The Springtime of Our Nonagenarian Years

"If we're dead we can't do much. But as long as we’re alive, we can still tap dance, we can still crack a joke, we can still sing a song, we can still tell a story.”

Filmmaker and comedian Mel Brooks

Carl Reiner knows a few nonagenarians (people aged 90 to 99). At 96, he's one himself.

It's not unusual for people aged 90 to know others their own age. But the ones Reiner associates with are witty, active and engaged. I learned this watching a documentary Reiner hosts entitled "If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast." Reiner interviews Mel Brooks, now age 92; Betty White, age 97; Dick Van Dyke, age 93; and Norman Lear, age 96.  Reiner also interviews Ida Keeling, now 103, who began running at age 67 to combat depression after two of her children were killed.

Watching Dick Van Dyke dance and listening to Reiner, Brooks and Lear harmonize through an old show tune is inspiring. Ida Keeling's workout regimen is uplifting. (And even includes push-ups). "You've got to be the boss of your body," she says.

Not all of us can enjoy the health and vitality that these folks do. Chronic pain, dementia, strokes, heart attacks and physical limitations are only too real.  That said, there's life out there for all of us, at any age. To embrace it, we need the right mindset.

Ninety-three year-old portrait artist Raymond Olivere, interviewed in the film, painted in his studio virtually all day, every day, until his recent passing. Olivere credited his longevity to his mental curiosity. Reiner and Brooks convene several times weekly to watch movies. Lear is remaking the television show "One Day at a Time." Brooks was preparing for his one-man, stand-up comedy appearance in Las Vegas and working on a remake of "Young Frankenstein" for the theatre. Reiner says, "If I didn't have my computer to go to in the morning, I'd be lost." He looks forward to working.

One of the messages of the documentary is that our lives are not necessarily segmented into working years and retirement years. For many of us, work will always continue. So will gardening and exercising and socializing. If we can think clearly, we can stay engaged at any age.

Most economic columns on aging focus on the need to take more money into our later years since we're all living longer, and certainly that's important. But it's really only part of the equation. Another vital component of successful aging is maintaining a mindset of engagement. By the time you and I are the age of Carl Reiner and company, it will be commonplace to see nonagenarians in a myriad of professions laboring happily each day in our chosen fields.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC®, AIF®, author of the syndicated economic column “Arbor Outlook,” is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850.608.6121 – www.arborwealth.net), a fiduciary investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.