You’re Never Too Old

October 23, 2022

You’re Never Too Old

Recent activities this summer and fall have been senior writing workshops organized by The Room to Write (TRtW). This local non-profit organization’s mission is:

To connect and support writers of all ages, abilities and means,
by providing the physical space and structured support individuals need
in order to express themselves more effectively
for academic, professional and creative purposes.

The creative art and craft of writing (it is both an art and a craft) is probably the most affordable activity out there. It requires nothing more than a pen or pencil, paper, your brain, and time. No special skills or training required. No expensive equipment to buy.

It’s been refreshing this year to crawl out of our covid cocoons and return to the land of the living. TRtW has had a terrific response to its return to in-person programming. (See the Calendar listings at the bottom for upcoming events, including a number of TRtW-sponsored and -hosted ones.) These are a great way to get out and meet like-minded people, no matter what your writing skill is.

And you’re never too old to tell your story. Our TRtW friend Abettina, who is nipping at the heels of 98 years of age, published her first book, a memoir about her Italian immigrant father, at age 89. Now she’s working on a sequel. She is an inspiration to everyone who knows her, both the unpublished and the published.

If you don’t know where to start, just write whatever comes to mind – remembrances of times past, funny stories and sad ones, poetry to capture the finer details of your life, tales of relatives unique to your family, or imaginative scenes from a work of fiction you’ve been wanting to write. The details can be sorted later. You can’t polish what you haven’t written.

You have at least one story inside you, waiting to be let out. Just do it.

Sally M. Chetwynd
Brass Castle Arts
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To Tease Your Mind

There is a fountain of youth:
it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life
and the lives of the people you love.
When you learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age.

Sophia Loren
(b. 1934)
actor and singer

Secrets to a Long Life (Maybe)

Quite a few people I have known have lived full lives well into their 90s, some of them past 100. How often do we read an interview with one of these venerable citizens, where the reporter asks, “What’s your secret to your long life?” But never the same answers twice. No single answer exists because there are so many variables – physical, mental, psychological, genetic, chronological, environmental – in any one person.

Scientists publish studies of old people, trying to capture that one feature, that Fountain of Youth. Those usually result in a marketing ploy to convince consumers to buy expensive oils, creams, exercise devices, sleep aids, or whatever.

Sixty years ago, we heard about a people living in remote mountain villages – the Hunzas of Pakistan, some of whom were recorded as being in their 140s. Not their 40s, but their 140s! And this wasn’t in the least bit uncommon. Their longevity was attributed to their consumption of goat or yak yogurt. After reports about the Hunzas and their yogurt appeared in the commercial media, the yogurt craze took off in America in the 1960s as a miracle food (although it’s been significantly corrupted since).

I remember that phenomenon. Everybody bought yogurt-makers – little milk-glass dishes in which the culture formed. The hippies and the back-to-the-earth generation thought it was the best thing since sliced bread – or unpeeled carrots.

(Remember when the hippies told us that all of a vegetable’s nutrition is in the skin, so we should never peel it? I doubted then, as I doubt now, that story. The skin of a mature carrot is bitter. I’d rather eat peeled carrots, supposedly barren of nutrition, than no carrots at all.)

No doubt, isolation from toxic Western environments and pre-fab food is a significant factor in the long life of the Hunzas. They raise and eat clean food (a large portion of which is grains, fruits, and legumes). They breathe clean air, being distant from industrial and commercial centers. They get clean exercise as they hike all over their mountain eyries, tending sheep and gardens.

I have another take on longevity, a very modern, Western view. Bear with me as I take a completely unscientific romp through my theory that different factors govern different individuals’ longevity.

My mother was 96 when she died, and other than fading and shrinking because of the lockdowns two years ago, she wasn’t sick. The isolation is what killed her. Prior to that, I had to make an appointment to visit her, so I’d know she was home when I arrived. She was her town’s newspaper correspondent, and many times she was out every night of the week, taking notes at meetings of the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Historical Commission, the Community Club, the Friends of the Library, the Water Board – (pant, pant!) I think I’ve got them all, except for the writing club – she didn’t report on that to the newspaper.

That social engagement was her life blood. It kept her mind active.

An elderly lady in our church was 101 when she passed away. Miss Libby was extremely active no matter how frail her body became. We always asked how she was doing whenever we saw her. Her answer, with a huge smile, was invariably, “I’m doin’! I ain’t doin’ much, but I’m doin’!” But do not doubt for a moment: she was never “not doin’ much.”

At an Easter breakfast at the church, she told me that her high school band had participated in an All-State event. After three days of practicing with band members from all over the state, the combined musicians put on a concert. She said that once all had tuned up their instruments, “Mr. Sousa came out to conduct the concert.”

“Mr. Sousa?” I asked.

“Yes, Mr. Sousa. He was our guest conductor.”

“John Philip Sousa? The John Philip Sousa?”

“Yes, he was our guest conductor.” Miss Libby was very matter-of-fact about this.

So, this little woman, as a teen, had performed under The March King! That had to be in 1930 or 1931; Sousa died in 1932. It must have been one of his last public appearances.

I attribute Miss Libby’s long life to her abiding interest in everyone she met.

My mother’s Aunt Eva, the youngest of thirteen children, lived to be just short of 100. She was born on New Year’s Day in 1900, and lived in Lowell, Massachusetts, most of her life. She was known since childhood as being zany. Friends in the neighborhood knew that if you wanted to have fun, you hung around with Eva. There was never a dull moment in any visit with her.

Very late in life, she had to go into a nursing home because she was breaking bones just rolling over in bed. My husband and I visited her there, and her attitude was, “It’s probably high time I was in here!” My family has quite a collection of stories about her adventures.

But you didn’t show up at Aunt Eva’s without coconut macaroons. She was passionate about them. Maybe that favorite sweet was a factor of her long life.

One of my mother’s uncles, Eddie, married in his fifties. He and his wife Leone had one child, my second cousin Gerard, who is one month younger than me. Gerard has never married, and lived with his parents for the rest of their lives. Uncle Eddie died many years ago, but Aunt Leone lived for a long time afterward. She was 105 when she died, maybe ten years ago.

I know the secret to her longevity: Every Saturday, Gerard would drive Aunt Leone to Captain Newick’s Lobster House, either the one in South Portland, Maine, or the one in Dover, NH.  Aunt Leone always ordered the fried clam dinner.  (That woman did have an appetite!) 

Is the ultimate answer to a long life taking joy in simple things, exploring your interests, and staying engaged in the world? I’m voting on the theory that a hefty plate of piping-hot fried clams (whole-belly, of course), once a week, is the secret to a long life. Maybe with coconut macaroons for dessert.


A Book Worth Checking Out

Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light (1991)
Leonard Shlain

I picked up this book at a used book store for a buck or two. A fat book (almost 450 pages), it intrigued me. You know, me: the artistic type cum mechanical type. And now that I’ve read it, the concepts won’t let go of my beady little brain.

From the back cover:
“Art interprets the visible world, physics charts its unseen workings – making the two realms seem completely opposed. But in Art & Physics, Leonard Shlain tracks their breakthroughs side by side throughout history to reveal an astonishing correlation of visions.” In a nutshell, artists illustrate changes, present or future, in our cultures, then physicists explain the changes mathematically. Then the rest of the world (you and me) eventually comes around to affirm as reality what we first considered whacko, like Cubism and the existence of black holes.

Shlain, a surgeon of all things, fascinated me, taking me on a journey from ancient times to the present day, with theories about what the future holds in these realms. About the time I would find myself deep in the weeds (trying to understand what Shlain was talking about but still enjoying the tangible stretching of my brain cells), he would gently pull me out, close the chapter, and go on to the next. Each chapter builds on the previous ones. The back cover text ends with this phrase, which sums it up nicely: “an exhilarating history of ideas.”

This is a meaty tome, but you don’t have to be a scientist or an artist to get something out of it. It will make you think. You will turn over strange and wonderful concepts to see new facets glitter with his brilliance. My brain has been buzzing since I finished reading this book two months ago.

Shlain expresses great joy in this work, and that’s often a difficult commodity to capture.


Calendar & Announcements

The holidays are coming on fast, and so are the events!

Oct. 24, 2022 – Monday – Writers & Illustrators Meet & Greet
Sponsor: The Room to Write
Hosted at: Follow Your Art Community Studios
647 Main Street, Melrose, MA
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

  • Adult writers and illustrators of all genres and levels are invited to meet up at the big, yellow house—home of Follow Your Art Community Studios—to talk writing and art over a cup of tea or coffee and something sweet. Come enjoy a casual night in a wonderful space with other creative people! Participants are always encouraged to bring any artwork, books or work to share with others.
  • Click here for a link to The Room to Write for more details.

Oct. 25, 2022 – Tuesday – Seniors Writing Workshops
Writing Workshop Series by The Room to Write
Hosted at Wakefield’s Senior Center
30 Converse Street, Wakefield, MA
1 pm – 2:15 pm

  • I’m conducting the last in this series of writing workshops, about fiction writing. Previous workshops have been on poetry, conducted by Colleen Getty, and memoir, conducted by Kathleen Shine Cain.
  • Click here for a link to The Room to Write for more details.

Oct. 29, 2022 – Saturday – Boston Book Festival
Copley Square, Boston, MA
10 am – 5 pm
All activities are free.

  • Celebrating the power of words to stimulate, agitate, unite, delight, and inspire, the Boston Book Festival presents year-round events culminating in an annual festival that promotes a culture of reading and ideas and enhances the vibrancy of our city.
  • A day of readings, discussions, book signings, workshops, kids’ activities, walking tours, live music, food trucks, and other lively events, including the tent city of vendors of everything literary.
  • I’ll be on site all day at the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) tent.
  • Click here for a link to the Boston Book Festival for more details.

November – All Month – NaNoWriMo
National Novel Writing Month
Whitelam Books
610 Main Street, Reading, MA
7 pm – 9 pm

  • Every November, writers of every ilk and skill from all over the world participate in NaNoWriMo, committing to write 50,000 words in 30 days (1,666 words per day). Whitelam Books is offering its space and support to participants, with dedicated quiet time, social events to connect with other writers, and an open mic night at the end of the month. Whether you complete the 50,000-word goal or not is your business, but whatever you write is never a waste. It’s a resource that can be developed and finished. conducted by Kathleen Shine Cain.
  • Click here for a link to Whitelam Books for more details and the store’s open writing schedule.

Nov. 2, 9, & 16, 2022 – Weds. – Veterans’ Writing Workshops
Boys & Girls Club, Stoneham
79-81 Central Street, Stoneham, MA
7 pm – 9 pm

  • We invite Veterans, Active Duty, Guard and Reserve members to join us for this workshop series styled after the Seniors Writing Workshops in October, with one session each featuring poetry, non-fiction/memoir, and fiction.
  • Come with your stories! You all have at least one!
  • Click here for a link to The Room to Write for more details.

Nov. 12, 2022 – Saturday – Local Author Book Fair
Beebe Library
345 Main Street, Wakefield, MA
1 pm – 4 pm

  • Showcasing the surprising number of local authors right here in Wakefield, to give them an opportunity to share their work with the community. Authors representing a wide range of topics, genres, and age groups will be set up throughout the building with books to sign and sell. Best of all, it’s just in time for the holiday season, so mark your calendars and make it part of your holiday shopping plans!
  • I’ll be there with my two novels. Stop by and say hello!
  • Click here for a link to the Beebe Library for more details.

Dec. 3, 2022 – Saturday – ARIA Book Expo
Crowne Plaza Hotel
801 Greenwich Avenue, Warwick RI 02886
10 am – 5 pm

  • Over 130 authors exhibiting their books
  • Panels and seminars on writing and publishing
  • Free admission! Raffles!
  • Fill those holiday gift needs!
  • I’ll be there with my two novels and some books by my friends
  • Click here for a link to the ARIA Book Expo site for more details.

Past Events

Sept. 20. 2022 – Book Launch & Signing – Linda Rennell
Tewksbury Public Library, Tewksbury, MA

  • Linda Rennell (one of my clients) launched “Down The Road,” a heart-warming memoir about the true love and resilience of the marriage she and her beloved husband Kenny created – high school sweethearts forever.
  • There must have been sixty people there, all lined up for a signed copy of her book.


Do you have comments or questions about this post? I’d love to hear them. Let’s talk!

Happy reading! Happy writing!



Image:  Sophia Loren
Rotten Tomatoes

Image:  elderly Hunza women
International Business Times, “Anti-ageing secrets of Pakistan’s Hunza tribe …”
Vittorio Hernandez, October 11, 2016

Image:  Elizabeth Gile (1915-2016)
Local Headline News, Wakefield, MA

Image:  coconut macaroons
Tracey, owner of ‘The Kitchen Is My Playground’

Image:  fried clams
Newick’s Lobster House, Dover, NH;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=311159935

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