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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mabel & Marilee Aging Well

At 102 years old, both Marilee Shapiro Asher and Mabel Sawhill are still working, one of the “secrets” of aging well that Petula Dvorak suggests in her article “Meet two amazing women who are still working at the age of 102. Yes, 102.”

Marilee is an artist, currently doing digital photography, a medium she pursued in her late 80’s when working with large sculptures became too physically daunting. One of her self-described secrets to aging well is the dedication she had to her art during two marriages and while raising two children. 

“I had to be selfish in order to keep making art,” she told Dvorak.

Mabel is a caterer, a profession she took up full-time in 1983 when she was 70 years old and recently retired from a government job. She now works approximately 100 events a year, including the usual weddings and funerals.

In fact, she catered her own 100th birthday party and, when almost twice as many people than expected showed up, she recalls: “I ran out and started cutting the meatballs in half.”

Her self-described secret to aging well? “I never married.”

Now as much as I love the idea of learning “secrets” to doing anything well, including getting old, I was more struck with two comments these women made during the course of the interview.

First Marilee, describing her photography: “I’ve always been afraid of [experimenting with] color,” she said. “So I’m working on that right now.” Now, I just love that idea—facing one’s creative fears at 102, knowing that there are still things to learn about one’s craft, and that the learning will inevitably involve some risk.

As for Mabel, she’d been a school teacher during World War II, but then moved from her home in Iowa to take a government job in Silver Springs. Why? Because, she said, “everybody was doing their part, and I thought I should do something for my country.”

Did that decision to engage in a cause bigger than herself have something to do with her longevity? Quite possible, I'd venture.

So, perhaps, it’s not just our work that helps us age well.  Maybe it’s also a willingness take risks, and a desire to contribute to the public good that keeps us vital, still in the mix, no matter how old we are.

To read more about these pretty darn interesting women:

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