Sam Elliott, 71-year-old heart-throb in "I'll See You in My Dreams." Photo: Bleecker Street Media

Sam Elliot, who is 71 years old, recently starred as a leading man in a romantic comedy titled, “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” The plot is surprisingly simple: Life can begin anew at any age. Well, Mom taught me that, but methinks some folks see aging as a steep downward slide.

bits and piecesThe fact that Sam Elliot is still handsome at 71 should not be the exception, but the norm. Much was made of his starring in a romantic role at 71. C’mon and why not? Because one is of certain age and collecting social security, does not exclude him from feeling sexy, happy, and fulfilled in the romance department. Jeez! Talk about age discrimination.

I feel like shaking folks who say, “I’m too old for… (fill in the blank)” I have an inquisitive mind and always ask “why’s that?” Their usual response is to roll their eyes heavenward and answer, “Just because I’m too old!” My stock answer? “What’s age got to do with anything?”

As we age, our bodies may give us a shock or two — and I get it. Working with the elderly population, I sometimes see more life in them than I do in some of my peers. They willingly exercise, worry about their weight, wear makeup, and still express a cheerful enjoyment of life and exhilaration of spirit aka “joie de virve.”

I have a big problem with the “dress appropriately” thing that seems to resurface from time to time. I read an article recently that stated gals of a certain age should not sport long hair. Also included in the no-nos was bright colored nails polish, short hemlines and stiletto heels. Clearly, the article was written by Ms. Frump! Of course, it is a losing battle if we try to look 22, but if we want to dress up, look classy, and yes, a tad “hot” — why not?

Mom was amazing and snubbed her nose at age. On her 80th birthday, Mom wore a bright red dress, trimmed in gold with a slit up the side— and by her side was her gentlemen friend of many years Mr. Irv. A little aside: Mr. Irv was 16 years her junior and predeceased her without ever knowing her age. Mom walked a mile to the gym located in her over-55 community, and then proceeded to work out on the treadmill for 30 minutes. She did this until she became ill at 91. She was certainly a role model for me and my siblings in the “age doesn’t matter “department. Thank the Lord; I inherited her genes and outlook.

Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon are well over the 60 mark, yet they still work at their craft. Obviously, most of us don’t fit into the movie star category. For all I know they may have had “work” done, or employ personal trainers; but they share a common dominator: They possess that certain something that cannot be produced by plastic surgery or working out three hours a day. They are still at the top of their game because they are passionate about their craft and life in general.

I am not knocking retirees who prefer to play golf all day. Good for them! It gives them enjoyment. And that’s the ticket: If one enjoys what they are doing, it produces a good state of mind, and guess what? The body follows.

Did you ever hear of Ernestine Shepherd? She is 78 years old and a bodybuilder. She is in better shape than folks decades younger. She writes that bodybuilding is her passion. OK, it may not your passion, neither mine. I am just rolling over at 3 a.m. while she is hitting the gym. But you gotta admire that gal!

Grandma Moses started painting in earnest at 78. She is a wonderful example of an individual successfully beginning a career in the arts at an advanced age. To celebrate his 90th birthday President George H.W. Bush jumped out of a plane. Afterward he tweeted: “Who knew jumping out of planes was safer than getting out of bed.

A few presidential hopefuls coming out of the woodwork for the 2016 election are at an age when some folks are slowing down: Hillary Clinton is 67, Jeb Bush 62, Bernie Sanders 73, and Donald Trump 69. Whether you like these folks or not is immaterial. Check out their vitality, stamina and passion. This is what keeps them young in spirit and vital members of society.

I love music and some of my favorite performers are still rockin’ and rollin’ although they are probably collecting social security: Mick Jagger is 72, Jackson Browne 66, Sweet Baby James (James Taylor) 67, Neil Diamond 74, and Linda Ronstadt is 69. Although not a rocker, Tony Bennett is 89 years old and still drawing record crowds.

Dr. Christiane Northrup in her new book entitled: “Goddesses Never Age” asks: “When did aging become such a loaded word? What happened to the good ol’ days when we associated another year older with another year wiser?”

Yup I want to know that too!! Having passed a few milestones myself, I have never been concerned with the passing of the years. Like Mom, I have always contended that it beats the alternative. Actually, most of my friends have reached this hallowed state, some are picture-carrying grandparents, but we are a far cry from the grandparents of yesteryear.

Some of us have reinvented ourselves and have thrown away our rocking chairs for dancing shoes. It’s never too late to change the way we think or do things. Age should not deter us from following our passion; or at least find something that we can be passionate about.

I have discovered a love of yoga and meditation. Recently I have become interested in photographing the natural beauty that surrounds us. This may not be your thing, but try remembering something you may have aspired to when you were 10 or 20 years younger. Then do it!

The challenge is to find the means to continue growing into who we are intended to be—and we never stop growing. Our years have been a gift to us, despite our sorrows and disappointments; I personally would never want to go back. As I honor the great metamorphic process, there are new doors of opportunity beckoning every day.

Mom used to say, “Aging is not a curse; it’s a blessing”. Despite her personal sorrows, she was a forerunner of the “age doesn’t matter unless you are wine of cheese” movement. And I might add that wine and cheese only get better with age!

To all my readers regardless of your age, I leave you this month with a few lines from a song that both Mom and I loved: “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart, who incidentally is 70 years young.

“May the good Lord be with you, down every road you roam, and may sunshine and happiness surround you with you’re far from home and may you grow to be proud dignified and true and do unto others as you’d have done to you. Be courageous and be brave and in my heart you’ll always stay year you’ll always stay Forever Young, Forever Young, Forever Young!”

And Mom, in my heart and memory you still remain “Forever Young.”
horizontal-rule red 500px

Iannelli Celia 2014

Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in ‘retirement’ — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.






Write to Ceil:
[contact-form-7 id=”32160″ title=”Write to Celia”]

Support local journalism.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.