exercise

“Turn 70. Act Your Grandchild’s Age.”

That was the title of a really excellent piece in the Sunday New York Times the week that Ringo Starr celebrated turning 70 on stage at Radio City (and that gerontologist Robert Butler died) . Mercifully, the point of the article was that boomers need not aspire to rocking and rolling their way though old age — “a stereotype almost as enduring as ageism itself.”

Gemze de Lappe: “I danced straight on through.”

Gemze de Lappe began dancing at age nine, with Michael Fokine’s ballet company. During the summer, the company performed a different Broadway musical each week, and one of Fokine's one-act ballets during intermission. Her favorite was Scheherazade, playing “one of the boys who got stabbed in the end, lying on stage upside down. All that drama!” she recalled happily. “To do that all summer long was heaven.” And in 1939, her $25-a-week salary was good money.

Delaying disability, not disease

It’s been chastening and illuminating to see certain preconceived notions fall by the wayside as my research progresses. An early one was the assumption that good health was a precondition for an active old age. Although I expected to encounter the occasional, extraordinary geriatric Stephen Hawking, it seemed intuitively obvious. And certainly most of the people I’ve spoken with are exceptionally healthy, remaining physically mobile as well as mentally agile. Good luck, good genes.

But many also suffer from chronic or degenerative disease — and it doesn’t keep them from their work.