What 90 Looks Like


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Nonagenarian Florence Heater Wesley dons a Mardi Gras mask she made. (Photo by Connie Springer)

Ask teenagers today what they will be doing when they are 90 and they will probably look at you as if you were crazy. Ninety? People that age aren’t very active, right?

Well, Connie Springer would like to show you the other side of 90. A world of older Americans who remain active and engaged, some in past-times that they have enjoyed their whole lives, some in more recently discovered pursuits. A world that she has captured in a new book, “Positively 90“.

Springer grew up in Verona, and graduated with the class of 1966. She went to Oberlin College, studied photography in Boston and got a masters in library science there. She eventually wound up in Cincinnati, where she has pursued a career as a writer and photographer. While looking for a story for a local monthly magazine, a friend suggested she interview a neighbor who was 90 and an active gardener. The interview led Springer to see that old age could be much different than what she had experienced in her own family.

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“It made me think of my mother, how she was not that way,” Springer says. “She was isolated. After my father died in Verona, she was not very out in the world. She ended up in Cincinnati in a nursing home. I wanted a different view of aging.”

Funded by an arts grant from the city of Cincinnati, she set out to find other active nonagenarians. One was fit enough to swim the Ohio River, another continued the activism for peace and disarmament that he had begun during World War II, when he was jailed for his activities. “These people were so active, so different from how my mother ended up,” Springer says. “They were almost too busy to be lonely.” Springer did six exhibits of the photos and every time, people asked for a book based on her work. She finally self-published it late last year, and is selling it through the publishing Web site Blurb.

Some of the nonagenerians have died since Springer began her work, and she has gone to their funerals. “Even though they were old I was shocked when they died because they seemed so vibrant,” she says. “It felt as if they would go on forever.”

What about you? Do you have anything in common with Springer’s subjects? Take a look at her list of common characteristics below:

20 Personality Traits of Lively Nonagenarians

  1. Flexibility (being willing to adapt to new situations)
  2. Having a sense of humor
  3. Living simply
  4. Taking one day at a time
  5. Never turning down an invitation
  6. Doing things in moderation (particularly in regard to food)
  7. Getting regular exercise
  8. Having an optimistic attitude
  9. Keeping mentally stimulated
  10. Being open to meeting new people
  11. Relating to younger people
  12. Being connected to friends and family
  13. Involvement in enjoyable activities
  14. Loving to read
  15. Having a “nothing can stop me” outlook
  16. Sharing and caring
  17. Not thinking about age
  18. Being interested in what’s going on around you
  19. Never quitting learning
  20. Being just plain lucky: Being blessed with good genes, good health, and meaningful relationships

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


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