Famous 80 year Olds Speak Out

So Dame Liz Taylor – at 78 – is getting married again, for the ninth time. Taylor – whose past husbands include Conrad Hilton jnr and actor Richard Burton – has announced her engagement to her long-time companion Jason Winters, (49) a Los Angeles-based talent agent.

Still beautiful, she has survived a benign brain tumour, has congestive heart failure, and now uses a wheelchair because of osteoporosis. She still makes public appearances, but she’s not wearing as well as some of her age cohort, vigorous octogenarians like Deborah Szekely, Mike Wallace, and Dick Van Dyke.

Interviewed for a book Famous 80-year-olds Speak Out*, they are an inspiring example of creative spirit.

Some of their thoughts on living a long time:

Deborah Szekely, the founder of Rancho La Puerta retreat and Golden Door Spa, turns 88 in May.

Says Deborah:  “Without fail I observe that normal people today act and feel ten years younger than their parents – and people with high energy (the abnormal ones like me) seem twenty years younger.

(Age)  “is just a date n the calendar. In every way, shape and form, I am like I was in my 60s.

“My frustration now is the wasting of the lives of our elders, because our society “twins” the words “old” and “sick.

“If you’re one, you must be the other. I rail against this stupidity. Our elders need to find a role other than simply waiting. Our reliance on drugs refutes Hippocrates faith in the body’s ability regenerate itself as well as his admonishment to “do no harm”.

Ray Bradbury, well known science fiction author;

“My answer to growing old at any age is to fall in love and stay in love.

“As you progress through life you pick up your various loves and you connect with them and solve them, one by one.

“When I left school I couldn’t write anything. I couldn’t do anything. But I was in love with libraries and in love with authors who influenced my life…

By being in love and going into libraries and sitting there and letting the lives of all those people impinge on me, over the years my first love came to be. At 11 I wrote my first decent short story…

“My second love was poetry and I kept working at it till I was 42. Finally in my forty second year I wrote my first decent poem… and so it went.. I wrote a screenplay… a novel..

I was so in love with writing on so many different levels that I never noticed how bad a writer I was… Love covers everything and impels you into the future and you arrive in your 80s a damned happy person.”

Ray Bradbury will be 90 in August.

Dick Van Dyke, actor, comedian, singer and graphic artist.

“In my 80s I’ve come to the conclusion that attitude is everything. It has nothing whatsoever to do with your environment or your situation.

“I found that all my life, what has been eating away at me was procrastination. I was one of those people who put things off.

“When you procrastinate, your problems stay with you. When you act on them, they’re gone. Your conscience is clear and you’re content and serene. I don’t think people realise who much unfinished tasks are eating away at them.”

Dick Van Dyke will be 87 in December.

*From 80 Our Most Famous 80 year olds Reveal They Never Felt So Young, Gerald Gardner and Jim Bellows, Sourcebooks Inc, 2007

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