Award winning reporter, writer, documentary filmmaker
and lecturer at the University of Virginia, Elizabeth
Meade Howard, became the family elder after the death of her
prominent father, a New York/Los Angeles advertising executive.
To cope with his loss and adjust to her new status, she spent a
decade seeking guidance from seniors she respected for their
resourcefulness, resilience, imagination, adaptability and above
all, their successful aging.
Many were famous.
In her new book, Aging Famously, she’s cobbled together
33 intimate interviews from the likes of TV anchorman Walter
Cronkite, actors Hal Holbrook, Carol Channing, Nanette
Fabray and Dennis Weaver; former New York Mayor Ed Koch,
reincarnation researcher Dr. Ian Stevenson, and theologian Bishop
John Shelby Spong. Civil rights leader Rosa Parks adds brief
thoughts as well.
Collectively, the interviewees were resourceful, engaged,
purposeful and keenly aware of the passing of time. They
continued their passions, explored new ones, focused on the
future and overwhelmingly showed disdain for retirement – even
as their health declined.
Said Himan Brown, a radio producer who had worked with
many stars, “The minute you’ve retired, you’ve performed your
Another recurring theme: Gratefully accepting life’s offerings
and the accompanying pain. These people didn’t waste time
wondering what might have been.
The cover of the book portrays the cupcake with a single
lighted candle that President Obama gave to White House journalist
Helen Thomas in 2009, for her 89th birthday. Interestingly, they
shared the mutual birthdate of August 4. She died 4 years later
“Life is a gift,” Thomas had said. “Try to make the world
better if you can.”
One stands in awe of Howard’s ability to obtain access to these
celebrities and make them comfortable enough to bare their souls
as she probed their innermost thoughts about old age and dying.
Howard personifies Henry David Thoreau’s advice that none
are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm. Although
Howard’s own health is declining and she is losing friends and
family, she embraces the words of her mentors and proclaims, “If
they age well, I can too.”
Readers, we’d love to hear your advice
and tips for successful aging. Send
your thoughts in 250 words or less to
May 15. We may publish them in a