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Why Life Begins at Fifty

The Dalai Lama, when asked about what surprised him most about humanity, answered,


"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn't enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."


Profound comment indeed, and one that should give us pause for thought as we approach older age. I won't use the phrase 'old age', since the term 'old' is so relative these days. Fifty is the new forty. It really is. And that means you can also knock ten years off every decade if you're over fifty too. These days, fifty is no age at all. Nor sixty, or even seventy.


There is a lot of value in reframing our ideas about old age, and looking for the positives in getting older. There is so much of your life left to enjoy still. Here are some inspirational older people to make you think about how much more life has to offer still. If they can do it, so can you. In fact, often you can do things much better than younger people, since you have a lifetime of experience to draw on. So read on and take heart. You're only as young as you feel! You might think you've reached your organisational limit by finally deciding to buy a new mattress this weekend. But when you've finished with the Tempurpedic comparison chart, read on and see how much more you could be doing right now. Buying a new mattress is a piece of cake compared to what these older citizens have managed to achieve.


Dalai Lama (born 1935)


The contributor of the opening quote, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama still travels the world, spreading his teachings about peace and harmony. He was named as the second most influential spiritual person in the world, and at 76 categorically rules out retiring. He has spend many years travelling the world, spreading Buddhist teachings and advocating on behalf of Tibet. A remarkable and charismatic man, he is revered all over the world, and declared that he may 'consider retirement' when he reaches 90.


Image of Dalai Lama




Diane Keaton (born January 5, 1946) At sixty-five Diane Keaton shows no sign of slowing down, and no sign of giving in to the cult of youth perpetuated by Hollywood. She staunchly rejects cosmetic surgery, saying in an interview with More magazine in 2004, "I'm stuck in this idea that I need to be authentic ... My face needs to look the way I feel." She was made the face of L'Oral Paris in 2006. Still a prolific film actress, director, producer, and screenwriter, Keaton is a great role model for the over sixties. In her latest memoir Keaton writes "Growing old, and I do mean growing requires reinvention."


Image of Diane Keaton




Arthur Winston (March 22, 1906 - April 13, 2006) Arthur became famous for being the awarded 'Employee of the Century' by Bill Clinton. Arthur worked for the Metropolitan Transport Authority for 76 years, and finally retired on his 100the birthday. Arthur, who began picking cotton at the age of ten, but his family were forced to migrate west in the twenties, where he finally found work with the Pacific Electric Railway Company. Asked about his working life, on retirement Arthur commented, "I just kept on going. I'd rather be moving, working or doing something than laying around the house." He only had one day off in his whole working life, which was to attend his wife's funeral. An inspiration to all, the LA transport authority renamed its South Bay bus depot after him. It now proudly bears the name "Arthur Winston Division"


Image of Arthur Winston




Sir David Attenborough (Born 8 May 1926)


Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has just finished making his 17th wildlife series for the BBC at the age of 85. He travelled to both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. To get to the North Pole he had to fly into a Russian ice camp on the glacial Arctic Ocean before flying on to the Pole by helicopter. As a grand statesman of broadcasting Sir David has been on screen around the world, teaching others about his love of the natural world for decades. He remains as engaged and engaging as ever, with his final Frozen Planet episode tackling the issue of global warming with typical accessibility, directness and scientific rigour.


Sir David out on the ice - photo Photograph: Dan Rees/BBC




It's Only Just Begun


These are just some of the many, many inspirational older people who worked or are still working and enjoying life well into their later years. You might not be able to make it to the North Pole, or spread World Peace, but maybe it's about time you thought about taking up that hobby you thought it was too late to start on. As these great folks show, the sky really is the limit.




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