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May 04, 1989|SHERRY ANGEL | Angel is a Times staff editor in Orange County

There's much to look forward to as you cross the half-century mark and advance into your 50s and beyond. That's evident in the reflections of the following 50-plussers--all people who are thoroughly enjoying this time in their lives. They are not preoccupied with looking young, but emanate a youthful--better yet, ageless--quality, because they are active, productive, optimistic about the future and eager to take on challenges.

' Optimism is extremely important. It has carried me a long way '

"Each decade of my life has brought me great excitement, and each has been better than the last. I am a very high-energy person, and I am an eternal optimist. That optimism is extremely important. It has carried me a long way. I have used societal barriers as challenges to be overcome, proving to myself and the world that I am a very special person with a lot of perseverance. I don't think much about the future because there are too many things to be done today. I believe as long as you stay active you can somehow transcend biological aging--particularly if you keep your mind active. But physical activity is important, too, which is why I make room in my schedule for walking and playing tennis."

--Jewel Plummer Cobb, 65, president, Cal State Fullerton

' I'm delighted at the amount of energy I have '

"I feel very good as I reach 60. My health is good. I'm careful about what I eat. I exercise, I don't use tobacco and I'm moderate in my consumption of alcohol. I love my work. I don't want to give it up because I enjoy it so much, and I still have a fair bit to contribute to my profession. I hope I have quite a few more productive years ahead. I'm delighted at the amount of energy I have. I walk three to six miles a day. To have that exercise tolerance at this time in my life is most gratifying."

--Dr. J. Kenneth Chong, 60, plastic surgeon

' Whatever the road ahead is , I'm grateful for each day as it comes along '

"I am grateful my 54 years of working as a script supervisor in the film industry have afforded me a good pension and many other benefits. So I don't have to work anymore and I'm free of certain financial worries, although I'm living on a fixed income. I have my wits about me, I tint my hair, I enjoy dancing and traveling. I don't think too much about tomorrow. Day to day is important to me--staying healthy, listening to good music, enjoying good conversation with my husband, reading good books, enjoying good friends. Whatever the road ahead is--whether it's one week or 10 years--I'm grateful for each day as it comes along. I'm glad to be alive. I expect it to be a good life for the rest of the journey." --Meta Wilde, 81, member of the board, Women in Film

' I came to play, not to watch '

"Over 50 was good; over 60 is even better. At this age I appreciate all that life has to offer, with no pressure to prove myself--to myself or anyone else. I feel as good as I've ever felt. I don't have the same endurance that I had when I was younger, but that is compensated for by my ability to pace myself--and professionally to do things faster and more efficiently than I did 20 years ago. I work more than I ever have, but I play hard, too. I work at staying physically fit. I think better when I'm in shape. I decided early in life that I wouldn't become a crotchety, negative-thinking older person. It's so easy to dwell on the past. I try not to do that. I hope I can use the past as a realm of experience to give me an advantage in dealing with the future, while recognizing that the rule of life is that of change. One of the great tragedies is when people decide because they're at a certain age that it's no longer useful or enriching to study or think or do things. I came to play, not to watch." --Bruce Sumner, 64, vice chairman, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

' I have a keenness of appreciation I've never experienced before '

"I've just recovered from a brush with cancer, so I find myself overwhelmingly joyful for every day. I have a keenness of appreciation I've never experienced before. I used to think I was indestructible--it's a real surprise when you find out you're not. What matters most to me? Good health, my family, good friends, my environmental writing and good times. After spending 25 years fighting for an improved environment in Southern California, I'm thinking seriously about moving up to coastal Northern California--to enjoy some of what remains of California's splendor. The question is: How does one go about making a new life on one's own at age 59? It's hard to leave friends with whom you've shared so much. But I expect to enjoy the challenge and the change."

--Ellen Stern Harris, 59, executive director

of the Fund for the Environment

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