May 2002
Vol. 2 No. 12

Speaking to a standing-room only crowd (and a standing ovation welcome) as the keynote luncheon speaker at the "Senior Power Symposium on Aging America," hosted by Blue Cross of California and WellPoint Health Networks Inc., Art Linkletter, 89, exuberantly stated in his opening remarks, "I'm having the time of my life!" And if humor, contribution, and lifelong learning are indeed among the key components to living a healthy, long life -- Art Linkletter is on an incredible journey. Two months shy of his 90th birthday, Art Linkletter has that "joie-de-vivre" (joy of life) ageless spirit that makes him a pure joy to be around. Granted, he is a celebrity, famous-type person who has achieved great success, but I'd bet that if you took it all away from him tomorrow, he'd still be a remarkable, engaged individual who would continue to make a positive difference in the world.

Art Linkletter's 30+ year career in the entertainment industry started in the 1930s as a radio announcer, yet he is most often recognized and still remembered as the host of his widely popular, "Kids Say the Darndest Things" television series.

One of his favorite examples of kids telling it like it is was with his own grand-daughter who asked him to speak at her school. She introduced him in that typical, kid-classic, honest-humor style by saying, "This is my Grandfather -- he's 89 and still alive!"

And alive Art Link letter certainly is -- still active, living life. He's involved in a variety of business ventures ranging from solar power (in which he's considered one of the leading experts), and a variety of entrepreneurial enterprises, as well as serving on the Board of a number of prestigious organizations.

It's obvious he believes very strongly in the importance and value of staying involved in meaningful activities throughout life as one of the secrets to living a healthy, long life -- and he's certainly practicing what he preaches.

"I'm happy to be alive and learning new things at every age and stage along the way," Art claimed. "Having a challenge and purpose in life are so important--and being able to enjoy the wisdom that can only be acquired through life is certainly one of the benefits that comes with age."

As you might expect, in addition to sprinkling his talk with nuggets of wisdom -- humor plays a part too. "Life is what happens to you when you're making plans," he shared. "And Phyllis Diller told me once that if you really want to make God laugh....tell him your plans!"

A sense of humor we know is an important trait in getting through life. And Art Linkletter says he feels blessed to have recognized early on that sometimes the simplest things in life can actually be the most humorous -- which likely explains the successful theory behind his long-running television series.

"In addition to laughter being fun to do, it makes you feel good too," Art shared. "Scientists have determined that beneficial, physical things actually occur in our bodies when we laugh. We release endorphins that do all sorts of good things for us. So get out there and look for the funny things in life!"

But when Art Linkletter talks about what makes people happy in life, he's quick to point out that it's not about money, power, and fame. He believes in the importance of learning and having a purpose.

"We need to encourage older adults to grow, learn, and experience new things to enjoy life," Art said. "The value of adult education is one of the best things we can encourage people to participate in."

One of the organizations he works very closely with is the UCLA Center on Aging which has a highly acclaimed adult education division. "Every grandparent should write their biography to pass on to the next generations because what people learn from what's happened before is one of the best ways to understand and appreciate life history," Art shared.

Art Linkletter has long followed a basic motto, "Make the best of the rest of your life." And although he's often referred to as an Ambassador for Positive Living, it hasn't always been easy. In fact, it was actually a personal tragedy thirty years ago that brought him to where he is now.

"One of the most difficult days of my life was receiving the news that my 20-year old daughter had committed suicide experimenting with LSD," Art sadly remembered. "Right then and there, that very day, I quit my TV work and chose to try and help others faced with similar tragedy and became a public voice in the crusade against drugs."

On his new mission, Art Linkletter spoke at the White House, United Nations and many other venues to help fight drug abuse. And it was during this work that he discovered his love for talking about issues people cared about in order to make a difference. He lectured everywhere from prisons to board rooms -- all the result of a terrible tragedy he hoped he'd help prevent some other family from suffering.

Today, Art is still a man on a mission to continue making a positive difference in the world. And with his wife of 66 years, Lois, right by his side, along with his 9 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren he's vowed to continue growing...growing up, that is.

"Getting older means different things to different people," Art said. "It's not how old you are -- it's how you are, old. The key is to never stop growing -- maintain the childlike wonders of lifelong learning and exploration and you too, will have the time of your life!"

Kelly Ferrin is a local gerontologist residing in Carlsbad. She is a certified AARP retirement specialist, motivational speaker, consultant, and author of a
nationally released book titled, "What's Age Got To Do With It?" For column
ideas contact her at (760)438-2126 or on the internet at
Kelly Ferrin, Gerontologist Lifestyles (760)438-2126

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