Archive for the ‘Beat the Odds’ Category

Service of Aging Gracefully

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Rita Moreno receiving Oscar in 1962. Photo:

My Aunt Dickie had a needlepoint pillow which read: “Old age is not for sissies.” How right was her pillow, though you’d never know it on the surface of things in some cases.

At the Oscars Eva Marie Saint took my breath away as did Rita Moreno and Jane Fonda. They are 93, 86 and 80 years old respectively but you could have fooled me. Ask Google about Fonda and among her list of accomplishments is “fitness guru.” I’ll say! Moreno wore a 56 year old dress—the one she had on when she received the Oscar for her role in “West Side Story” and she looked magnificent. As for Ms. Saint, she was elegant and sounded fabulous and closer to sixty than 100.

Doris Kearns Goodwin. Photo:

Hearing writer-historians such as David McCollough, 84, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, 75, rattle off dates and events dotted with fascinating facts and anecdotes without peering at a note is a thrill. Few can remember half as much and in such vivid detail at any age.

Here’s another example closer to home. To counter the ravages of Parkinson’s my husband, with a lifelong almost terminal allergy to any and all things exercise, has completed a grueling four weeks of practically daily physical therapy with stretches and sit/standing homework on top of it. Many days he can hardly get out of bed yet no matter how weak and queasy he feels off he goes to Sutton Place Physical Therapy returning exhausted and often cheerful. He’s cancelled only once—on one of the snowstorm days. He says that his head has felt clearer than it has in years making it easier for him to do tax prep, write—already gifted he works on improving—and preparing dinners restaurant chefs would admire.

Some Medicare-eligible citizens are blessed with genes that help keep them feeling and appearing youthful and are relatively disease-free; others have great facelift and fitness support teams and still others have the belly to fight. Will increasing numbers of high profile older folks who hit life out of the park positively impact prejudice against workers 45+ especially in some industries as film–for women in particular–advertising and PR to name a few? Do you know of any remarkable seniors you’d like to call out?


Homer Byington


Service of Beating the Odds: Paul Wittgenstein & Joe Biden

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Pianist Paul Wittgenstein

Pianist Paul Wittgenstein

These instances aren’t news. I became aware of them recently inspiring today’s post and me.


In NPR’s coverage of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I this morning, Tom Huizenga focused on the “Music of Conflict and Remembrance.” He also covered Austrian-born pianist Paul Wittgenstein whose career was literally shaped by the war.

Wittgenstein [1887-1961], lost his right arm when he was shot in the elbow yet he was determined to perform and “commissioned composers including Maurice Ravel to write pieces for the left hand alone.” Huizenga reported that Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith and Sergei Prokofiev also wrote such pieces.


Vice President Joe Biden stuttered as a child. Evan Osnos wrote in “The Biden Agenda,” in The New Yorker: “When Biden reflects on his childhood, he lingers on the experience of having a stutter.” His nickname was Joe Impedimenta.

Biden told Osmos he overcame the stutter by anticipating “what you think you’re going to be confronted with.” He’d practice the response as in, “how ‘bout those Yankees?” And he “Took to reciting passages—Yeats, Emerson, the Declaration of Independence—and by his sophomore year in high school the stutter was giving way. He won a race for junior-class president and won again the next year.”

Today Biden doesn’t like reading aloud so he avoids teleprompters–and written speeches–and prefers to speak extemporaneously.

There are countless inspirational examples like these in which people pursue a goal regardless. Please share some of your favorites.

Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden

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