The 100-Plus Hold Keys to Wisdom:
Age is the top of the mountain
Nearer the sky so blue
A long hard climb; a bit of fatigue
But oh what a wonderful view!
Ida Maya Gilland Fox, a Wyoming pioneer and mother of centenarian
Ida Fox penned [the above] poem [over 100 years ago]. Lynn Peters
Adler found it tucked in a mothers diaries, saved by a
["It is a timeless message," says Adler].
Today, Ida Foxs story is a chapter in Adlers "Centenarians:
The Bonus Years" (Health Press, 1995), a collection of stories
based on the accounts of their lives made by 250 centenarians.
[Adler says the 100 and 100-plus men and women are lives which
have bridged two centuries.] Adler celebrates these centenarians
lives in her book, but also in her work on behalf of the National
Centenarian Awareness Project, which she founded.
Today, the Centenarian Awareness Project is less than a
decade old and already operates with a database of 2,000 entries
on behalf of 100 and 100-plus Americans. Adlers goal is
to include as many of the 61,000 people who now are 100 and older
in the United States as she can locate.
"My goal here is to portray the positive side of growing
I am very committed to that, yet I recognized the
real challenges of living a long life," says Adler.
We can help her. If you are a centenarian yourself, or know of
a centenarian whose life you want to celebrate, think about joining
Adlers circle of friends. Let her know about yourself or
about someone whom you think she should know.
In her field, Adler stands apart from the cynicism that has seeped
into so much of the American public debate these days. She is
positive, self-assured and committed to celebrating the lives
of older Americans. She has worked as their advocate at least
since her move in 1984 from New York to Phoenix.
"Im now in my 14th year. I have had a deep
and an abiding interest in the well-being of older people ever
since I was 15."
In some respects, she is an evangelical Margaret Meade on behalf
of Americas elderly. She talks with them, she collects
their stories, and she works hard at penetrating the walls that
separate them from the generations before and after them. She
reached her métier, she says, when she discovered just
how much older persons still want and are able to contribute
to our collective wisdom.
Theres also another dynamic at play, "People in their
bonus years are benefiting from baby boomers new-found
interest in aging issues. The sheer demographics of that are
triggering an enormous awareness about aging issues," says
Adler. Still, many are ambivalent about growing older and remain
grounded in that part of America that is anti-aging.
That will last only so long, Adler warns. A positive outcome
is if there is a "more holistic acceptance of aging."
The role models for that will be none other than those who are
our seniors, she says.
The demographics are impressive. In 1985, the U.S. Census Bureau
reported 25,000 people age 100 or more. Today, the cohort numbers
61,000. By the year 2000, the number is projected to be 100,000
or better. People are healthier today. They are getting better
medical care for ailments. At the same time, "it takes courage
to grow old. A lot goes wrong with the body in the 80s and 90s."
Meanwhile, the media is becoming more receptive to portraying
positive images of aging. Still, "45 to 50 percent of [the
centenarian] population is impaired to the point where their
quality of life is not good. Its still true that the older
among us are often the poorer among us," she said.
Also, many of the physical changes associated with age occur
in tandem with the myriad losses a person experiences as he or
she grows older. We lose our ability to drive. Our vision gets
worse. Family member die. "Asking someone to give up his
or her home can be just one too many things to let go of,"
It makes more sense if our public policy could turn toward an
emphasis on keeping people in their homes whenever its
at all possible; an insistence on preventive health care; and
above all, not losing sight of the value in being positive.