The Virtues of Aging
of former President Jimmy Carter by Barbara Walters
a television interview, Barbara Walters said,
President, you have had a number of exciting and challenging careers. What
have been your best years?
is the best time of all.
have been the best years for Rosalynn and me. We've been through some
severe tests since I left the White House. We have struggled to find the
best way to retain our self-confidence, evolve an interesting and
challenging life and build better relations with other people.
we've grown older, the results have been surprisingly good. Here's what we
have learned about the virtues of aging that can make the older years the
best time of all for you:
the differences. When you were younger, you and your spouse had your
own separate interests - built around your careers and rearing your
children. Now it's just the two of you. You are drawn much more
closely together, and the differences that separated you must be
was dominant when we were a young married couple. That has changed. The sharper differences have faded during the 52 years Rosalynn and I
have spent together. We each have had to accommodate the preferences
of the other.
habits and interests still are different from Rosalynn's, but the gap
is narrowing. Rosalynn has worked at my interests - and has become a
good tennis player and an excellent fly fisher. She runs with me
several times a week and climbs mountains with me. Her interest in
business, politics and global activities now equals mine. In turn, I
have accepted with increasing fervor her preference to stay at home,
with each other and with our family.
each other space. As with most couples, profound changes have taken
place between Rosalynn and me as we've moved into our retirement
years. We've had to continue reconciling our natural personal
differences. One thing we learned very quickly was that we had to give
each other some space - a clear separation.
still have our share of disagreements, but we've finally become mature
enough not to dwell on them nearly as long. After a brief time, we
either ignore the differences or confront each other frankly and
discuss them rationally.
hint: I once prepared in my woodshop a thin sheet of walnut about the
size of a check. I carved on it, "Each evening, forever, this is
good for an apology - or forgiveness - as you desire." I gave it to
Rosalyn. It sometimes has been difficult, but so far I have been able to
honor my promise.
your life as expanding. A person my age - I'm 74 - now has the
remaining potential that only a much younger person had just a few
decades ago. We not only have longer to live, but in some ways, each
year now equals several years in the past. We are exposed to 15 times
as much knowledge as Aristotle was. Many of us travel much more in a
year than Marco Polo did in his lifetime.
own life has been greatly affected by computers. Every day I am at home,
I use word processing software for writing books, newspaper and magazine
articles, poems, letters - even my diary. When I'm traveling, I stay in
touch with Rosalynn and my friends and family by E-mail. I correspond
much more now with all of them than I did when letters had to be written
don't be seduced into inactivity by the same computer that offers such
expanded access to knowledge. There is a great world away from a soft
chair and the flickering screen.
your health. We do not face an inevitable decline in our health as we
age. Moderate exercise can have dramatic results in maintaining our
lung capacity, bone strength and mental sharpness.
of the best advice I've ever gotten is it is better to use recreation to
preserve health than to use medicines and treatment to regain health.
diverse life - filled with changes, experiments, innovations and
adventures - is one that is much less likely to be filled with illness.
A few dollars or days pursuing a hobby or pastime is a sound investment
that pays off twofold: You will enjoy life more...and you will avoid
costly medical expenses.
our age certainly cherish each day more than when we were younger. Our
primary purpose in our golden years is not just to stay alive as long
as we can, but to savor each opportunity for pleasure, excitement,
adventure and fulfillment.
some of your time to others. The most useful, fulfilling thing we can
do as we get older is to help others. One of our society's greatest
mistakes is the failure to measure, or even acknowledge, the
tremendous contribution that older people make. People who spin
roulette wheels are considered to be productive, but not people who
care for a disabled friend or family member or who do volunteer work
in a hospital.
every decade after age 55, unpaid work is the main form of productive
activity for both men and women. Rosalynn and I are active in Habitat
for Humanity - raising funds and going each year to a different site to
help build at least one home for a family in need.
are other organizations that are equally interesting, but require less
physical effort. Consider The Friendship Force (www.friendshipforce.org), which we
helped organize when I first became president. Groups of people travel
from their own countries to other countries, stay for a week or two in
private homes, and then welcome their hosts for a reciprocal visit to
this country. More than two million people have participated in the
program - many of them between 65 and 75. My mother went to Ireland with
a group from Iowa when she was 79.
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