Health Values Wellness

DD is 100 years old today – what’s her secret?

Written by Milisa Burns

In the spirit of being an AWAL (an attorney with a life), and creating a well-lived life, I want to share with you a speech I made about my maternal grandmother, Mildred Maclean (aka “DD”), on her 100th birthday (that day, March 8, 2011 was also the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day). This was five years ago. She is still with us, at 105 years of age! What’s her secret? Read more and find out my best guess.

DD is a teacher. She has taught her children, her students, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren, her friends. She loves to give advice and her advice is full of wisdom. I remember as a teenager being cornered by her on this very staircase as she lectured me about the dangers of drugs. I wasn’t mature enough to really appreciate her advice then. However, I have felt so privileged and grateful to know DD as an adult because I have continued to receive her advice and wisdom, and so I have had the opportunity to appreciate it so much more. For example, when I was pregnant with Ian, she and Grampa sat Andrew and me down and gave us some parenting and marriage advice that has guided us very effectively over the years. However, as important as all that wisdom has been, I think the most vital teaching DD has to offer the world is in how she shows up for life. How she plays the game. How she behaves. How she “be’s” as we say in life coaching. We are all human beings. Sometimes we focus too much on what we are doing and forget about how we are being. And how we really want to be. I see DD as a role model for well-being. By being herself, she shows us all how WE can thrive. Let’s take a couple of minutes to look at DD and her way of being. I hope that we can all learn something more from her in how WE want to be.

dd-recent-photoWhen we tell people DD is about to turn 100 and she is still with it, engaged in the world, walks on her own, has few health issues, doesn’t wear glasses, and has her own teeth…they are amazed. “What’s her secret?” they ask. I have often wondered this myself. I think her secret has to do with her mindset, her way of being. As a coach, I think and read about mindset and well-being and happiness constantly. I think DD embodies this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” I think this quote offers great insight for us into the secret of DD’s longevity and good health. Playing is one way to generate positive emotion and science is showing that positivity is critical to our well being and flourishing.


DD c1912

DD’s body is 100 years old on Tuesday. However, her mind and spirit are much much younger. DD has not stopped playing. Yes, she plays bridge and is a card shark. But she plays in all the other arenas of life too. Throughout her life she has enjoyed dance, golf, sailing, basketball and tennis. She tells jokes. She laughs easily. She has fun at every opportunity. She puts a smile on her face, even when she might not be feeling like smiling. And lo and behold, she feels happier and so do we. We can see the young girl in DD whenever we look into her eyes and see the twinkles dancing there. We can hear DD as a young girl when she laughs. We can sense DD’s youth when we hug and kiss her. Young children and animals love her. They can sense her goodness and lovability and her playfulness. DD has always had many friends. She had a wonderful, fun-filled marriage to Grampa for over 65 years.

DD’s playfulness and positivity are contagious. We all want to be around her. So, as powerful and wise as DD’s advice is, it is in how she shows up as her playful, loving self that is the most profound teaching she has to offer the world.

Thank you, DD!


About the author

Milisa Burns

I practiced law for 6 years, and was an at-home parent, before founding Strategic Evolution Coaching & Consulting, in 2006. Through my “Making Room For You” programs, I boldly and tenderly support professional women as they create success for themselves, on their terms. My clients are very "successful", but inside they may initially be very stressed, full of questions, possibly bored and no longer fulfilled. They are yearning for more. My clients are amazed at how quickly they create peace and contentment while achieving at even higher levels than they previously imagined. I have 3 children and am married to my law school sweetheart.

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