The Second Half: Staying healthy to 100

By Kathleen D. Tresemer


Last weekend, I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful woman in her Second Half of life, an artist, life coach and motivational speaker. Her book, Stay Young to 100, is packed with wonderful insights into her voyage through a bumpy life and the lessons she learned: to “make the rest of your life the best of your life!” One important point…this woman is 90 years old!

Charlotte Hackin is not only an artist and author, and a life coach, and a motivational speaker, but at age 81, she was elected Rockford’s Park Commissioner, holding that seat for six years. GAD! I was whining the other day because I couldn’t get my laundry done. I’m guessing this woman never sleeps.

Hackin was the kickoff speaker for the new 2009-2010 season of the Rockford Writers’ Guild (RWG). This year, the RWG meets in the conference room of the new East Side Branch of the Rockford Public Library, on East State in the old Barnes & Noble building. In addition to its other benefits, the Guild has a monthly speaker about topics of interest to writers and illustrators: authors, publishers, journalists, musicians and more. (Current Web site for the RWG: .)

The title of Hackin’s book is what grabbed my attention, Stay Young to 100. She is proof that her plan works—she neither looks nor acts like a 90-something as she is cheerful, vigorous and physically fit, not to mention her gorgeous turquoise jewelry. It seems like artists always have wonderful clothes and jewelry, while writers tend to be less stylish—well, maybe that’s just ME. My colleague, Kelly Epperson, is relentlessly fashionable (I lust after her boots), as are many of the other RWG members. Poet Susan Hasse also creates jewelry as an art form, and her Bohemian style is definitely more fashionable than mine. Maybe I need to think about investing in a new look, although I’ll have to wait until I pay off my leather motorcycle jacket and chaps.

Hackin not only looks fantastic, but she is enthusiastic about taking great care of herself. She started her presentation with a short film trailer about her life, and I saw the woman performing yoga in a class of youngsters (well, younger than I). Two minutes into the presentation, and I was already re-evaluating my attitude about my body and my sense of style, or lack of it. Call it one of those “If she can do it…” moments; it was inspirational.

She reports taking 2 1/2 years to write this book. “Why did I bother, at 90 years old?” she voiced the question. “Because I wanted to say something and, finally, at this age, I felt I was wise.”

The focal point of the presentation was her 10 Life Lessons for overcoming any adversity and obtaining a healthy body and mind. Let’s take a look:

1. Positive Thinking—More than half the book is about being positive, her first and most critical point. “We don’t just see with our eyes,” she writes. “We also see with our brain.” She stresses a conscious daily effort in training our minds to alter a negative perception.

2. Attitude is Your Protection—She quotes the Dalai Lama, “By training the mind,” he says we change our “entire attitude and approach to living.” Charlotte says our attitude protects us from “rusting out,” keeping us active and open to change.

3. Love Yourself—“Be selfish!” she tells us, taking time to meditate and recharge every day, without exception. Charlotte’s a big fan of self-discipline in all areas.

4. Give Up Resentments—“Get on with your life,” she tells us. “Address your addiction to mental self-punishment. Put it all behind you.”

5. Stay Healthy and Eat Organic Foods—The book outlines her eating regime, but she says simply, “Watch what you eat.”

6. Exercise Daily—She insists that exercise be the first thing we do each morning, before all else.

7. Recognize You Have “Choices”—This requires honesty, facing the reality of how we contribute to our own unhappiness; we must choose to put a positive spin on today, every day.

8. Keep Emotional Control—The book outlines the five components of emotional intelligence and how they work for you; Charlotte says it is critical to develop competence in this area.

9. Be Courageous—Facing your fears makes you stronger, and it helps to surround yourself with others who encourage this approach.

10. Enjoy Nature—Science supports the concept that enjoying nature adds years to your life. Having lived on a ranch in Arizona, she had easy access, but she insists we all get out there and breathe!

Hackin does not offer easy solutions, “The MIND is the whole secret to what you are about…with it, you can achieve the impossible!” She wags a finger in encouragement. “A mind that is flexible, and a mind that is adaptable, is not ambivalent.”

I felt scolded—the first thing I do upon waking each morning is lift a big coffee cup up and down, up and down, until it is empty. Refill and repeat. And I guess I am ambivalent, putting work and family demands ahead of my own sometimes. I am getting better, though. I find my ability to be “selfish” increases in direct proportion to the distance I put between my work and my self.

Mmmm…that calls for an organic steak dinner in a restaurant far, far away. And maybe later we can flex our minds!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the September 30 – October 6, 2009 issue

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