Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.

I slid into the pew behind a silver haired lady; dressed to the nines, make-up and hair impeccably complete. She smiled at me, introduced herself, and we chatted for a moment. The meeting wasn’t to start for a while, people were still entering the church and finding a place to sit and wait for the speaker. Since it was a group of educators, some retired and some still working, I was interested to see what she had taught during her career. Elementary, she said, always the little tykes. It made sense to me; she looked like someone who would tirelessly welcome the energetic ones; those who still had dimples for knuckles. She informed me that she was 94 years old, still lived alone, and still took care of all her own needs. I was amazed, she was so bright and alert; I knew instinctively that any grammatical error on my part could and would be readily…if gently…corrected, she still had the ‘teacher’ ambiance.

We both turned to watch another elder approach, she much more slowly and with a walker, that walker laden with a heavy purse, a cane, and a light jacket; “just in case”. She laboriously made her way to where we sat, painstakingly divested herself of the walker and paraphernalia, then eased herself into the pew beside my new friend. They apparently were acquainted, so as they began talking I sat back to enjoy the picture of two well dressed, neatly coifed, silver haloed ninetygenarians pass the time of day. During the conversation I heard lady # 2 say, “Yes, I’m still teaching once a week.”
“Oh. What are you teaching?” Asked Lady #1.
“I teach water aerobics at the ‘Y’…I leave my apartment early, take the taxi, and give myself plenty of time to get in there and get ready. Once I’m the water I’m fine,
I can move easily. It is still such fun; I love to see their faces when they learn how to swim; the joy! The joy and the excitement! They just didn’t realize they could, and then they wonder why they didn’t do it before because it is so easy. I just always enjoy that.”
I was amazed. I leaned forward and said, “And what did you teach before you retired?” She turned and smiled,
“I taught physical education, dear, and I still am!”
I settled back in my seat and considered how young I was in my profession. Retire? I’m thirty years away!

So is this the eleventh hour? Is this that last chance, last hurrah, last time to make a difference on this earth? Could be, but the nudge to me was why wait until the “Eleventh Hour” to make a difference; either to myself, my chosen profession, or the world at large. Now is the time to take life by the horns and wrestle it down. Grab a chunk of living and have at it. Why wait? I don’t think these two ladies did, I suspect they lived on the edge all of their lives. The kind of panache and vitality they modeled probably isn’t something they dreamed up in their late seventies/early eighties; I’m betting these two were the ones who rode straddling a horse when it wasn’t ladylike. I’ll bet they played basketball and baseball and whatever “boy’s games” there were while their counterparts learned to embroidery, bake bread, and tat (whatever that is, good crossword puzzle word….). And speaking of crossword puzzles, I’ll bet they both still do a crossword puzzle a day, they probably play a mean game of Scrabble, and they may even, at least one of them, hit the Sunday afternoon dances at the Senior Center. They have loved their work, remembered to play, and taken the time to live. That’s what I wanna do; pass that newspaper and give me a pen.

I recently read a book on research done on ageing. The study was done with an order of nuns in Europe because it was such a pure control group. For 90 some years these women had had exactly the same regimen, diet, exercise, and focal point. Since many of them were more than 100 years old and still vital in body and mind, the goal was to find a commonality that contributed to that health of mind and body.

It’s a long and interesting study, but the most common denominator was having been read to as a child! This then contributed to continued reading, journaling and other writing at an early age, daily mind exercises (reading, puzzles, etc.), and daily physical exercise through the life span! Rocket science? Confirmation. The three “R”s...Reading, Writing, and Running…enough said?

Fitness by the Numbers
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