Approaching the community of Styrn, Norway.

Secrets of Aging Well in Norway

Cruising the Norwegian coastline in September is a way of buying time, of getting my emotional and geographic bearings before reentering Shangri-la. That’s how I remember Stryn, the pastoral idyll deep within the shrouded glacial mists of the Nordfjord, Norway, discovered via seaplane, no less, in April, 1971. I was an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow on aging around the world. (Later, Newsday columnist for “Life Over 60”) In Bergen, an intuitive editor suggested I visit his cousin in home town Stryn, offering transport in the Bergens Tidende aircraft next to the pilot and the newspaper’s Tuesday edition. For two unforgettable weeks, Martin Lilleheim, and his wife, Malene, adopted me and my quest, opening doors unto a loving, balanced milieu. Fidelity to family, custom, and place bonded old and young. An athletic vitality defied chronological aging. Retirement was a foreign concept. Martin Lilleheim at drinking fountain. Planning a return, this time introducing my husband, Bill, intensifies concerns. As Bill teases about my “shrine,” I wonder if it was all fantasy or journalistic hubris. We board the

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Norway: Scandinavian country a majestic jewel by land and by sea

The Post and Courier Charleston, South Carolina Sunday, December 30, 2001 ARTS & TRAVEL, front page   Sometimes you need to see a place from a different perspective to better appreciate its history and culture. That is true of Charleston as you glimpse the story-rich shoreline from a Fort Sumter tour boat. That is even truer of Norway, all twelve hundred craggy miles of coast walled by barren cliffs and glaciers that plunge into the North Sea. Subsistence patches of scrub forced Vikings as early as 800 A.D. to go “aviking.” The Norse verb for exploring propelled them, bravely, into uncharted waters and the determined conquest of five rich continents. Late summer, my husband, Bill, and I made comparatively luxurious explorations via the Norwegian Coastal Voyage’s new “MS Richard With.” We had flown from Oslo to board the ship in northern-most Kirkenes. Then we sailed south, a five-day odyssey that led to the port of Maloy and further adventure. Our extended wanderings began when we docked near the tip of the globe and took a

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The aged in particular observe this annual pilgrimage to the island of Kusu, an hour's boat ride from Singapore. Legend says Tua Pek Kong; the god of prosperity once performed a miracle here. The island itself is not much bigger than the temple and worshippers come with offerings of chicken, pink dyed eggs, fruits and flowers and pray for luck, health and prosperity.

The Aged In Singapore: Veneration Collides With The 20th Century

Singapore December, 1971 If you have the feeling Big Sister up there is watching you, she is. She also has her eye on the Pheng family and recently signified her approval to granddaughter Swee Lan’s marriage. Last week, everyone turned out for her birthday party. And, in general, Mme. Pheng Kum Sing is in the forefront of all family festivities and decisions. Symbolically, of course. The grand old lady died five years ago. Nevertheless, she is venerated – and saluted daily with burning joss sticks and red candles – in a manner few elsewhere enjoy while living. The house is a simple, atap-thatched roof hut in a Chinese kompong or squatter’s settlement seven miles from downtown Singapore. Fire is an ever-present danger and rain filters regularly through the flimsy, patched wall. Four family members sleep in a small room on a railed, oriental-style, four-poster bed. Grandma enjoys a niche of her own near the family altar – a bracketed wall shelf, which greets you at eye level as you enter the main door. There, beside

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Women and men chatting

The Aged In India: Myth and Despotic Mother-In-Laws

New Delhi, India   December, 1971 It was King Yayati, according to Indian epic, who borrowed his son’s youth for 1,000 years, only to return it willingly. “What I have realized,” he said, “is that there is no end to desire. Gold, cattle, women and food you seek and attain, but the satisfaction each affords is short-lived since you lust for more and more of them. After a thousand years of enjoyment, the mind craves for further and fresh enjoyment.” Children sit wide-eyed as the village storyteller continues the tale in the tone reserved for immortals. “I want to end this phase of life and turn to God,” said Yayati. “I want to live without the duality in mind of victory and defeat, profit and loss, heat and cold, pleasant and unpleasant. These distinctions I shall eradicate from my mind, divest myself of all possessions, and live in the forests amidst nature, without fear or desire.” And so he did. For 30 years, he subsisted on water – as gods are wont to do –

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In Poland, there are no handouts for the unproductive, not even if aged. One works at any job. Above, selling obwarzanki or hot pretzels; or farm products at the Wroclaw market. Below, a great-grandmother still baby-sits; an aged Mona Lisa cleans government offices; and one old-timer has a shoe-polish concession at the Hotel Bristol, Warsaw.

The Aged In Poland: God and Worn-Out Babcias

A peasant from Cracow kneels transfixed before the bejeweled altar portrait of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Her black-babushka-covered head is one of hundreds bowed toward the revered icon-purportedly painted by St. Luke and possessing miraculous powers. Scores of pilgrims stream to this Polish Lourdes daily in prayerful hopes of cures or consolations. Crouched near the farmwoman is an aged nun, a former princess, who annually walks the 138 miles from Warsaw. Here and there bob Polish-Americans, distinguishable by permanented grey curls and drip-dry clothing. Over 100,000 persons converge on Ascension Day alone, jamming buses, trains and roadways. They represent all ages, men as well as women, from all walks of life. They come to baptize the newborn, remember the dead, and petition for the sickly. Their tributes form a bizarre mosaic on chapel walls: Thousands of scholastic, sports and military medals and occasional Communist Party decorations. Suppliants cram into the church to stare entranced at the image for hours. It is as though one could will by osmosis the transference of magic qualities from

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