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Who Says 90 Is Old?

Malky Lowinger

They could be spending their days snoozing in a rocking chair, but seniors who are still working into their 90s know that punching the clock encourages better health, longer life span, sharpened cognitive skills, and greater happiness. For these nonagenarians, staying in the loop is the best way to retire.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

illustration time It’s a quiet Monday morning, and I’m lingering casually over my coffee when the phone rings. It’s Ruth returning my call. I explain that I’ve been trying to contact her for an article about people who are over 90 years old and still working. Is she willing to be interviewed? Fine, she says, but when? “I don’t have the time now,” she quickly explains, “but you can call me after five this afternoon.” Then she adds, “I hope this isn’t going to take more than 10 minutes.”

Ninety-one-year-old Mrs. Ruth Heyman ofStockholm,Sweden, runs a jewelry enterprise, and keeping busy, it seems, is what keeps her young. Apparently, the secret to happiness and longevity is not only yogurt or yoga. It’s work.

Mrs. Heyman and her late husband were both born inSweden, and although most Jewish refugees who harbored in this neutral country during World War II eventually left for other lands after the war, the Heymans stayed and raised a family inSweden.

When a Belgian Israeli opened a diamond business inStockholm, he hired Mrs. Heyman to manage the office while he traveled overseas. She quickly learned everything she could about precious stones and metals, and she managed that business until just two years ago, when she was 89. That’s when her daughter Madelaine asked her to join her in running Semgel Guld, her upscale jewelry store in downtownStockholm.

Mrs. Heyman is impeccably and fashionably dressed. It’s important to look chic when working in an upscale retail area, she explains. Even her hearing aid is stylish. “They look like three little diamonds inside her ear,” says her son, Dr. Benzion Heyman ofLos Angeles. “People think it’s some kind of fashion statement.”

When I suggest that the new business venture presents Ruth’s daughter with the opportunity to keep an eye on her mom, her son corrects me. “It’s actually the other way around,” he says. “She keeps an eye on my sister.”

Mrs. Heyman is strict about her daily routine. She eats cornflakes and leben for breakfast and never drinks coffee, except on Pesach. “When we grew up inSweden, we didn’t have milchig Pesach products so we would whip up coffee with an egg and sugar instead,” Dr. Heyman remembers. “That’s the only coffee she drinks until today.”

Having spent many decades working in the field, Mrs. Heyman has sailed through the peaks and dips of an unpredictable gold market, but says that now business just isn’t what it used to be. Yet even if her new business flounders, she still has another career to fall back on. Aside from selling jewelry, Mrs. Heyman has been appearing in promotional videos produced by an event planning corporation that is run by one of her grandchildren. She has already appeared in a video for Microsoft and is scheduled to be in another one for 7-11. “She’s very talented,” says Dr. Heyman.

Talent notwithstanding, he says her real secret is her positive attitude. With her engaging and outgoing personality, Mrs. Heyman — popular as ever — is invited to parties and community events on a regular basis and is treated as something of a matriarch in Stockholm. “When we walk down the streets ofStockholm,” says her son, “I feel like I’m walking with the queen.”

 

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