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When what’s in the rearview becomes more than what’s in the windshield, it becomes apparent that the more expansive the years, the greater the motivation needed to press on. As I move into my late 50s, I find myself looking to a new set of mentors for motivation, particularly those who have even more in the rearview than I do at present–who have lived some life, seen some things, yet always are reaching for more.

It is not like I have not always honored my elders, but as I quickly move toward becoming one <*clutch the pearls*>, I realize I need to glean from people who embody what Les Brown encouraged:

“You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.”

Hence, this Feel-Good Friday entrée into Christmas week is dedicated to the elders that never cease to amaze and inspire me. #ElderGoals

One of those elders is Dick Van Dyke. I do not know him personally, but I have loved him since I was a kid, faithfully watching him every afternoon after school through reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of my favorite films, and of course there is his career-making stage and screen debut in Bye Bye Birdie. Full disclosure: I still have not seen the original Mary Poppins, but I always delight in the clips that feature Van Dyke’s chimney sweep performance.

Van Dyke turned 97 on Tuesday. According to this video from the Daily Mail UK, he is still kicking ass, taking names, and driving! In Los Angeles, no less.

Van Dyke also hasn’t stopped working or working out.

Van Dyke is passionate about exercise. During an appearance on CBS This Morning in June 2021, he showed off his workout routine, which includes crunches. “I’m 95, and a lot of my friends won’t do these,” he explained. And he appealed to the audience watching at home, saying, “So all you all guys out there, listen to me, I’m telling you, you can keep going. I’m still dancing and singing.”

In August of the same year, he posted a video on Instagram of himself working out on a stationary bike and talking about the pandemic. “Hi, I’m what’s left of Dick Van Dyke,” he joked at the beginning of the clip.

Van Dyke shared in his CBS This Morning interview that he plans to make it to 100 years old. “I’m looking forward to 100,” he said. “George Burns made it, and I’m gonna do it too.”

Frankly, I believe that’s what helps to keep his spark going, and he would probably agree with me. Here’s that CBS This Morning interview. Worth the 6-minute watch.

And this Van Dyke-ism has been making the rounds on the internet:

And of course, he is still a dancing man. In my book, he ranks with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, all the greats. He last danced on screen in Mary Poppins Returns in 2018. Here he is in 2021, dancing to Beck’s “Loser.”

Van Dyke exudes pure joy and a love of life, from his eyes to his every movement. In terms of Hollywood legends, there is no one quite like him, and I see him as touchstone to continue to stay fit, stay joyful, and never stop moving.

I hope he continues defying the odds and makes it to 100–and beyond.

This next elder, I know personally. He is my dear friend Roger A. Barkley, and he is 75 years old. Roger was my pastor for a time, and he married me and my husband 15 years ago. Roger and his wife Vivienne recently retired from their years of pastoring, and decided to move to Texas and custom build their new home.

A majority of the people I know who are my age are interested in hunkering down and living the easy life. At 75, Roger was ready for a new adventure.

Part of the adventure is designing the house and allowing that to evolve. But also it’s stepping into a really different culture. What we’re trying to do is embrace what Texas is known for, and one of those things is the friendliness. The greetings we receive are warm and sincere.

Vivienne’s dream was to design and build her own home, and together, they are doing just that on their two-plus acre property.

Vivienne designed it around our specific wants and desires, then sent to an architect or engineer. It’s a large house, but it’s not ostentatious—it’s open, and spacious, and streamlined. It’s full of really clever ideas.

Roger posted a really cool video of the property well being excavated. Here’s Roger next to the finished well head.

Roger Barkley and the completed well. Credit: Roger A. Barkley, used with permission.

Roger is also reconnecting to a rural way of life that he hasn’t experienced since his early years. Being in the beauty of nature and the wide open spaces is one of the things that he is truly enjoying.

I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Coming here was like coming home. It’s a new point of stretching, but at our age, we’re really fortunate to be able to do this.

Despite the beauty of Advent, this has been a difficult week on a number of levels. Having a conversation with Roger was another touchstone that helped me to remember to remain curious and open, to refuse to be complacent, and to continue to pursue those dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem. He was instrumental in sparking joy and stirring hope for the future.

As another wise elder, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes:

“There is hope, however, for anyone who is among the living; for even a live dog is better than a dead lion.”

I’m becoming an old dog, but there is more life in me than even I know yet. So, like these elders, I’ll keep moving, laughing, and living it to the fullest.