The Secrets to Longevity and Living a Happy Life

With a twinkle in his eye and a permanent smile on his face, 102-year-old Al Goldbaum celebrates life to the fullest. Al lives at The Redwoods a vibrant community that promotes well-being and ways for individuals to thrive as they age. I had the pleasure of meeting Al in December 2014, volunteering at The Redwood’s winter solstice party. He was one of the first to arrive and last to leave –– strategically placed so he could greet everyone with a smile and wave. During the event, he played a drum propped on his wheelchair, keeping the beat with the accompanying pianist. After the event I visited with him and was dazzled by his storytelling, constant jokes and joie de vivre.

Since meeting Al I do my best to visit him weekly. During our conversations, I gain so much wisdom from him. He is a bundle of joy. He loves to break into song, his repertoire including “Imagine” by John Lennon and “When The Saints Go Marching In.” When I asked how he always is so upbeat, he responded, “I’m joyful. There is so much joy in this world and I focus on that. I have so much to be grateful for. I have 2 wonderful daughters and 4 grandkids. I feel that life is about having good friends. I especially like to have many lady friends.”  Then he looks at me, winks and says, “You made the list.”

Al has one of the most active social lives of anybody I’ve ever met. He attributes his social life to staying so young at heart. He says, “Do things that interest you, be active and enjoy your life everyday.” On Mondays he attends the “Seniors For Peace” meeting and on Tuesdays, he enjoys a Yiddish Conversation class followed by his drumming group. Wednesdays he sings in the Rock The Ages Chorus, Thursdays he takes Tai Chi classes and Fridays he joins the men’s group in the morning and then takes to the streets in the afternoon for Seniors For Peace demonstrations. Every night there are events at The Redwoods auditorium and he attends everything from films to concerts to performances.

When Al is not busy, he enjoys his quiet time. “I enjoy sitting and doing nothing. I like to close my eyes and dream of beauty.” Al was born in New York City on November 29, 1912. He taught mathematics and physics at a New York high school. He retired from school teaching and became an enthusiastic tour leader and shared, “I loved taking groups of people to different countries around the world and enjoyed many countries. My favorite was Bolivia and Chile. I appreciated the people still living in their customs.” Al was an avid photographer, and his photographs adorn The Redwood hallways. I enjoyed touring his photographs, seeing how he captured the raw beauty of the people and scenery in each country.

I asked Al what he likes to eat, thinking when you live to be 102, you probably eat a lot of vegetables. Al shared with me: “I like to eat everything. I especially like ice cream. Butter pecan ice cream. With every meal, I try to eat ice cream.” Al always looks forward to meals and enjoys his mealtime conversations. He sits with a table full of inspiring friends and lucky for them, he sprinkles his conversation with jokes. When I visited him yesterday, he said to me, “Ask me what position I played when I played baseball.” I asked him and he answered, “I played left out.” Whenever he finishes telling his joke, he chuckles.

John Alexander, Al’s assistant who has worked with him for 18 months says, “Al’s always cheerful and greets every single person with a smiling ‘hello’. He is genuinely grateful and content with what he has. He is so curious about things, he inspires me daily and is a huge source of joy for me.” Al adores having visitors, as do most residents at The Redwoods. If you’re interested in volunteering, there are so many ways to do so; visiting with residents, planting in the gardens, helping out at special events and more. Contact The Redwoods directly via their website or by phone at (415) 383-2741. When you volunteer, make sure you embrace Al in a big hug.