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Author to share advice on better aging at conference

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2002

Former schoolteacher Suzy Allegra of Santa Rosa, Calif., sold her home to hire a publicist and spread her message on aging.

"I'm 53, and very proud of it," Allegra says. She disdains the popular idea that youth is king.

"I wouldn't trade today for any day in my past," she says.

"How to Be Ageless" (Ten Speed Press, $14.95), Allegra's latest book, explores the how-tos of "growing better, not just older." Quotes by famous folk dot the margins.

"You are never too old to become younger," Mae West said. But the real trick is to stay alive as long as you live," Ann Landers said. Although we're always the same age inside,'' Gertrude Stein said.

Rabbi Harold Kushner thinks of life as a "good book": "The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense."

Allegra embraces a similarly upbeat view.

"I'm on a one-woman crusade to change the way we view aging in our culture," Allegra says. "I left teaching, but I'm still a teacher in my soul."

Allegra will share her tips Friday at the Sheraton in Marshall at the eighth annual Successful Aging Conference presented by Lutheran Affiliated Services.

"The focus of her book seems to be perfect for the objectives of this conference," says Barbara Marte, co-chairwoman of the public conference.

To age with grace, Allegra urges people to accept the aging process and follow their intuition while making the most of each moment. Allegra also encourages folks to cultivate friendships and keep an open mind for learning.

"Ultimately, we've got to accept that we're aging, and we do change as we age," Allegra says, talking by phone from a friend's home near Mount Shasta in northern California. "I've got wrinkles."

Allegra tells many stories of older people who swapped fear for fulfillment, such as the grandmother who went to school in her 60s to became a teacher, and the first-time sky diver at age 75.

"When you're interested in life, people are interested in you," she says.

Allegra specializes in guiding people through big transitions in their lives. She believes that graceful aging partly stems from indulging one's passions, such as a love for cooking.

Allegra left elementary school teaching in 1989, four years after going through a divorce. She has no children and no regrets.

"I knew I was burned out," she says.

A series of medical mishaps ultimately led Allegra to swap teaching children for coaching adults, especially corporate employees facing changes in the workplace.

"I think there are times when we need outside help," she says. "I have done therapy. … I work with a spiritual adviser."

Allegra's past clients include Hewlett-Packard, BankOne, the U.S. Forest Service, the City of Los Angeles, and FOCUS Career Centers in Europe.

"I coach people to make positive changes in their lives when they feel stuck," she says. "A lot of people are afraid of doing something risky, of going for their dreams."

Allegra defines being ageless as feeling a vitality for life that's unrelated to one's chronological age, physical appearance or others' expectations.

"One of my passions is travel," Allegra says after a three-week, 2,500-mile book tour. And she sort of looks forward to getting more gray hairs.

"I'll have to do less lightening," she says.

Suzy Allegra


  • Lecture by the author of "How to Be Ageless: Growing Better, Not Just Older," sponsored by Lutheran Affiliated Services' Successful Aging Conference.

  • Lecture at 9:15 a.m. Friday. Conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday.

  • Four Points Sheraton Inn, Marshall Township.

  • $50 conference fee includes breakfast and lunch.

  • (724) 453-6014.

    Advice of a lifetime


    How can one stay "ageless?" Author Suzy Allegra offers these tips:

  • Find joy in each moment, and be grateful for that joy. "Every moment provides an opportunity to learn," Allegra says. "Do not compare today to the 'good old days.' … As they age, people tend to romanticize the past."

  • Do what you love. "Even if you have a job and you don't love it, you've got to at least find things you love about it, or you need to be in another job, because life is too short to be just going for a paycheck," Allegra says. "You have to find something in your life that you are excited about. … Maybe you have a passion for golf, or chess, or hiking. … Whatever that is, make sure you bring that into your life on a regular basis."

  • Trust and follow your intuition. "As we age, it's easy for us to lose some of the self-confidence we had when we were in the height of our mid-life. If we buy into the 'youth is king' myth, we can give away our power to people of authority. This could be our doctor, our grown kids, our stockbroker, our lawyer. … If your intuition says, 'I'd love to go back to school,' and you're 75, and your friends are saying 'What do you want to go back to school for?' … you just say, 'I'm going back to school. My intuition says so.' "

  • Accept that you are aging. Accept that you are changing. Accept that you eventually will die. "It's the people who aren't accepting their life — whatever the change is — that struggle the most. Once you accept that things are the way they are, life actually can be much more enjoyable."

  • Be resilient. "When life slaps you down, pick yourself up with the attitude that says, 'OK, what can I learn here• How can I grow here• What's the silver lining?' instead of getting buried in resentment or blame. Along with that, you need that attitude that life is great. Life really is what we make of it."

    — Deborah Deasy

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