Isabel Allende
3,474,463 views • 8:16

Hi, kids.

(Laughter)

I'm 71.

(Applause) My husband is 76. My parents are in their late 90s, and Olivia, the dog, is 16. So let's talk about aging.

Let me tell you how I feel when I see my wrinkles in the mirror and I realize that some parts of me have dropped and I can't find them down there. (Laughter)

Mary Oliver says in one of her poems, "Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Me, I intend to live passionately.

When do we start aging? Society decides when we are old, usually around 65, when we get Medicare, but we really start aging at birth. We are aging right now, and we all experience it differently. We all feel younger than our real age, because the spirit never ages. I am still 17. Sophia Loren. Look at her. She says that everything you see she owes to spaghetti. I tried it and gained 10 pounds in the wrong places. But attitude, aging is also attitude and health. But my real mentor in this journey of aging is Olga Murray. This California girl at 60 started working in Nepal to save young girls from domestic bondage. At 88, she has saved 12,000 girls, and she has changed the culture in the country. (Applause) Now it is illegal for fathers to sell their daughters into servitude. She has also founded orphanages and nutritional clinics. She is always happy and eternally young.

What have I lost in the last decades? People, of course, places, and the boundless energy of my youth, and I'm beginning to lose independence, and that scares me. Ram Dass says that dependency hurts, but if you accept it, there is less suffering. After a very bad stroke, his ageless soul watches the changes in the body with tenderness, and he is grateful to the people who help him.

What have I gained? Freedom: I don't have to prove anything anymore. I'm not stuck in the idea of who I was, who I want to be, or what other people expect me to be. I don't have to please men anymore, only animals. I keep telling my superego to back off and let me enjoy what I still have. My body may be falling apart, but my brain is not, yet. I love my brain. I feel lighter. I don't carry grudges, ambition, vanity, none of the deadly sins that are not even worth the trouble. It's great to let go. I should have started sooner. And I also feel softer because I'm not scared of being vulnerable. I don't see it as weakness anymore. And I've gained spirituality. I'm aware that before, death was in the neighborhood. Now, it's next door, or in my house. I try to live mindfully and be present in the moment. By the way, the Dalai Lama is someone who has aged beautifully, but who wants to be vegetarian and celibate? (Laughter)

Meditation helps.

(Video) Child: Ommm. Ommm. Ommm.

Isabel Allende: Ommm. Ommm. There it is. And it's good to start early.

You know, for a vain female like myself, it's very hard to age in this culture. Inside, I feel good, I feel charming, seductive, sexy. Nobody else sees that. (Laughter) I'm invisible. I want to be the center of attention. I hate to be invisible. (Laughter) (Applause)

This is Grace Dammann. She has been in a wheelchair for six years after a terrible car accident. She says that there is nothing more sensual than a hot shower, that every drop of water is a blessing to the senses. She doesn't see herself as disabled. In her mind, she's still surfing in the ocean. Ethel Seiderman, a feisty, beloved activist in the place where I live in California. She wears red patent shoes, and her mantra is that one scarf is nice but two is better. She has been a widow for nine years, but she's not looking for another mate. She says that there is only a limited number of ways you can screw — well, she says it in another way — and she has tried them all. (Laughter) I, on the other hand, I still have erotic fantasies with Antonio Banderas — (Laughter) — and my poor husband has to put up with it.

So how can I stay passionate? I cannot will myself to be passionate at 71. I have been training for some time, and when I feel flat and bored, I fake it. Attitude, attitude. How do I train? I train by saying yes to whatever comes my way: drama, comedy, tragedy, love, death, losses. Yes to life. And I train by trying to stay in love. It doesn't always work, but you cannot blame me for trying.

And, on a final note, retirement in Spanish is jubilación. Jubilation. Celebration. We have paid our dues. We have contributed to society. Now it's our time, and it's a great time. Unless you are ill or very poor, you have choices. I have chosen to stay passionate, engaged with an open heart. I am working on it every day. Want to join me?

Thank you.

(Applause)

June Cohen: So Isabel — IA: Thank you.

JC: First of all, I never like to presume to speak for the TED community, but I would like to tell you that I have a feeling we can all agree that you are still charming, seductive and sexy. Yes?

IA: Aww, thank you. (Applause)

JC: Hands down. IA: No, it's makeup.

Moderator: Now, would it be awkward if I asked you a follow-up question about your erotic fantasies?

IA: Oh, of course. About what?

(Laughter)

Moderator: About your erotic fantasies. IA: With Antonio Banderas.

Moderator: I was just wondering if you have anything more to share.

IA: Well, one of them is that — (Laughter) One of them is that I place a naked Antonio Banderas on a Mexican tortilla, I slather him with guacamole and salsa, I roll him up, and I eat him. (Laughter)

Thank you.

(Applause)