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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 6:35 pm | Fair 59º

Positive Aging

Marilyn Murray Willison: Turning 70 Is Just the Start of Something Great

For four very happy decades, a substantial part of my career was spent critiquing recently published books. I’m one of those people who just can't stop recommending titles to others — which now includes you.

One particular book was published in 2013, but it is as up-to-date as if it just rolled off the presses last night. 70 Things To Do When You Turn 70, which was edited by Ronnie Sellers, is a collection of 70 essays by a variety of high-achieving people who have passed this age milestone and have valuable insights and advice, as well as information on the science of aging.

Fortunately, we have this cheerful paperback full of advice to help us meet the milestone birthday without freaking out. Every essay contains kernels of experience, optimism and wisdom. And many of the contributors have written their own books about the complexities of growing older.

The youngest contributor is Gwen Weiss-Numeroff, the author of Extraordinary Centenarians in America: Their Secrets to Living a Long Vibrant Life, who wrote her essay when she was just 49 years old. She gleaned information from many men and women and profiled them in her book.

She tells readers that her subjects “must have been doing something right, since they lived for an additional three joyful decades.”

According to Weiss-Numeroff, when you turn 70, you need to do three essential things: have a purpose, explore new places and hobbies, and go with the tide and be grateful. She is convinced that this mindset makes it possible to triumph over life’s challenges with dignity, grace, joy and strength.

Rick Kimball is a Maine-based writer and photographer who has issued what he calls “The Septuagenarian Challenge.” He strongly believes that creativity “gives us connective reason for continuing life.” He challenges us to create something new and different.

“If you are already a writer, sculpt,” he says. “If you are already a musician, dig a garden plot. If you are already a cook, go to an art museum and buy a set of paints in the gift shop. Channel Grandma Moses.”

Susan Kersley is a retired physician who, upon retiring, decided to explore a different avenue of medicine. She has written articles for The British Medical Journal and books about how doctors can improve their work-life balance.

“Be a mentor to those of a younger generation,” she says. “Let others benefit from your experiences while at the same time recognizing that the world is a different place from when you were their age.

“(Seventy) is a chance to open new doors and enjoy life to the fullest in whatever way you want so recognize with gratitude that you are able to have opportunities to make a difference both in your own life and in the lives of those around you.”

The contributor whose essay surprised me the most was Mark Twain, who delivered his 70th birthday address at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City on Dec. 5, 1905.

He regaled the audience with examples from his own life about how to reach one’s 70th birthday. Who knew that he had incorporated intermittent fasting into his personalized health regimen long before the method of dieting became popular?

“For 30 years I have taken coffee and bread at 8 in the morning and no bite nor sup until 7:30 in the evening,” he said. “Eleven hours. That is alright for me, and is wholesome, because I have never had a headache in my life.”

This lighthearted but very sincere book truly is the perfect gift for anyone who is turning or has already turned 70 years old.

Marilyn Murray Willison is a columnist, motivational speaker and journalist, and author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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