Reading: The Art of Aging Happily

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The Art of Aging Happily

It’s about making your own chocolate from beans or hitting a cold-water writers colony. Right now. Today.

By Erin McHugh and Emily Luchetti

Aging happily
Photo by Harli Marten

When we met a couple of years ago, introduced by a mutual friend because we were both writers, Emily had just turned 60, and Erin, 65. We immediately dove into discussions of writing, of course, that being our commonality. But as new friends do, we kept discovering ways we were alike, along with different things about each other that interested us and made our growing friendship richer.

We talked about age, too. Neither of us was upset about our age, but certainly, it was front of mind. We celebrated our birthdays. Emily is a pastry chef, so she invited 70 women in the food world to lunch. It was an afternoon filled with love, fun, toasts, and lots of cakes. For her 65th birthday, Erin compiled a seven-hour disco playlist and invited 65 people to live it up in her backyard. Her new friend Emily baked her six cakes. Dancing and eating cake: is there anything better?

We are both into our Third Acts, and find we want to look into the distance and see what’s on the horizon. We try to plan ahead for exciting adventures, large and small. Emily no longer hangs in the kitchen day to day, but creates dessert menus for a restaurant group in San Francisco; she has become a James Beard Foundation board member. She makes chocolate at home — straight from the beans. “I don’t really know what will come of [this chocolate]” she says. “I may end up just making it for my friends, or open some kind of chocolate company. Either would be fine. People spend their entire careers studying chocolate-making. As I’ve gotten older, I no longer need to be THE expert. It’s about the craft, and enjoying the process.”

Erin is about to embark on a briefer, completely different type of adventure. “I was looking for a week-long writer’s retreat and discovered the dune shacks outside of Provincetown on Cape Cod. There is no running water, no heat, no electricity. Not a camping enthusiast, this is completely outside my comfort zone. Yet I know I’ll be creative there, and learn much about solitude. I’m nervous in the best possible way, and excited to see what comes out of it.”

These are things in the right now, but when we talk about the art of growing older, we find that three things keep coming up that feel important to both of us:

  1. Don’t be wary of new friends and relationships. This is how the life you have now grows richer, how you stay open to new views.
  2. Welcome new experiences. This is what life at our age is for! It’s not a time to talk about retirement — it’s your chance for reinvention. It’s not about radically changing your life. Little things like going on hikes or opening yourself up to a new kind of music can make a difference in your outlook.
  3. Try to make one of the first things you say to yourself every morning be, “What’s next?” Maybe the answer is something that’s been on your bucket list for years or just something fun that adds joy to your day. We have a favorite ice cream spot that’s a 36-mile round trip foray, and is actually in another state. But that never stops us. “Going for ice cream” is forever one of life’s great treats.

And above all, remember: older is getting younger all time.

EMILY LUCHETTI is a James Beard Foundation Award-winning pastry chef and cookbook author. She lives in Sausalito, CA. ERIN McHUGH is a former publishing executive and author of 30 books on everything from inspiration to history, kids books to trivia. She lives in South Dartmouth, MA. Their new book, “So Who’s Counting?: The Little Quote Book About Growing Older and Still Kicking Ass” has just been published.

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