Throughout history, many figures have lived a very long time and continued to be productive well into their older age. Michelangelo, the famous sculptor and painter, created art well into his 80s. He died three weeks short of his 89th birthday. His last sculpture, Rondanini Pietà, was left unfinished, as he died before its completion. At age 87, he is quoted as saying, “Ancora imparo,” I am still learning.
There are many examples of people being productive into their twilight years. Ben Franklin invented bifocals at age 78 and signed the United States Constitution at 81. Frank Lloyd Wright worked on the Guggenheim Museum into his 90’s. Most of the structures built from his designs are still standing to this day. Pablo Picasso was painting into his 90’s. His last well known work, Self Portrait Facing Death, was completed a year before he died. It’s said that he painted up to just hours before his death. Grandma Moses last work, Making Horseshoes, was painted the year she died, when she was 101 years old. George Bernard Shaw wrote from the time he was 36 to 94 years old. He wrote up until his death in 1950. In 2014, Tony Bennett at almost 90 years of age, released with Lady Gaga titled Cheek to Cheek.
In modern societies, the increased average of life expectancy, and the decrease in the birth rate, has created an unprecedented demographic transition. The age pyramid that existed when I was born has literally been turned upside down. With the Baby Boomers reaching their twilight years, the number of older people is rapidly increasing; the number of young, decreasing. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Americans 65 and older make up about 13% of the population. In 1930 that number was 5.4%.
With the larger population, the elderly have more opportunity to be heard and have knowledge and experience of considerable value. I have been a lawyer for 46 years. At 75, I think it’s time to plan the rest of my life, keeping in mind the role models mentioned above. My goal is to find a way to enhance the lives of those around me, lend a hand to those who need it, and to be a good citizen in our community. I’d also like to find ways to improve and enrich my own life because, like, Michelangelo, I am still learning.