How we can extend our years and at the same time maintain our quality of life has always fascinated me.
In my book “Pathfinding,” published in 2002, I wrote, “The whole subject of positive aging has been a passion of mine. In my thirties I read a book about the Hunzas, who have one of the longest centenarian success rates. They live at very high altitudes, eat the food they grow off the land, and walk many miles a day.”
A few years ago, I produced “Positive Aging in North Carolina,” a documentary for the North Carolina Division of Aging, which aired on UNC-TV, their PBS affiliate.
One of the people I featured in that documentary was Harley Potter. At that time, he was a 102-year-old golfer who had won gold medals at local, state and national tournaments. His 73-year-old daughter, Leta Duffin, drove him to our on-location shoot and rode in the golf cart with him. Potter’s only major impairment was that he had only 25-percent hearing left in one ear, so we directed questions to that ear.
Potter was as happy as could be as long as he had a golf club in his hand. He said, “You are never too old to learn to play golf. I started when I was 92, and I never had a lesson.”
Of his golf game, Potter said, “My handicap was 44 when I started, but now it’s down to 37. The last game I played, my score was 100.”
I asked Potter his secret to long life. He said, “I don’t worry. Yesterday is gone and there is nothing you can do about it today. I look forward to today and beyond that. I keep going. I watch my health. I’ve never smoked. I eat three meals a day, but never eat too much, and I exercise.”
I asked his daughter what her father has taught her. She said, “He taught me not to worry about tomorrow or about the past. Daddy didn’t teach me by telling me. He taught me by living it.”
Potter died peacefully at age 106 after being in a nursing home for two years.
The article “Growing Old,” posted at Chabad.org and based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher rebbe, states, “The Torah considers old age a virtue and a blessing. Throughout the Torah, ‘old’ (zakein) is synonymous with ‘wise’; the Torah commands us to respect all elderly, regardless of their scholarship and piety, because the many trials and experiences that each additional year of life brings yield a wisdom which the most accomplished young prodigy cannot equal.”
The article describes Abraham as one who “grew old and came along in days” (Genesis 24:1): “His accumulated days, each replete with learning and achievement, meant that with each passing day his worth increased. Thus, a ripe old age is regarded as one of the greatest blessings to be bestowed upon man.”
For me, positive aging follows positive living. Quality of life is not dependent on age. It’s dependent on how we live each day of our lives.
I like to compare aging to fine wine that improves as it matures. That’s one of my life goals.
PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on voiceamerica.com. Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.