wasn't his golf game that impressed me. Jake is thoughtful about his life, wanting to live as full a life as he can. We talked about forgiveness: How do you forgive people who have deeply hurt those who are dearest to you? We talked about goal setting: Where, he asks, do I want to be in five years? We talked about the spiritual life: How do I get closer to God?

He's also genuinely interested in others, listening intently to anything I had to say, wanting to know about my life, my ideas, and my opinions. Which is another way of saying that he hasn't stopped and he won't stop learning. He still retains that sense of wonder in the sense of awe and in the sense of "I wonder...." Despite his age, he sees the world through young eyes.

Jake is cheerful, positive, fun to be around. He's also and most importantly wise. And while I didn't have him in mind for the character of John in my book Pears, Grapes, and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life, he's a real life example of what I had in mind. What a pleasure it was to spend time with him and what an inspiration for my own good life after mid-life.

Monday, March 9, 2015

My New Book

This book began as a series of journal entries and grew into a dialogue. It sat around my computer and I've finally published it. 

The book is available now, a Kindle edition is in the works. 

What can we or should we expect from the last (let's be optimistic) third of our lives? For many of us, children are grown, careers are winding down, and this thing they call "retirement" looms. Rather than just slipping into someone else's idea of what we'll be and do, we have the opportunity to make the life we want - a life that counts and satisfies.  

This book doesn't explain what decisions we should make, but rather the character qualities we need to make wise, fulfilling, and meaningful decisions about how to live a good life after mid-life. 

If your fifty years old or older - or if you hope to be someday - then this book is for you. 

Let me know what you think.