I don’t encounter many 6’4,” 84 year-olds wearing plastic, measuring tapes for suspenders. So this guy at the mall definitely caught my eye. Okay, maybe I stalked him but he fascinated me. He walked with such a brisk, and jaunty pace that I wondered why he carried a cane in the first place. Just in case? To be stylish? I followed him past the Apple store, J Crew and La Coste. He paused to look at the merchandise in all of those windows. However, as he rounded the corner at Victoria’s Secret, he kept his head down until he was safely past the last brassiere. That’s when I went up and said, “Hi. May I take your picture?”

For several, long seconds he didn’t say a word. I thought he might be deaf. Nope. Slowly, a very, worried look clouded his face. “Gosh,” he said. “I guess so. If you want to but my clothes aren’t very clean.” “That won’t show,” I assured him while looking closer at his shirt and pants. Actually, not only were they impeccable, his trousers were ironed! I was intrigued. I took several photos of him and while he seemed to enjoy the attention, he never really smiled. He also didn’t ask why I was taking them, what I might do with them or even if he could have a copy. This was a guy truly living, ‘in the moment.’

He told me his wife had died but he was “really good at taking care of” himself. “Take my vitamins. Eat oatmeal. You know, all that stuff.” He doesn’t watch TV because, “It makes you go dead in the head.” He always irons his pants because, “They look better if I do. At least that’s what my mama used to say.” His motto? “Keep Moving . . .otherwise…well… you know what happens. . .”

When I learned how he spent his morning just before he hit the mall for his daily walk, I was surprised. So, dear readers, I will let you guess for yourselves:

  1. Knitting an afghan
  2. Trapshooting
  3. Preparing a possum stew
  4. Building a bird house up a 10’ tree
  5. Sewing curtains for his living room  

Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.”  Yup.


old tree 

I think the most wonderful part of aging is owning the hard won character we build that so clearly defines the lives we have lived. One never knows what might become of young saplings or even full-grown trees. A simple downpour might do them in from the roots up. But old trees? You know where they stand. You can see how many branches they have sent out and how many have remained strong through storm after storm. Once the leaves fall, you can even appreciate the arc their paths have taken and the lengths they have gone to keep their balance.

A few days ago, I turned 63. When my grandmother was this age I asked her, “Gosh, Granny, what does it FEEL like to be SO old?” Her reply was shocking: “Oh, I don’t feel old. I feel just like I did in my 20’s. The difference is that other people treat me differently. That’s the only thing that lets me know I’m not young anymore.”

Well, I am glad to now be, ‘treated differently,’ because frankly, I am. Despite the many hats and faces I’ve worn over the last six decades, one thing remains true: my past choices have defined my character. Once the façade of youth passes, what you’ve been is who you are. Time engraves you choice-by-choice, line-by-line and ring-by-ring. It carries a poignancy that cannot be ignored because now you can almost count the grains of sand left in the top of the hourglass.

Shortly before he died last week at age 69, David Bowie told an interviewer: “Age doesn’t bother me. It’s the lack of years left that weighs far heavier on me than the age that I am.” I feel the same. There are fewer years ahead of me than behind. But it is a great and valuable gift to be reminded that nothing lasts forever. It keeps you reaching skyward.




Tell that to the 70 something couple I met at Starbucks this morning. Some R&B with a great groove was playing in the background when I noticed the wife was swaying back and forth a bit to the music.

“Good for you!” I said to her. “Did you know that science has proven that dancing, above all other activities including biking and swimming, gives you a 76% advantage in NOT getting Alzheimer’s?”

“No. I didn’t know that,” she smiled shyly, “but I do love to dance.”

“Well, the New England Journal of Medicine just posted a study that says dancing integrates several brain functions at once—kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional which increase your neural connections and thereby decreases your risk of dementia.”

She looked at me blankly. So, I turned to her husband and asked, “Do you dance with her?”

“Heavens, no,” he scoffed. “I don’t dance. I can’t remember all the steps.”

“What?” I chided. “Well you better learn or you increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.”

“Dancing is just too hard,” he replied.

“Okay,” I said, looking down at his feet. He was wearing white sneakers.

“Shuffle your right foot like this,” I said, demonstrating a simple, tap shuffle.

“That’s easy,” he replied, imitating my shuffle, “but it’s sure not dancing.”

“Okay,” I countered, “now add your other foot for a ‘ball change.’”

I demonstrated and he copied me exactly, stepping back with his right foot and forward with his left.

“Big deal,” he remarked.

“Now put them together,” I instructed, and you have, ‘shuffle, ball change.’”

He executed this perfectly.

“Well, that’s still NOT dancing,” he insisted.

“You’re right,” I replied. “However, you have just mastered a fairly, tricky, tap step with ease. Imagine what you could do with the waltz or the polka.”

“Oh,” he smiled, “I would LOVE to be able to do the polka!”

“That’s the easiest dance there is!” I exclaimed, again demonstrating as I counted, ‘one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three.’”

When their coffee arrived, I said to the wife, “Now when you get home, sign up for polka lessons.”  She smiled and I almost had the sense that she just might do it.

This gal in her 80’s however, needs no lesson or coaxing whatsoever.



P.S.  That’s me dancing with a complete stranger who told me he, “couldn’t dance.”

NEW Year but the same OLD you??

Well, if that’s the case maybe you should heed the advice of some of these youngsters:

 Don’t believe them? Here is some of the SAME advice from those much older:

 And on that note, I thank you dear readers, now in 86 countries, for all your many comments, insights, and humor throughout 2015. Let’s carry on the conversation into 2016!!


Put it on an iPod and Plug in!

jj on motorcycle

Noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, once said that, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Recently, opera singer turned neuroscientist, Linda Maguire, researched using music for those with failing cognition. “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s. They can’t follow life or conversations. They don’t remember people. They get lost and confused. But because the part of the brain that internalizes music remains healthy, they can follow music.” 

Maguire’s study revealed 5 important benefits of music:

  1. Music evokes emotions that bring memories.
  2. Music is a way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person.
  3. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness. With dementia, patients often lost the ability to express emotions.  Through music, if they are ambulatory, they can even dance. Dancing can lead to hugs, kisses and touching, which brings security and memories.
  4. Singing engages both mind and body. It gives you better posture, better oxygenation and stimulates tissue because the heart and lungs literally vibrate.
  5. Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions. 

Maguire’s study says that three of the most therapeutic songs are: “The Sound of Music,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It also suggests that if you are caring for an elderly person, to compile a playlist of songs that were popular when they were 18-25 years old. Put it on an iPod and plug them in!!

On that note, I leave you with, “I Wanna Die Young,” a song I wrote inspired by my grandmother. That is she pictured above on the back of a Harley in her 70’s. She is the same girl that still sang “Happy Birthday” to me at age 93, long after she had forgotten who I was.





Scientists in London have just released some startling news. They have discovered that Metformin, a common diabetes drug, can actually slow down the aging process. It increases the oxygen molecules released into a cell, which in turn rejuvenates our bodies and stops us from getting old. They are so confident in this new study that they predict we will soon live to be 120!!

 Contrarily, a recent article in the, “Journal Of The American Medical Association,” says we are living too long. “Due to advances in modern medicine, better dietary habits, and a greater overall quality of life, the current life expectancy for someone living in the United States is unfortunately 78; it should be 58, tops,” Dr. Francis Zhu told reporters. “Science is allowing U.S. citizens to live well beyond the point at which anyone could explain why they’re still alive. By the time they reach 60, Americans really have nothing more to offer.”


 What? Grandma Moses didn’t pick up a paintbrush until her 80’s, Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t write, “Little House on the Prairie,” until her 60’s, and Noah Webster didn’t finish his dictionary until he was 66!

 The efficacy of living to 120 in our already over populated and polluted world, gives me pause. Do I really want to live to see my child turn 100? Haven’t psychologists told us that real maturation happens as we lose the elders above us? At that age will I even be able to understand a world advancing so quickly? I already struggle with my Mac.

 Will there be enough food for all of us? If not, will all those over 100 be shipped to Mars, able by then to live on mere stardust? Sure, bowhead whales live for centuries. Glass sponges live for 15,000 years, and turtles are technically stuck as teenagers for centuries!! But people?


A new clinical trial is scheduled to begin in the U.S. next winter. Scientists are recruiting 3,000 70- to 80-year-olds who have, or are at risk of, cancer, heart disease and dementia. I’m not signing up. It’s not about the number of years we have but how we spend them. I don’t plan to be genetically modified, surgically enhanced, or have my body parts replaced. Right now I’m on the topside of the daisies. When it’s my time, I plan to push them up from below—with gusto! 



stand straight 

“Okay, guys. Now turn and face that wall and stand up straight!”

That’s exactly what I said to these two policemen before taking their picture yesterday. They had refused to let me photograph them from the front, saying their boss, “wouldn’t like it.” Instead, they let me shoot them from behind. I mean, seriously, when was he last time you told two officers to “stand up against that wall,” and they complied? Made my day, cause they turned back around with big, wide grins.

I had spent the afternoon looking for down-in-the-mouth people who were slumped as they walked. My goal was to get them to smile. So, I first asked if I could take their picture. Then, before I did, I asked them to stand up as straight as they could. 

After stopping countless people for pictures, only one declined; an old woman who informed me that she did not want to find herself, “on some porn site.” Quite honestly, given her age (and mine) I thought her concern was perhaps not one.

Nonetheless, you can see the results.  Keep in mind that none of these folks looked happy when I first saw them.  The two most dramatic examples were a tired, bent-over, UPS guy who transformed into a gold-toothed, gleaming, smiling, tall giant of a man and an 80 year-old lady who seemed at first decrepit, but burst into a joyous smile with shoulders flung back looking years younger.

 stand straight11stand straight4stand straight1stand straight10

Look….time takes its’ toll. After thousands of days of presenting ourselves to the world we just get tired—and it shows. Our bodies start to slump over. Pace slows down. Some of us even shuffle. 

What to do?? FIGHT IT!! When you get out of the car, force yourself to stand up straight. Pull those shoulders back. Take one, long, deep breath, and then march into that supermarket like you OWN it. Sure, it’s temporary. But I promise that you will feel better. Who knows, you might just make someone else smile.