Daily Maverick

The upsides of ageing

Podcast host Max Linsky sits down with 70 people who are all over the age of 70 to share stories of living, getting older and dying

- REVIEW BY Sarah Hoek

70 Over 70

Format: Podcast series

Year: 2021

Listen on: Apple Podcasts or Spotify

“You know those 30-under-30 lists? The ones filled with overachiev­ers that 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, 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, ranging 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 his heart and his motivation behind telling these stories.

In the series prologue, The Balcony and the Dance Floor, Linsky interviews his father from his hospital bed in New York, where 80-year-old Marty is recovering from heart surgery.

“How do you feel?” Linksy 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 at NYU Langone Hospital, next to a bed that overlooks the city.

“I feel great. I just feel wonderful,” Marty says. “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.”

Throughout the episodes that have been released so far, this is a resounding theme – that there is so much life beyond scrambling to achieve insurmount­able goals.

“What are you afraid of?” Marty asks his son. Another simple, yet loaded, question.

This is the magic the podcast captures – the listener feels as if they are eavesdropp­ing on a loving and vulnerable moment, yet Linsky is welcoming you into an important conversati­on at the same time.

“It’s the unknown. The only thing that I have known is having you there, knowing I can talk anything out… [N]ot 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,” Marty assures his son. “You’ll find ways to continue to keep our conversati­on going long after I’ve stopped breathing… Maybe that’s what you’re doing with the show – trying to figure out what it means to let go.”

The show, however, is not just about loss. “These conversati­ons I want to have, they’re not really about dying,” says Linsky. “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 breaking down the 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 understand what it means to them to live well – and to let go.”

These conversati­ons I want to have [are] 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

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