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These six seniors prove that getting older doesn’t have to mean slowing down.


Getting old -- is there any other human habit that’s received as much lousy press since the dawn of civilization and osteoarthritis? “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act,” Truman Capote once stated, and he’s not alone in that thinking.

“All diseases run into one: old age,” posited a stiff and graying Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“I didn’t even see it coming,” Phyllis Diller kvetched, referring to getting on in years. “It hit me from the rear.”

“The last birthday that’s any good,” Andy Rooney once griped, “is 23.”

Okay, we get the picture. Life north of 70 is an increasingly sour joke, a crucible of chronic joint pain and short-term memory loss, a bulging medicine cabinet, a solid excuse for either scowling at mischievous kids up to no good on your front lawn or joining a cribbage team. As British novelist Anthony Powell, who made it to 94, more eloquently lamented, “Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you have not committed.”

Perhaps you aren’t 94 quite yet, but it’s probably an age you aspire to be one day. And in spite of all those glum reports from our brightest literary oracles, our sharpest comics, and our most curmudgeonly 60 Minutes closers about reaching venerable status, maybe you wouldn’t mind getting a second opinion on that whole deal.

What’s it really like to be over 70? The following panel of heli-skiing, paragliding, mountain-climbing, Ducati-riding, single-engine-plane- flying, life-affirming golden-agers will now weigh in on the subject.



JEAN KENDALL

Age: 75
Hometown: Spokane, Washington

VOCATION: Charitable work and raising a family.
AVOCATIONS: Heli-skiing, alpine hiking, scuba diving, overseas biking expeditions, and camping with my family.
LAST YEAR’S ITINERARY: Heli-skiing and cod fishing in Greenland, hiking in the Canadian Bugaboos, and trekking and fishing in New Zealand with my husband.
WHAT’S NEXT: Repeating as much of last year’s itinerary as possible.
PROUDEST MOMENT: While my outdoor activities sustain my spirit, I’m most proud of sponsoring scholarships for single parents at our local community college as well as a scholarship at the University of Iowa in honor of my brother, who headed a department there for 25 years.
TOUGHEST PHYSICAL/HEALTH HURDLE I’VE FACED SO FAR: Six years ago, a partial knee-replacement kept me off the slopes for a year. Then, two years ago, a bout with breast cancer required surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation -- but I won the war (and was rewarded with curly hair).
WHAT I’VE GIVEN UP: Doing the dishes.
WHAT I’LL NEVER GIVE UP: Heli-skiing. After more than six million vertical feet and 40 years, I can’t imagine quitting. Also, working through a personal bucket list I started when I was 50; I’ve already climbed Mount Rainier, trekked to the base camps of the major Himalayan peaks, circumnavigated Annapurna, summited Kilimanjaro, skied in Kashmir, and trekked in Bhutan.
PERFECT DAY: Gliding down an untracked mountain on skis in fresh, over-the-shoulder powder under a brisk blue sky.
MOST EXHILARATING EXPERIENCE: A tie between skydiving with my daughter and the birth of my first grandchild. Both experiences literally took my breath away.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF LIFE: Never pass up an opportunity to do something new. You regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: The majority of people “hang up their skis” way too soon. And the minority, who don’t, have more fun.