Faith and Creative Aging

Aired 2003-04. When Social Security was created the average life expectancy in the United States was in the 60s. Nowadays more people live into their 80s and 90s. The question becomes - what do we do with perhaps decades of "leftover life?" The Gift of Years: Aging Creatively in America explored this idea with a variety of vital elders: Robbins and Meg Barstow, in their 80s, lived in the same house in Wethersfield, Connecticut for half a century. Robbins belongs to a men's discussion group called, the Royal Order of Old Fogies in which the members, retired managers in their 70s and 80s, present papers they've written and invite comment. Meg belongs to a book club and to a senior women's exercise group. We heard from Nancy Spears, the executive director of Pennswood Village, a Quaker-run retirement community in Newtown, and several residents, not all Quakers. Residents were encouraged to do volunteer work and participate in decision-making at the community. They interacted with young people at nearby Quaker schools. Lydia Wein, 88, a widow in Linden, New Jersey, was studying for her Bat Mitzvah. She lived alone, drove at night, and was very active with friends and acquaintances at her synagogue. At a public library branch in the south Bronx, we watched as storytellers (Pearls of Wisdom) mesmerized youngsters with true tales of city life in days gone by. Joyce C Duncan, Amatullah Saleem and Thelma Thomas talk about the role of elders. Rabbi Zaiman Schacter-Shalmi, 78, founder of the Spiritual Eldering Institute in Boulder, Colorado, taught that elders embody wisdom, and enduring values and they can live joyfully and fearlessly until the end. CBS network air date: Sunday, April 13, 2003.