Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's in Jimmy Carter's cornflakes?

Whether or not you agree with the politics of President Jimmy Carter, it’s hard to deny that the man is a dynamo, well into his 80s. Since Ronald Reagan beat him in the 1980 Presidential election, a defeat he describes as his “forced retirement” at the age of 56, Carter has been running full speed. He established the Carter Center, teaches at Emory, has written numerous books, and he jets around the world to try to eliminate terrible plagues such as Guinea worm disease, and to help resolve brutal, dangerous conflicts.

In a recent talk with Emory sociology students, Carter told them it’s not too early to think about what they will do at the end of their working careers.

“The average American spends about half of their adult years after retirement. And very seldom do we make plans about how we’re going to spend those years,” he said. “About the only thing we plan for is how can I gather enough money and put it in the bank so I can support myself.”

Aging is an opportunity to do good things for other people, Carter said, adding that the key to having a gratifying old age comes down to two words: Work and love.

He and his wife, Rosalynn, have been married 65 years. She tolerates his adventures, and he joins her in her favorite past-times, like skiing and bird watching. “I had never seen skis until I was 62 years old,” Carter said.

“We’ve learned two things in our retirement, one is to give each other plenty of space. I don’t tell her what to do with her life, and she doesn’t tell me what to do with my life,” Carter said. “And we try to heal our differences before we go to sleep at night. Sometimes we stay up quite late, but we don't go to bed angry. Those are the two basic rules we have.”

Baby boomers raise midlife suicide rate

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