This week we’re listening to: On aging and living in the moment
In this podcast series, host Max Linsky sits down with 70 people who are more than 70 years old to share their stories of living, ageing and dying.
⦁ Format: Podcast series
⦁ Year: 2021
⦁ Listen on: Apple Podcasts or Spotify
“You know those 30 under 30 lists? The ones filled with overachievers who make you feel kinda inadequate and terrible?” asks host Max Linsky, before the audio cuts to a series of voices: William is 72 years old, Betty is 88, James is 94, and Donalda is 101.
These are the voices Linksy wants to hear from, theirs are the stories he wants to share. While there is a level of admiration held in being a part of a 30 under 30 list, Linksy wants to focus on the other end of the spectrum, positing that there is so much still to learn beyond a certain age.
The 70 guests he interviews come from all walks of life and range from activists to scientists to big names in Hollywood — and Linsky treats them all the same: remarkable people with remarkable stories.
“I think we need to hear more from older people, especially right now. And that’s a big part of why I’m doing this show: to get some perspective from people who have experienced a lot more than the rest of us. People we can learn from,” he explains.
One episode, though, stands apart from the others. While Linsky is a gentle interviewer and host to all his guests, it is the very first episode that shows the heart and motivation behind telling these stories.
In Prologue: “The Balcony and the Dance Floor” with Marty Linsky, he interviews his father from his hospital bed in New York, where 80-year-old Marty is recovering from heart surgery.
“How do you feel?” Linsky asks.
It is a simple question, but a loaded one. Being invited into this intimate moment between father and son, the listener can’t help but feel they, too, are sitting with the pair in Room 1401 of the Kimmel Building at NYU Langone Hospital, next to a bed that overlooks the city and the Empire State building. This first question opens up the conversation.
“I feel great. I just feel wonderful,” Marty says.
“I mean it — when you hit 80 years old you can’t kid yourself anymore that you’re not on the downside… I love the life that I have.”
This seems like an oxymoron, being on the “downside” but loving the life you have. But, to Marty, it feels like a gift.
“One of the reasons this time of life is so exciting to me is it feels like I’m still evolving, still learning. Inventing myself, reinventing myself,” he explains.
Throughout the episodes — those that have been released so far, at least — this is a resounding theme. There is so much life beyond scrambling to achieve insurmountable goals by the time you are 30. There is so much living yet to do, even as we age and move closer to the inevitable end.
“What are you afraid of?” Marty asks his son.
Another simple, yet loaded, question.
This is the magic the podcast captures; listeners feel as if they are eavesdropping on a loving and vulnerable moment yet, at the same time, Linsky is welcoming them into an important conversation. You can’t help but listen.
“It’s the unknown. The only thing I have known is having you there, knowing I can talk anything out. I think, for me, not knowing how much time there is left to do that is really scary; and then, what’s on the other side feels kind of impossible,” Linsky answers.
“I have so much confidence in your capacity for managing that, making the most out of it after I’m gone that I don’t worry about it. I don’t worry about it at all,” Marty assures his son. “You’ll find ways to continue to keep our conversation going long after I’ve stopped breathing. I don’t have any question about that … maybe that’s what you’re doing with the show, trying to figure out what it means to let go.”
This is what the show is about, but Linsky believes it is not just about loss.
“These conversations I want to have, they’re not really about dying. They’re about what it means to live well. I’m trying to take this conversation I’ve been having with my dad and continue it, to talk it out, with people who might have some perspective that all of us could use.”
By interviewing these 70 people, breaking down stigmas of ageing and fears of death, Linsky is delicately working on a new narrative of life.
“I want to hear what answers they’ve found, and which ones they’re still looking for. I want to know if there is a gap between how the world sees them and how they see themselves. I want to understand what it means to them to live well… and to let go.” DM/ML