This is our first entry in the Aging in the 21st Century series.
Beverlye Hyman Fead has a message to share: Don’t be scared of aging.
“My generation has every reason to believe that we will live into our 90s,” she says.
That generation has lived through a time of rapid change in society and has been part of an unprecedented growth in lifespan. But at the same time, this generation has also seen an increase in chronic disease because of this increased lifespan. Beverlye’s life profoundly illustrates both of these statements.
An 81-year-old Southern Californian, she is eagerly bounding into her 80s, excited about what lies ahead. But she also fought through two bouts of cancer that nearly ended her life.
Those experiences with cancer (one in her 50s and one in late 60s) didn’t take her vitality for life; instead they made her more determined to make the most of the time she has. It made Beverlye “bring her best self to the table,” as she puts it.
And it has helped shape her philosophy living as an older adult.
“We are going to have bumps in the road, but you have to drive through them,” she explains.
Part of Beverlye’s positive, can-do attitude was shaped by her own life’s experiences. She watched her grandmother, mother, and two sisters die young from cancer. Realizing how short our time on this planet can be, she decided to cram as much as she could into her life, becoming a mom, wife, and grandmother of five, a world-traveling artist, and in her 80s a speaker, author, and blogger.
An important aspect to note about those of Beverlye’s generation is that they are taking great care of themselves. Many of her peers are also embracing their older years. They are making better decisions about their health, while also enjoying their longer lives.
“My parent’s generation sat on the couch with a cigarette,” says Beverlye. “That’s all they knew how to do. But now you see people in their 80s and 90s running races, getting married, starting businesses. They are reinventing themselves. I think it is wonderful.”
Beverlye herself plans to keep pursing big goals: “I would like to do a TED talk about aging. I want the rest of the world to know about aging and how far it has come. We are a groundbreaking generation. I also want to show the generations behind us how they can make [good choices] so they can live healthier the whole way through.”
She also would like to get more involved in educating legislators about aging issues, especially as the older adult population grows.
As Beverlye reflects on her past and looks to her future, she offers advice for others on how to have a healthy life.
“In a blink of an eye, I find I’m in my 80s, but here I am. If I’d known I’d live this long, I would have taken better care of myself,” she jokes.
But take care of herself she has, “I exercise every day. I feel great. I would tell others to exercise; it is good for the head and body. To eat as well as you can. I would tell others to take care of themselves and look forward to the future. Don’t be afraid of aging.”
Quick Facts about Beverlye
- Beverlye grew up in Beverly Hills in the 1940s. While it was glamorous, it was also a much smaller town back then. “People were riding on horseback down Sunset Boulevard,” she recalls. She and her friends trick-or-treated at Jack Benny’s house, Debbie Reynolds was a Girl Scout leader, and she went to high school with Richard Chamberlain.
- Beverlye has a website called Aging in High Heels that’s worth a visit. It features her writing and positive perspectives on aging. You can learn more here. For a fuller version, read her new book, Aging In High Heels, a part memoir, part perspectives for healthy aging, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
- Watch her moving story about her fight with cancer called Stage IV: Living with Cancer and how, thanks to the miracle of research, she was able to beat it.