SuperAger “Exhibit A” Speaks

I’m SuperAger Exhibit A, one of 74 subjects chosen from 1,000 candidates to participate in the Feinberg Medical School’s Superager study.

Since my mother died at 40 , and my father at 50. They didn’t live long enough to have memory problems, and relatives who did live to old age didn’t exhibit any.

So who knows why we live so long, or why some of us remember more than others.? I don’t.

But I’m gratefully healthy, I walk 1 ½  miles a day, and, since Dr. Maria Piers told us many years ago, “To remain happy and fulfilled, don’t retire FROM something, retire TOO something,” — that’s what I did.

Since retirement 20 years ago, I’ve worked from home for my company, Widlist Media LLC, writing two blogs: www.widowslist.com, advice to widows, and wwwaskdrjob.com, advice to joblorn.

I also give two seminars for senior organizations and communities:

1.Surviving widownhood.

2. a slideshow/ talk called “Celebrities I Have Known” based on my years as a features writer for Chicago papers and on my memoir, “Stairway to the Stars: John Travolta, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers..and Me.”

I joined the Superager program 4 years ago when I found a notice  in the Chicago Tribune, asking people over 80 who had good memories to call. Since I’ve always been told I remember things no one else does, I did call and was given a test on the phone.

During the test I was asked to listen to a list of 20 words then repeat back a many as I could.  I later felt I “cheated” because I instinctively “bundled” like words together, i.e. Shelter: house, tent, cabin. I did confess that and I was told that wasn’t cheating, it was “strategizing” and that was to be commended.

After acceptance, I was taken aback  when they asked me to volunteer to donate my brain (which they MRI regularly)to the study  upon my death so they can compare it to those of dementia patients.

I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do that. Then I thought, “ What will I do with it?”  (Also, I rationalized that it wasn’t like donating my body, which I wouldn’t do because I don’t want a bunch of young med students standing round, pointing and laughing. Or as Bob Hope said, saying “ that one need pressing.”)

One thing they don’t talk about in these research studies is how difficult it is to grow old and widowed as sickness and death encroach  your circle of friends and family.

It takes a strong sense of self and an even stronger sense of humor—and the ability to look death in the eye as a noble combatant you’ll have to face one of these days.

Many of us try and make sensible exit plans and my friend Estelle was no exception. She lived in a small suburban ranch with a cement driveway. Her neighbor built a small garage on that driveway and after 50 years, the automatic door broke. The repairman said it would cost more to repair the motor than replace the door, so she agreed. As he was writing the invoice, he told her, “This is a great door. If there’s even  a slight whiff of carbon dioxide the door flies up.”

And she said, “Stop right there. Fix the old one. I’m usieng the garage to get out of here.” And Estelle told her she better not change the door because she only had a driveway and she was going to use it too!

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