Aging: Attitude Toward Aging with Marsha Hunt (cont.)

chartres_WebMD: How has the attitude toward aging changed in the Hollywood system over the past 20 to 30 years?

Hunt: I'm not qualified to speak about the Hollywood attitude, because I've been inactive on the big screen for a number of years. My impression, because I live here in the general area, but I'm not "of it" any more, it seems to me that it's worse than ever, and that the youth culture, and the worship of it, is almost out of control. I'm not quite sure what's so great about youth... and it's nice to have smooth skin and vitality, but we don't know much yet, and we're not fully formed, and that takes place the longer we live. The film industry seems to have been taken over, ever since the end of the major studio period like MGM or Warner's, and since then, it's been divided and separated, without a continuity of careers, and it's been taken over by conglomerates, big corporate complexes, where that studio is one of many corporations, and all they know or care about is the bottom line -- the profit. They know you never lose money with bad taste -- sex, violence, vulgarity... people will always pay for that. So they concentrate on that, and I think they've set an ugly example for movie-goers. I get mail from people who miss the well-made stories; the thing about constructive lives, or tender relationships, rather than the decadence, sick, violence... the ugliness has almost taken over the screen, and when we get the exception, the public forks to it, and I don't know why that doesn't teach the people who make movies more. Older actors with a lifetime of experience and skill to build on, and fans who love them and their work, are sitting around and not acting. Nobody is calling them. The production of films has been taken over by young people, hot out of film school... and they don't recognize the past. They only know today and are planning tomorrow. It's too bad -- the attitude towards older actors and characters in stories, needs a lot more attention.

webmdadmin1_WebMD: Do you make vigorous exercise a part of your daily routine?

Hunt: Not very vigorous -- I don't know the value of working up a sweat, and making your heart pound wildly, unless you want to lose weight. I've never weighed enough, so I don't enjoy violent exercise, but I do, every morning, kind of a limbering up bunch of things that I have invented to just keep all the moving parts moving, and make sure I'm flexible and can get around easily, if I have to bend over for something. I can still touch my toes with my legs straight, but it's only by doing these easy things that twist and bend and reach... I enjoy it, and I listen to the news when I do it each day, so I'm tuned up for the day. So it's not all that vigorous, but it does wake up the body.

chartres_WebMD: I think it's great that you are doing an online event. What is your opinion of the computer age? How has it affected the aging population, if at all?

Hunt: Goodness, I'm not profound enough to know that. I suppose it's commensurate to how many of us in our senior years have mastered computers -- they're intimidating. In my own case, I no longer see well enough to read the screen, so I'm unable to use the computer. But I'm blessed with a wonderful friend, self-taught, and she's in her upper years (12 years my junior... and I'm 82)... she is getting very good at the computer, and so we have email zinging back and forth. It's marvelous, that somebody in Australia wanted to order some books, and we had an exchange back and forth... 3 or 4 weeks in one day... we accomplished weeks of letters in one day. My goodness, it's exciting. For those able to see the screen and do the typing, and understand the mouse and all this new language that is baffling to me, then blessed all. It has a great unifying effect. I get email from far places, and it's just wonderful! So I think then, and I don't know to what extent, older people are using it... but if they can, I hope they will. Everything is possible through a computer; from self-enlightenment, to meeting people. There's just no end to it. But it's also scary, because as I gather, there's no one in charge... and I think sooner or later, there's going to have to be, just as we all need governments... someone in charge to regulate and make sure crime doesn't run rampant. The scams now being sold over the Internet, are disgraceful. There's nobody to say you can't do that, or a penalty if you do. There are no rules. It's up for grabs... but it's very young, but just as a busy city needs traffic signals, eventually the computer world is going to need a few rules to keep it working in a healthy way.

Moderator: One of the most difficult parts of aging for me was the death of my husband. How did you cope with this loss?

Hunt: I had an extraordinary, marvelous husband... we had 40 years that was pure joy and privilege for both of us. When my Robert died, it was, I think, in his case... at the right time for him. He was losing his sight, and had a heart condition that robbed him of the energy that was so natural for him. He was an athletic, wonderful man. His heart was beating out of rhythm... and that's exhausting. He was coping with that the last 50 years of his life. He was no longer able to write, or to read, and that robbed him of being a brilliant screenwriter and novelist. So I think Robert could not have coped with helplessness, and the blindness coming on would have rendered him helpless. So he took his leave before he was an invalid, and if I made use of that knowledge, and was grateful for his sake, that he was spared the wheelchair, hospital, pain or helplessness.. then I can be grateful that it happened for him. It was a terrible loss for me, but I was determined, that while I would always miss him, that I would not mourn his passing because it was the right time for him. There are always the accidents and terrible tragedies of what's unexpected, but it did help me -- when my father died, that was also an unexpected death... but the great consolation that really sustained the rest of the family was the knowledge was that his eyes went to help some stranger to be able to see. I have that little card, that I carry with my driver's license... but it's in my wallet, that says that any useful parts of me, I leave and I will to anyone who can be helped by them. I think there's a consolation to that, that the fact that the part of one life, will enrich someone else's life. That brings great comfort. In the case of being widowed, it's that we shouldn't feel entirely cut off by the physical absence of someone -- if we recognize that what we had and shared as a couple, still is there... we're nourished, and the memories of the good times... are facts within our own present existence. They formed what we are today, and we can use that. I talk to Robert without any nonsense of thinking that he can hear me or that he's having a second life... but it's such a habit to have a comment now and then. Nothing spooky or spiritual, it's just that it's more fun that way. I love expressions that we had together that were our own secret language, and many couples have that. I continue that, and I can laugh when I think of Robert far more often now than I would want to cry.