It's no longer rare to hear about people living into their nineties or even over one hundred and remaining well and alert. A friend's mother who reached the ninety mark was bluntly asked, "Aren't you weary of this world? You're not independent any more. Do you want to continue living?"
Without skipping a beat, she said, "But I'm still curious. I'm curious about what kind of people my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are turning out to be, how the world is changing with the new technology and all. I want to see what tomorrow will bring."
And perhaps it is simple curiosity that helps old oldies get older. Good genes and a healthy lifestyle are also important factors. But curiosity pushes people on. Curiosity might kill the cat but humans thrive on it. Having goals and purpose in life also helps. Many great artists lived into their nineties. The most revolutionary artist of the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso, died at age 92. Arthur Rubinstein lived until 95 and kept on growing.
I was once present when Rubinstein gave a master class. A student played a Beethoven piano sonata. Rubinstein, who couldn't see well anymore, was sitting next to him. He felt his way along the keyboard and played the sonata in a slightly different manner. "You know," he said. "I've always played it this way. But I think you're right. I like your interpretation better." He was still willing to learn and grow.
This column is devoted to stories about people in the ninety plus category. Please send stories to this column about interesting people in this age group.
Here's one to start the ball rolling:
George Abbott wrote, directed, produced or acted in more than 120 plays over eight decades. He was the "Broadway Legend." He began his career as an actor in 1913 at 26 and at the age of 100 directed a revival of his 1926 hit, Broadway.
The following year, he wrote and directed Frankie, an off-Broadway musical adaptation of Frankenstein. In 1994, aged 105, he helped revise the text for a Broadway revival of his 50s hit, Damn Yankees.
He was productive all his life. In the 15 years between 1948 and 1962 he won 40 Tony awards. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for Fiorello, which also earned him the Drama Critics Circle Award.
When asked why he kept so busy, his reply was, "I'd hate not to have a job of some kind."
He died peacefully at his home in Miami Beach, his wife holding his hand.