Pushing 90? Working? Betty White Says, “Get Over It!”        

Betty White in an AARP commercial
Source: AARP
Betty White in an AARP commercial

The world’s most beloved 89-year old and national treasure Betty White is teaming up with AARP to attract new members. The Get Over It! campaign features Betty in commercial spots, viral videos, and as the voice of the organization’s membership line.

Betty is a fitting role model. She was just hitting her stride around age 50, playing Sue Ann Nivens onMary Tyler Moore, a character she describes as “the neighborhood nymphomaniac.” She was 63 when she took on her signature role as dingbat Rose Nylund in TheGolden Girls, and now in her late 80s she’s enjoying a contemporary Betty White comedy renaissance, including another TV role as Elka Ostrovsky in Hot in Cleveland.

“I think the message we all got is you can’t get rid of me,” she says with a giggle.

“I’m pushing 90, but I think it’s the mental attitude. So many of us start dreading age when we’re in high school and that’s really a waste of a life—‘I’m going to be 30, 40, 50.’ Your mental attitude can improve your physical attitude too, I think.”

That’s easy for a successful actress to say, but what about all the Boomers who have to work later in life and delay retirement?

“Instead of thinking, ‘Oh, isn’t it terrible I still have to work,’ try to accentuate the positive,” Betty says. “I know people think that’s goody-two-shoes talking, but we tend to complain instead of celebrating when we are. Appreciate something while it’s happening.”

In fact, Betty is still so active that she didn’t consider joining AARP until the organization approached her. “[Before, I thought] It wasn’t relevant to me but I thought it was just for retired people in plaid shorts. But more than half the members are still working as I am.”

So how does she stay sharp to keep working and memorizing lines?

“Have I got you fooled,” she says. “It’s just I’m interested in a lot of things. Not just showbiz, not just my passion for animals. I try to keep current with what’s going on in the world, and that’s mental exercise.”

She also credits her obsession with crossword puzzles for keeping her mind limber. “I enjoy it so much more so then just kind of sitting agitating.”

Another factor keeping her sharp is poker. Betty plays with 90-year-old Bob Stewart, producer of The Price is Right, What’s My Line, and many other game shows. “He kept this poker game going for 50 years and I won a whole dollar ... and I think I’ll frame it.” (Yours truly is flummoxed as to why this poker game is not aired as a reality TV series.)

Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur and Betty White, from "The Golden Girls" tv show.
Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur and Betty White, from "The Golden Girls" tv show.

Betty does not attribute her active longevity to any virtuous healthy lifestyle. “Valerie Bertinelli [and my other castmates] make terrible fun of me because I have a hot dog and French fries for lunch instead of a salad but I always point out that I’m going to be 90 in January. I have a two-story house and a very bad memory, so I’m always up and down the stairs, [so that’s] good exercise. But I try to take good care of myself.”

The takeaway—Old age isn’t something to dread. “You get a license to steal, practically—people spoil you rotten and take such good care of me. On the set I turn around and someone’s pulled up a chair whether I want it or not. And I love the perspective it gives you, when you look back you hope that it’s like changing a light you get a different perspective on something that’s happened. If you accentuate the positive, you really keep yourself delightfully adjusted to aging.”

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