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May 17, 2023

“Wiser Than Me” — An Inspirational Podcast on Living

Beth Russo

The PDF in which this article appears can be found here.

Perhaps it is as a result of starting work with the Commission on Law and Aging, but I’ve been thinking a lot about aging recently.  From the day we’re born, we age.  Aging is a natural part of the human experience.  As we age, most of us seek to discover the meaning of life and the universe.  I was flipping through a book recently and the author made the point that although our current society tends to ignore and silence older women, they are vital to our survival as a species.  Older women are those who traditionally tend to children and take care of multi-generational homes.  The author makes the Darwinian point that if they hadn’t been vital to survival of the species, we wouldn’t have older women.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is currently seeking the knowledge and wisdom of older women in the form of a podcast, “Wiser Than Me.”  In it, she interviews women older than her (she’s 62) to learn how “they navigate aging and life.”  Louis-Dreyfus is a charming conversationalist which makes for an engaging interview, no matter who the subject, although her subjects are each fascinating in their own right.  She is simply excited to have the opportunity to speak with her guests and ask about their lives and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. 

Women have not traditionally been given much opportunity to speak.  I was listening to a different podcast recently where the guest discussed the fact that she felt that she had to be invited to share her opinion.  As a woman, she did not feel it was her place to give her opinion unless asked.  I can say I have felt the same way.  However, once we are asked, there is so much to say.  So much is changing in the world now. Listening to “Wiser Than Me” and learning from women who have had such varied experiences is enlightening.  As of this writing, five episodes have been released.  The first episode features Jane Fonda.  From her anti-war efforts in the 1960s to her current work on behalf of the environment and climate change, Fonda has advocated for a better world throughout her life.  Even now, she’s pioneering new ways to talk about aging.  She’s done this through the sitcom “Grace & Frankie” which chronicles the (mis)adventures of the titular odd-couple as they navigate life together after their husbands leave them for each other.  She leads by example.  Fonda advocates that people perform a “life review” as they enter the third act of their lives.  In looking back at her own life, Fonda realized that she actually was brave and that discovery gave her confidence to do more now, at this stage of her life. 

“Wiser than Me” teaches us that we can all have an impact on the world.  We may not realize it as we’re in the midst of doing the work, but these interviews demonstrate that point (some of the other guests include Fran Lebowitz, Darlene Love, Ruth Reichl, and Isabel Allende).  The discussions between Louis-Dreyfus and her guests help to humanize these women, proving they are but mere mortals, each with their own worries and hang-ups, yet they have each forged amazing careers and have made the world richer, fuller, better by being a part of it.  One of the questions Louis-Dreyfus asks each of her guests is what is the best advice you’ve ever received?  In answer to this, Darlene Love shared that Dionne Warwick told her if there’s something that you want to do, just find a way to do it.  You believe you can do it, and so you do it. 

So, what is it that you want to do? Some days that may be participating in some sort of activism- although not everyone needs to do that by standing up on the steps of a capitol shouting from a bullhorn wearing a fabulous red coat (more power to you if you do though).   Other days, it may be putting on a podcast such as “Wiser Than Me” and becoming inspired.

    Beth Russo

    Senior Attorney, Commission on Law and Aging

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