'80 over 80' is new project by UCSF doctor who wants people to celebrate getting older

Luz Pena Image
Saturday, June 4, 2022
New '80 over 80' project celebrates people getting older
UCSF Dr. Anna Chodos' "80 over 80" wants people to know there's more to life after your 30s.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- I'm sure you've heard of Forbes' "30 under 30" list featuring "movers and shakers" of society, but in case you didn't make the list, don't worry -- there's a more seasoned one that requires decades of wisdom, some wrinkles and a zest for life.

Eighty-nine-year-old Dorothy Lathan is part of San Francisco's "80 over 80" list. She's been giving back to the community for decades. She worked for the San Francisco Unified School District for 32 years and retired as a principal.

Her home is a gallery of memories. On the wall a map of the world.

"We sailed down the Amazon river," described Lathan as she pointed to a map.

Lathan has visited every continent with her husband, Art. They are also approaching a milestone - 70 years married.

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Dorothy: "Tell her what is the secret of being married this long."

Art: "Just love."

Dorothy: "What do you usually say? Making me happy?"

Art: "That is right."

Luz Pena: "So the secret is making her happy? And how do you make her happy?"

Art: "Do what she wants me to do!"

Behind a closet is proof that our bodies change after 80. In Lathan's case, she is shrinking.

"I used to be 5 feet tall. Now I'm 4'10. I moved the ladders out of the way when you guys were coming in here. I'm up and down the ladders all day long," said Lathan and added, "You see here it's sagging. You sag internally too. All your muscles begin to."

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Lathan's hearing has also changed. But there's an advantage to it -- when you call her phone, it goes straight to her hearing aid.

"I can show you my hearing aid," said Lathan.

Pena: "That is also your Bluetooth."

Lathan: "It would sound better if I called it my Bluetooth. Not a hearing aid. Old folks wear hearing aids. Young people wear Bluetooth!"

The person behind making "80 over 80," the new trend, is UCSF's Dr. Anna Chodos. She wants people to know there's more to life after your 30s.

"A lot of our participants started new things. So, for example, Judy Goddess started as writer at San Francisco Senior Beat, which is an online magazine profiling the lives and things related to older people. Glenda Hope, who is a very beloved and famous person, who is a reverend and worked in the Tenderloin for many years. She is now really engaged in issues of transportation and housing in the city. Margaret Graf, who was a nurse and then a lawyer, so by all accounts very accomplished now in older age has started a group senior power, which support older people in her neighborhood in the outer sunset," said Dr. Chodos, who is a UCSF Geriatrician.

Pena: "Are you hoping that people stop thinking that they have only until 30 to accomplish their goals?"

Dr. Chodos: "Yeah. Life is long now," and added, "We are such a youth-oriented and achievement oriented society. That we don't have a vision even for ourselves if we are younger of what being older is like. We now know that that's a pretty harmful thing. Essentially that contributes to ageism."

For Charles George, his birth certificate says he's almost lived a century.

"I'm Charles George, I retired give years ago and I'm 99 year old," said George.

His mind is still sharp. He attributes that to a life of consistent exercise and Soduku.

It's hard to believe, but he retired five years ago. He worked decades for the federal government and one of his last jobs was in a chemistry lab.

"When I came to the University of San Francisco, I was the only Black person in my department," said George and added, "Research with electric chemistry."

Pena: "You would've kept going if it weren't for you knee?"

George: "I would've kept going!"

Along with living a long life comes a front row seat to history. Both George and Lathan experienced the struggle for Black Americans to gain equal rights.

"I lived it. When I was a kid, everything a Black person did was criminalized. That is why Blacks got the reputation of being criminals. Because if you didn't get off the sidewalk when a white person came by, you committed a crime. They could call the police and have you arrested. If you didn't say 'yes ma'am' and 'no ma'am,'" said Lathan.

They both had a similar perspective. "Keep going."

"Never give up. As long as you are in there. You got a chance," said George.

And in case you are wondering...

Pena: "What would you say is the secret?"

Lathan: "Movement is my medicine, dancing was my dessert and laugher is my medicine as well," and added "So, anybody who is 30 look out. There is so much ahead of them. So much ahead of them."

Learn more about the '80 over '80' project here.

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