Growing up in
"We reflect back on our childhood, and we reflect how lucky we were to have our grandparents as part of our lives," Bergman said. "They very much influenced who I am and the person I have become."
In fact, it was her 101-year-old grandmother,
Bergman traveled to
Ricciuti's response was two inspiring phrases: "Be kind" and "Live life to the limits."
"I just realized, 'There's a project here,' " Bergman, 48, said. "What is it (about) these people that ... makes them want to keep going?"
So far, Bergman has profiled about 30 men and women over the age of 75 for "Lives Well Lived," asking them "how to age with dignity, grace, energy and purpose."
She took a two-quarter sabbatical to work on the project, which combines portrait-style photos and short videos.
Her subjects, a mix of
Bergman, who has traveled as far as
According to Bergman, a few dominant themes have emerged in "Lives Well Lived."
"All of these people, they're physically, and more importantly mentally, active," she said. "I think that's what keeps them really young at heart."
The people Bergman has interviewed share other traits as well, including a passion for everyday activities and a strong social network.
"They've all had trials and tribulations that they've gone through ... but they all had a positive (attitude)," she said. "These people are all people who see the glass as full as opposed to half empty."
"One of the things that my kids heard me say for many, many years ... was, 'Happiness is a state of mind. You can be happy with what you have or miserable with what you don't have,' " he said. "I wake up in the morning and I decide to be happy, not to go around with a long face."
Tedone, whose father and grandfather each died at age 50 of heart attacks, also credits healthy living with prolonging his life.
"When I was 47 years old ... I weighed 196 pounds. That's a good weight if you're 6-foot-2, but you can see I'm not 6-foot-2," Tedone recalled, referring to his slight stature.
"I decided I was going to get in shape, give myself the best odds to last a little bit longer."
He started a diet and exercise regimen that included running, golf and tennis. Despite a quintuple-bypass heart surgery in 2001, Tedone still works out at
For the past 24 years, he's also kept busy as a cheesemaker, crafting dozens of balls of fresh mozzarella each morning for his daughter and son-in-law's deli,
"Fresh mozzarellas should be eaten the day they're made," Tedone said, "so I make them every single day."
"Once you've been in local government ... you never lose interest in what is happening or why it's happening," explained Schwartz, who remains active in the political scene as a community member.
In April, for instance, he presented a petition to the
"Being engaged in daily life ... that's hugely important," said
Justesen also stressed the importance of fostering relationships with family members and friends of all ages. Her social circle includes fellow interview subject
"I have a lot of energy and so does Marion," Justesen explained. "Some women of 82 don't have that energy."
Project brings "new friends"
Although Bergman already has an 18-minute "Lives Well Lived" documentary on Vimeo.com, she and editor
She's also planning a photography exhibition at
Bergman described "Lives Well Lived" as "the most rewarding project I've ever worked on." "I feel really fortunate that I've been introduced to all these people I would not have known otherwise," said the artist, who invites many of the women she's interviewed to a monthly "ladies' dinner."
"I really feel like I have all these new friends I didn't have before."
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