In my town there lives a gentleman named Gus, who lives a life of partial retirement. While his age entitles him to Social Security and Medicare benefits, he also rises at 5:00 a.m. daily in order to be ready for his morning drive to a nearby hotel, where he reports to work from 7:00 a.m.-noon, five days a week, minimum. His business card credits him with sales and marketing; and while yes, he does book large groups in need of a hotel in which to stay for an upcoming engagement or celebration, this gentleman also runs errands for hotel management, assists with payroll, manages the front desk, fills in for errant employees, acts as the go-between for guests in crisis and high-up management, and drives the occasional guest to the airport using the hotel van. He also comes running in the middle of the night when there is an emergency at the hotel, as his is the number overnight employees are directed to call in a pinch. When the owners of the hotel are on vacation, he is put in charge of the staff and the hotel, as his decades in the industry (60) and his unusual aptitude with language (at one time in his life he was fluent in seven of them) make him invaluable for the staff as well as the management, and he is as much appreciated for his skills as for his true love of the work.
So now you must be wondering: How old is this man, anyway?
He is just a few weeks shy of 80, actually, but to look at him, a person would never guess. “He never seems to physically age,” people who know his are fond of saying. To see him in person, one wouldn’t place him at a day beyond 65.
And so I asked Gus his secret to staying young. Smiling with embarrassment, Gus told me that his wife and daughter insist it’s his part-time work combined with 50 years of moderate, but daily, exercise. (“You know—that calisthenics stuff, from the ‘Olden Days,’ that and walking,” Gus’ daughter explained to me.)
His life has been anything but perfect. He has also seen his way through his share of dangerous and frightening health crises as he’s grown older, which he likely would not have survived had he not been in the shape and condition he is in. “Even his doctors can’t believe his age. They say he’s in better shape than most men half his age,” she added.
Why am I telling you all of this? No, it’s not to make you feel bad, but instead to garner hope and inspiration. While Gus must have some incredible genetics going for him, and obviously he’s made excellent lifestyle choices through his years, it’s never, ever too late to start taking better care of yourself. Experts are forever extolling the value of exercise for the brain and the body, particularly as we age.
So I urge you, turn off the television and read a book. Read another after that. Take an online class (or take one in person, no matter your age!), learn a skill you’ve always been curious about. Walk your dog, twice as often as you normally do. Start that memoir you’ve always meant to write. Go get a part-time job, or, start that business you’ve always dreamed about.
What’s that saying? “Age is a state of mind.” Keep yours as healthy as possible.
Oh, yes—a healthy mind also tries to plan ahead. If you are in need of a place to start, I can help by providing a safe place for dialogue, setting the path for planning. Please reach out.
All my best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.