I initiated this project to help satisfy my curiosity about old age. As it has progressed it has taken on special meaning for me in numerous ways. First, since I am well into my 70s, getting to know people who are a decade or so ahead of me and dealing successfully with aging provides me with role models, insight and inspiration for my personal journey into old age. These people are helping me deal with my fears and uncertainties. Second, I have found that every one of my subjects has an inspiring and fascinating story to tell about his or her life. I have gained a lot of new understanding of different cultural backgrounds and of the attitudes and lifestyles that enable people to thrive in old age. Third, I have enjoyed meeting and interacting with my subjects and forming new friendships.
Although much of my motivation for this endeavor has been highly personal, I hope that this book will serve the broader purpose of helping others to reduce some of their anxiety and fear associated with the aging process. Perhaps it will also help reduce some of the stigma that is associated with the elderly in our society. As these subjects clearly demonstrate, growing old does not necessarily doom us to dementia and infirmity. These alert and active individuals are thriving. They share a common, recurring positive attitude, which includes interest in other people and the world around them. We can all learn from their example and approach old age with optimism and enthusiasm.
One of the surprises in this project is that many people do successfully transform their lives by adapting their attitudes and outlooks, often late in life. In other words, many of us do get second chances in life. Based on this small sample of subjects, it seems that a willingness to adapt one's attitudes increases the odds of having a satisfactory aging process.