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Story pick: 90 is the new 70

By Theresa Vargas

The one interview I regret never having done was of my grandfather, who was born in 1910 and immigrated to this country at the age of 8, alone and unable to speak the language. When he died, I knew little more about him than those vague details and what I’d witnessed in the small bursts of times we spent together in a garden he filled with Elephant Ear plants or in front of a television he seemed to have perpetually tuned to Spanish slapstick comedy shows.

That’s what struck me about a series that ran last week in The Day, a Connecticut newspaper, titled “90 Is The New 70.”

It focuses on those born between 1910 and 1920, when life expectancy was between 51.5 and 56.4, and how that population has become one of the fastest-growing demographics. The number of Americans who are 85 and older is expected to grow by 231 percent between now and 2050.

The series consists of six stories, each reading like an interview with a grandparent. The pieces are heavy on quotes, but in this case I think it works since we’re tuning in to hear voices that might otherwise be lost.

The overall effect is one of sitting on the couch and having merely to listen to walk away with precious bits of insight. This one comes from Jim Hands, who at 96 has designed fabrics for clients ranging from the Lincoln Center to the White House. On designing the upholstery for a line of furniture created by Frank Lloyd Wright, Hands describes the famed architect as "pompous," along with a few obscenities:

"Don't quote me. There's a cult of people that like those leaky roofs. I'm serious about that. Any architect will tell you, 'My god, he can't build anything that doesn't leak.'"

By Theresa Vargas  | October 5, 2010; 1:11 PM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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