Being Good at Being Old

Elder Role Models

Last week, the Guardian published the results of a survey the newspaper had conducted about aging. It appears the U.K. government hasn't done any better preparing for the big demographic shift to an older population than the U.S. government has.

We could discuss that and other outcomes of the survey but this is Friday and if you are like me, you prefer a lighter touch to end the week – this week, anyway.

So how about we play around today with this question from the Guardian survey: Who is a good role model for elders?

(This topic screams for photographs but the Guardian commissioned such good ones that it is futile for me to try find anything better than I can legally use. So go to the Guardian to see theirs.)

Most choices for good elder role models were, of course, Britons but not all. Star Trek's Lieutenant Sulu, George Takei, is included “because of his perspective, usefulness in campaigning and visibility around being older and gay.”

Nelson Mandela is on the list because “he showed that you are never too old to add to the wealth of nations."

Moving on to the Brits: "Sir Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Michio Kaku and Diana Athill. Intelligent, talented people who are still engaged and not defined by their age."

Actor and member of Parliament Glenda Jackson was not overlooked nor was poet Billy Connolly.

David Attenborough was mentioned because “his observations on life spread a much needed sense of wonderment and he has been going strong, doing what he loves, well into his eighties, sustainably."

[Although it is not directly related to this survey, that last quotation does remind me of the single thing I envy about celebrities (and many corporate leaders) – successful ones, anyway: that they are allowed to work for as long as they want, whereas we 99-percenters are forced out of the workplace as young as 45 and 50.]

All right, now it is our turn. How about we start with Evelyn from yesterday's post:


If you don't know who Evelyn is, you can see the video about her here.

Maybe you don't buy the idea that elders need role models but if you do, who would you choose? And be sure to tell us why.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: What's a Half Dime?


If I may be allowed to choose someone who is younger than me, I choose Ronni - because she hasn't left her brain behind in her employed days.

I would choose Ronni because she cares enough to share her discoveries and journey with us.I do believe I need a role model and a mentor to honestly share their experiences and at times how they worked through issues or have not. I do not expect a magician, but an honest person to look at to see if any of their experiences are similar and how things continue to work out. I was so happy when I found this blog and it is part of my morning routine. Thank-you Ronni and the many readers who add so much each morning.

Cop Car and Jessie...
That's very kind of you but not what I had in mind and geez - please don't give me more than I can live up to.

I'm just sharing my thoughts and ideas about growing old. I think Evelyn from yesterday and a whole bunch of TGB readers about whom I actually know something are great role models too.

So tell us about others you know who deserve our respect and admiration for how they are aging.

I choose my eldest daughter. She has overcome appalling odds to become a whole person. Addict, alcoholic, homeless, mother of five, a battered woman and other horrors that have left her with PTSD, she has gone on to get clean, sober, graduate from college, complete graduate classes, and become a contributing member of society.

89 year old Eva Marie Saint is my new hero. She has led her life with dignity and grace and should be a role model for. not only up and coming celebrities, but for the rest of us as well. If you missed the interview on last weeks "Sunday Morning", check it out here...

Not knowing much about him, I'd choose Jimmy Carter, who has chosen to live and love his life fully, helping so many people around the world. He's a man of grace.

I'd go much closer to home. My mom, who gave up driving on her own because she didn't want to hurt anybody. And before that, in the years between employment and ill health, an active retirement that involved fun, volunteering, and simply living well. And my extended family, for whom aging was just what happened, neither deprecated nor celebrated, just another part of life.

Well, I was going to mention Evelyn, until I scrolled down and saw you already had.

My dad lived to 89 and didn't stop practicing medicine and doing community service until he was about 85. My older brother will be 80 this year and is very active behind the scenes working for his community. Most others I can think of are public figures -- politicians, actors, etc. And they are indeed lucky to have not been driven into retirement by America's employers.

Doris Lessing was my best role model for years. Still is even though she has passed away. I also admire Hillary Clinton's strength and tenacity. I don't know anyone on a personal level who I would use as a role model but then my drummer is often beating differently.

I think in the work I'm currently doing about finding and organizing resources for elders that I am looking for such persons ... role models.

Until her recent death, Adrienne Rich was a model of courage and fierce devotion to truth for me, both as a severely disabled person and as an elder.

While there are many famous elders that I admire I will nominate one close to home that none of you know. She is 97 years old, has constant pain but still takes care of herself, lives alone, and never complains.

She gave up driving her new car when she knew her reflexes were no longer sharp enough. She accepts age with grace and has a healthy attitude about life.

She is nine years older than I so she is my role model.

One of my heroes is Bill Moyers, who is still practicing real journalism (as opposed to celebrity gossip and silly debates over unimportant things) at 79 (turns 80 in June). Check out his weekly interview show, Moyers and Company--

Elaine Stritch. She's in a new film,
She has a feisty spirit and an attitude about her that is amazing.

My role model is in her late 80s, lives in an almost windowless small apartment, and she is hairless. She is living with bone cancer, has been in constant pain for maybe 4 years ~~ she is grateful for food stamps. Her oncologists recently told her they have run out of chemo ideas that could sustain her life much longer. She prays when she can stay awake. She laughs when she recalls how she looked when she once tried on a wig. She finds something to appreciate each day. In my mind's eye, I see her on a softly cushioned pedestal. She will never cease being my role model. Myself, I am a breast cancer "survivor" and have broken both hips within the last 6 years. I hope to gracefully and with courage handle anything else that life may throw at me in the future... I will think of Greta, and try my darndest to be strong.

Robert Redford - for aging gracefully and not going under the knife. He makes getting older look good. When I was looking at the Oscars fashion photos, I just cringed at what some of the(formerly admired) 60+ actresses have done to their faces!

My mom cooks like a famous Parisian chef.

Throw three ingredients on a table, she has a recipe.

Mom is down to earth, comfortable in her own skin, loves short cowboy boots, bright colours, walks her own line.

She's 91, fit and smart.

We talk about everything. No holds barred.

Mom's living room couch is dented by the continuous parade of family butts as we sat and bared our souls to her.

Mom's fridge is your fridge. Are you hungry? Brownies, cookies, home made soup. Peanuts?

Whaddaya want?

Mom is in perfect health, a prolific reader, artistic, observant.

Mom returned to university at age 50 and got her degree.

She loves to laugh.

Mom doesn't get all bent out of shape if she hears a swear word.

Second role model.. My 89 year old friend who just moved into a senior home. She never complains even though she has lost her husband, friends. She has given me a ton of good advice.

Smart senior women are my role models.

My mom is my role model. She was always doing for others in love, even when declining health limited her independence in her late 80s and early 90s. In her last few weeks she was still concerned, thoughtful and loving.

Ronni- I am so glad that you enjoyed and shared the video of Evelyn. I just loved it and knew she was special. Has anyone been able to get more information on her? I am so curious as to her life story. How did she get to this point in her life? You're usually good at getting to the bottom of a story. Thanks.

I like reading other's comments and I especially loved Mage Bailey's who mentioned her daughter. To recognize that how we age begins long before we are old is probably the most important point I have read .
Thanks, Mage.

The person I would chose for my role model is my grandmother, Martha Jane. Why? Because she lived to be old. My own mother died in middle age. My grandmother was a hard working woman, who stayed involved in helping others, seldom thinking of herself. But then, her health was good and that is not something one can bank on. It is very important to me to have a role model I actually know, so I never chose somebody whose stuff I don't know up close. My grandmother eventually became somewhat "senile", but she just kept trying her best. I want to be that kind of elder who just keeps trying her best.

YOU! You are my role model and I am thankful I discovered your blog! Blog on and help us all age gracefully.

All on the Guardian List and
for starters-- because they deeply inspire me:

Maya Angelou
Ronni Bennett, Evelyn, Darlene & TGB contributors
Carol Burnett
Joseph Campbell
Pope Francis
James Garner
Jane Goodall
Yuri Kochiyama
Konrad Lorenz
Margaret Mead
Marion McPartland
Maria Montessori
Paul Newman
Betty White
Howard Zinn

I would like to know Ronni's picks?

I admire anyone who is willing to listen to the viewpoint of others, whether they agree with ours or not - be they 19 or 91.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)