After speaking at a client gathering in California recently, I was approached by a gentleman who looked to be in his early 50s. He ran a successful dental practice but was only showing up to work now and then because he was too busy with a number of other causes, including a real estate company and a benevolent association. He had also been the regent at a local college, the president of the International College of Dentists (and three other professional associations), the chairman of the board at a local bank--and more. If that weren't enough, he had at some point returned to his childhood home in China to build a school, a modern water system and a temple.
Stunned by his productivity at such an age, I asked him how old he was.
"I'm 83," he informed me, "and I think I have a lot of good years left." He added, "I think many people have many more good years than they think--if they will stay with it."
At 83, he had the complexion of a man in his 40s, the eloquence of a talk-show host, the perspicacity and acuity of a surgeon, the energy of a marketing exec and the unmistakable shine of a man who had not only made his own way in the world but also made his own finish line as well.
I walked away from that conversation with a new hero and a new role model for how I want to be in my 80s.
He is a "Retirementor"-and we need more like him for inspiration. At my Web site, www.newretirementality.com, we're gathering retirementor stories for just this purpose: to inspire those who think differently to act differently, to be masters of their own destiny, to refuse to accept society's norms for when the game is finished and to be enthusiastic, knowing that while aging continues, "being old" is something within their locus of control.
Buzz Rogers of Webster Rogers LLC shared the moving story of his 90-year-old father--a true retirementor who never allowed the idea of "old" to enter his vocabulary.
"He was a Marine fighter pilot instructor during WWII, won third place in the World Acrobatics Championships in 1953 and was a competitive water skier in the early 1960s. He has remained physically fit during his entire life. He had a stunt plane until his mid-70s, still played the sax until his late 80s, water skied until 89, goes to his office five days a week and still goes to the gym three days a week. He has the most refreshing and positive outlook on life."
Rogers just recently finished building a house on Emerald Lake near Florence, S.C., with a garage apartment for his father. "When he asked why we were putting in an elevator, I told him, 'In case you need it someday.' He replied, 'The day I need an elevator, I am outta here.'"
(Go to the Web site www.emeraldlakeski.com to see four generations of Rogerses skiing together.)