You won't find Edith McAllister on the porch in a rocking chair. At 93 years old, she’s got a full schedule. “I go out every night and I’m booked solid every day,” she told me with a smile.
I met Edith on a recent trip to San Antonio, where my photo exhibit, Aging Across America, was installed at the Briscoe Library at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Edith is a founding board member of the Center for Ethics and Humanities, which sponsored my exhibit and grand rounds talk entitled Geriatrics, Humanistic Medicine, & Art.
When I first called Edith to meet her and set up a photography shoot, she said, “Let me check my schedule.” I met her at the pool where she swims laps daily, and we had breakfast together. She ordered eggs, sausage, and an English muffin slathered with butter. As a medical doctor, I wondered who in their right mind would tell Edith not to eat that.
Edith is a philanthropist and community activist, and her accomplishments could fill a book. She spearheaded the purchase and conversion of a complex of historic buildings, formerly a convent, into a campus dedicated to the teaching of jewelry making, painting, and crafts. The ceramics studio, a central component of the campus, bears her name. Her latest project is building an art school in downtown San Antonio on the River Walk and steps from the Alamo.
I asked her how age has affected her activities. “I’ve been trying to get more sleep,” she replied. “I am shooting for 8 to 9 hours a night.” Edith is attuned to chemicals and environmental influences on her state of mind, and has not touched alcohol or caffeine containing beverages in decades.
Edith shared with me her secret to a healthy old age. “Always keep moving,” she said, “because once you sit down you never get up.”
During my stay in San Antonio I photographed Edith at her pool, ceramics studio, and evening dance class. I admired her zest for life and boundless energy, and had trouble keeping up with her. “If you want to live a long life,” she winked, “better get busy!”
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To see a video of Edith McAllister water skiing along with an interview click here.
The Faces of a Generation Deserve Attention, an essay by Dr. Jerry Winakur reprinted from Caring for the Ages.