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Living a life well lived

Living a life well lived

Growing Bolder’s Bill Shafer wrote and produced a documentary about Sky Bergman who grew up with her grandmother and considered her one of her best friends and most important influences. When her grandmother was still working out at the age of 99, Sky decided to take her camera to the gym and film the workout. A project was born — a documentary celebrating others who embraced active longevity. In “Lives Well Lived,” Sky chronicles 40 people from age 75 to 100 sharing secrets and insights to living a meaningful life.

To view the video clip, click here.

Click here to learn more about Sky’s documentary.

Bill Shafer: Sky Bergman has always seen things a little differently, and it’s helped her become an acclaimed photographer and a college professor. But she never expected what happened when she aimed her camera at a place where few want to look, forward, ahead in life towards advanced age. But it’s there she discovered a treasure, it was almost, she felt, like a map to the secrets of a life well lived.

“I always say that everyone has a story to tell if you just take the time to listen.”

Listen is what she did. But what she heard was priceless.

  • “A life well lived is accomplishing your goals.”
  • “Being happy, loving people and being peaceful within yourself.”
  • “I think what keeps me going is my own internal curiosity. People will say to me, “You’re so curious. And I think what’s important in life is taking chances and risking, facing new situations, learning new skills and not getting in a rut.”
  • “If you can say that, “I’ve made the world a better place because I’ve gone through it,” then I think that’s a life well lived.”
  • “Live one day at a time, tomorrow comes soon enough.”

She focused on the lives of 40 people, old in age and strangely compelling. Watching makes you wonder if you might be getting a glimpse of your own future, something Bergman first though about with her grandmother.

“When she was about ready to turn a hundred, I went back and filmed her working out at the gym. She used to work on her exercise and lift weights. And I wanna tell you, she didn’t start working out until she was in her 80s. So it’s never too late to start working out. She had a phrase, “Move it or lose it.” And she really lived that. So I thought, well, I better film her, because nobody’s gonna believe that at almost a hundred, she’s still working out at the gym. And just as a throwaway comment I said to her, “Grandma, do you have some words of wisdom?” And that was the beginning of this whole project.

A project that started Bergman down a path of unexpected twists and turns, fighting against the fallacy that increasing age means diminishing value, revealing a source of wisdom that’s there for all of us to benefit from, that instead we tend to isolate and ignore. “One of the things that I learned when I was doing the research for the film is that the last hundred years is the first time in human history that we’ve looked to anyone other than our elders for advice. We look at our cellphones. And you think about young people, they don’t necessarily have that connection of a grandparent, or an elder in their life to ask questions to. And I really feel the world is suffering as a result.”

Suffering is a recurring theme. Nearly everyone in the film talks of facing something unthinkable, fighting in war, fighting for food, the sting of racism.

  • “We were taken out of our homes. We had to leave everything. And we could only take what we could carry.”
  • The Civil Rights Movement.
  • “I would be on the picket lines all the time. And coping with separation, loss and death.”

The film reminds us that wounds don’t always show on faces. Yes, Bergman had stumbled onto something more profound than even she realized.

“It was not only about their words of wisdom, but also about the stories that they had, and the legacy that they had, and their history. And how they overcame some really terrible times in their lives, and still were such positive people. And that those stories really needed to be told.”

They’re stories that are fascinating on their own, but even more important for what they can teach us about ourselves. Stories we can use as an invaluable guide to help direct our own difficult choices as we move forward, if we open our lives to those who came before.

Just because somebody’s older, doesn’t mean that they haven’t experienced the same things you’ve experienced. In fact, they’ve experienced it and they might be able to give you some advice on how to move through life so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

  • “Don’t yearn for things, they don’t make you happy.”
  • “You don’t get lucky without working very hard for things. But inevitably, there’s something wonderful that will happen.”
  • “Don’t sweat the little things.”
  • “Marriage is like a rubber band, you can only stretch it so much.”
  • “Work a little less, spend a little less, enjoy life a little more.”

“I wanna live a life well lived. And so I want people that are role models for that, what can I look forward to? What should I be doing so that when I get to the end of my life, I feel like I’ve lived a life well-lived.”

A life well lived is what we all want. It’s why her film has made such a connection. You know, one of the things that I like to leave audiences with, is the words of wisdom from my grandmother, which is, she always said, “It’s always better to be kind than right.” And she lived her life just being kind to people. And what a better world this would be if we were all kind to someone. Be kind to everyone, enjoy life to the limits. I’m grateful for all I have and the love of God and my family, that’s it now.

Growing Bolder is Rebranding Aging® all across America by sharing the inspirational stories of ordinary people living extraordinary lives; men and women who are smashing stereotypes and proving that when it comes to living big, bold lives, it’s not about age, it’s about attitude.


Becoming an ageing society will challenge both the country’s fiscal stability and the dream of ending poverty

Becoming an ageing society will challenge both the country’s fiscal stability and the dream of ending poverty

First published by ISS Today

The wave of global ageing that has spread across Europe and East Asia is lapping at the shores of countries in the Global South. In the next 25 years, South Africa will be the fourth country – after Mauritius, Seychelles and Cape Verde – in sub-Saharan Africa to become an ageing society. In efforts to eradicate poverty, this increase in demographic dependency can have negative consequences.

By 2045, the share of South Africa’s population that is over 60 (the qualifying age for an older person’s grant) is expected to double, from 8% to 16%. In absolute terms, the number of older adults will increase from about 4.5 million to 10.6 million, growing at an average annual rate of 2.9% compared to 0.6% in the overall population.

Responses to population ageing have differed around the world. Japan is spearheading robotics for elder care, whereas in Eastern and Central Europe responsibility lies more with the family. South Africa will offer one of the first case studies for managing ageing in Africa, and with the benefit of foresight, it is today’s policymakers who can determine whether it will be one to be emulated or avoided.

Population ageing is in its early stages in South Africa, so an examination of the issue still generates more questions than answers; however, several known issues should be considered.

First, ageing creates economic vulnerability. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, South Africans have minimal savings and on average can expect to earn only 16% of their working salaries in retirement, compared to 69.5% in Brazil and 87.4% in India. This means most South Africans will rely on family members’ financial support in retirement or risk falling into poverty.

Second, South Africa’s dual burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases manifests in high levels of unhealthy ageing. There is a reinforcement loop between unhealthy ageing and low incomes in South Africa, and black African women are especially vulnerable to experiencing poverty and having their care needs go unmet in older adulthood.

Third, ageing creates economic risks at a macro level. Population ageing leads to slower economic growth, and as the proportion of older adults rises, so will the size of the economically vulnerable population and demand for social grants. These trends will challenge both the country’s fiscal stability and the dream of ending poverty.

Given the dual relationship between health and income, there is however also an opportunity to make the future of ageing brighter. Since it is an emerging trend, there is time to invest in healthy ageing, which is best supported by enhancing well-being along the life course. The roll-out of a national health scheme, in particular, offers an opportunity to start making routine medical care more forward-thinking.

In addition, demographic pressure in high-income countries is accelerating research into healthy ageing, and resulting technological advances could help bring down its cost. Importantly, South Africa will need to consider whether and how medical technologies that ease the financial and physical costs of ageing will be able to be equitably accessed.

To continue reading this article by Daily Maverick (written by Alanna Markle), published on the 25th of November 2019, click here.

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