Out With the “Old” ...and In With The “Exuberant State”


Our obsession with youth and beauty in our culture (among a host of other things) tends to give a pejorative feeling to the word “old.” It’s a problematic connotation to say the least, and it’s about time we dismiss our ageist prejudices and celebrate folks who have put in their time on this earth. Let’s redefine what it means to age!

Offering a different take on retirement, Casey Dowd on Fox Business explores the idea of getting older successfully through an interview with Dr. Donald B. Ardell, publisher of the website Seek Wellness. Ardell, a self proclaimed “wellness evangelist” explains that preparing for retirement is not just about saving money and preventing disease. While these things are important, Ardell is seeking an even higher state of grace in old age — something that we at WW are all about:  

Wellness is a mindset and a lifestyle. It’s the opposite of trying to stop something from happening. Wellness means trying to make something happen - and that something is positive health beyond the absence of illness and disease. It has nothing to do with doctors, with drugs, with treatments of problems. There is nothing medical about wellness. It’s a “celebrate life and enjoy more of it” philosophy. Rather than focusing on avoiding unpleasant states, it seeks out exuberant states that are attractive.  It’s motivated to make good things happen. In a few words, wellness is a set of action-oriented ideas, choices and behaviors that boost quality of life.

Is it possible to actively seek a vibrant life, even when you are approaching an older age? We certainly think so, as does Lewis Lapham, who along with photographer Erik Madigan Heck and journalist Camille Sweeney in a recent NY Times Magazine piece, shine a spotlight on 14 people who are over the age of 80 and doing incredible things. You’ll recognise some household names like Ruth Ginsberg, Diane Feinstein and Tony Bennett, as well as some luminaries you may not know such as Carmen Herrera, painter, 99, who sold her first painting 10 years ago, and marathon runner Ginette Bedard, who just completed her 12th consecutive race. Lapham, age 79, asks the question what it is that keeps these folks going. After much consideration, he comes to a conclusion that learning (and not striving towards a goal) has its own satisfying end:

It is in the effort to close the distance between the work imagined and the work achieved wherein it is to be found that the ceaseless labor is the freedom of play, that what’s at stake isn’t a reflection in the mirror of fame but the escape from the prison of the self.”

Ardell and Lapham are speaking the same language, where living life for the sake of life itself is the key to having a full (and potentially long) existence. Hopefully these stories will inspire us to seek our own personal wellness and strive towards wellness for others regardless of the amount of years we are on this earth.  


Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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