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Chuck, I always have admired and looked up to you for your zest to keep on keepin’ on. As I get older, I’m seriously losing the zip in my drive. How do you stoke your fires for living? – “Curious in Calgary”
One day, an elderly friend of mine was depressed about growing older, so I said to him, “Seize the day.”
He joked, “I’ll be lucky if I don’t seizure the day!”
Unfortunately, too many of us retire from life instead of re-enlist in it. Though it’s tempting to sit back and lounge like a lizard as we age, I just keep moving and involve myself in important work, such as the Kickstart Kids foundation, which my wife, Gena, and I founded.
In March, I passed another birthday. To be honest, some birthdays approach like a Carnival cruise. Others pass like kidney stones. That same elderly friend I mentioned a moment ago gave me a birthday card with several funny, lighthearted aging quips – completions to the adage, “You know you’re getting older when …”
- You feel like the night after, and you haven’t been anywhere.
- Those issues of Reader’s Digest just can’t come fast enough.
- Everything hurts, and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.
- All you want for your birthday is not to be reminded of your age.
- You actually want socks for Christmas.
- You and your teeth don’t sleep together.
- You remember when the Dead Sea was only sick.
- Your address book has mostly names that start with “Dr.”
- People call at 9 p.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”
- You take a metal detector to the beach.
As hilarious as some of those are, some hit pretty close to home!
As my 90-year-old mother, Wilma Norris Knight, wrote in her new autobiography, “Acts of Kindness: My Story” (available only through my official website, ChuckNorris.com), “Growing old ain’t for sissies!”
My mother’s life has been a true inspiration to me; she’s modeled how to grow old gracefully, without extinguishing the spark for life.
I found another example of optimistic aging and continued activism a few years ago when I stumbled upon a Los Angeles Times article about 91-year-young Kirk Douglas, who is blogging. I highly respect the man for his stamina, career and activism. He has not only won every award Hollywood offers, but also been a goodwill ambassador to at least 40 countries.
Douglas wrote a book titled “Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning.” In his pre-centennial decade, Douglas still is using his stardom to make a difference and striving to better himself and the world around him. He even has his own Facebook page and enjoys chatting online. I always have loved to watch Kirk on screen. Some of my favorite films include “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and, of course, “Spartacus.”
Another great exemplar of optimistic aging was the towering figure and icon Charlton Heston. Outside of his monumental contributions to stage and screen, Heston was a noted activist. I remember when, during the Gulf War, Heston attacked CNN for “sowing doubts” about the allied efforts.
As one news report conveyed, “With age he grew more conservative and campaigned for conservative candidates. … His latter-day activism almost overshadowed his achievements as an actor, which were considerable.”
In 2003, he was suitably awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Heston, like Douglas, understood that we’re called to use who we are to serve the greater good.
Douglas recounts how someone once told him, “Be ashamed to die before doing something for humanity.”
That is why he purports, “As you get older, you must think more of other people. You must strive to help other people.” Then he offers this generational plea: “Who needs the most help but the young? What kind of a world are we leaving them?”
Dr. Anthony Campolo once cited a study in which 50 people older than 95 were asked, “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?”
An array of responses came from these eldest of senior citizens. However, three answers surfaced far more often than others. 1) I would reflect more. 2) I would risk more. 3) I would do more things that would live on after I am dead.
If Bob Hope supported our troops until 100, George Burns made us laugh until 100, Charlton Heston showed us what activism looks like at 84 and my mother and Kirk Douglas can write books when they are 90, then you and I have the second half of our lives to continue to make an impact on this planet.
That’s why I love this thought by Abraham Lincoln: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
A few years ago – when I was 66 – I was interviewed for ABC’s “Nightline.” Bill Weir asked me how old I was, and I proudly told him.
Then I added with a smile, “I like to say I’m 39 with 27 years of experience!”
I loved his response even more. Quoting one of the thousands of “facts” about me circulating the Internet, Weir said, “Well, according to the Chuck Norris ‘facts,’ ‘Chuck Norris doesn’t age; he roundhouse kicks time in the face.'”
After a huge laugh, I sincerely thought about it and replied, “That’s exactly what I do!”
That’s exactly what I believe we all should do.