In Bruce Mondschain's opinion, age is an indicator of wisdom, not of what a person can or can't do.
At age 71, the Deerfield resident runs a consulting company, travels, works out regularly and has dozens of photos in the Smithsonian Institution. He recently added another achievement to this list: he was named as one of this year's "Beautiful Minds" by life'sDHA and the National Center for Creative Aging.
The campaign, for which Mondschain was nominated by a client, celebrates the accomplishments of people ages 55 and older. He was one of nine people ranging from 58 to 90 who were chosen nationwide.
"I'm 71 and change, and living a life that is very diversified," Mondschain said.
Likening it to having a diversified financial plan, he said there are five aspects to having a diversified life as a person ages: family/friends, work/wages, civic engagement, lifelong learning and health.
"(The latter) is a rich one because it suggests a movement away from the generation of my parents or my in-laws," Mondschain said. "It's a move more toward being the commanders or captains of our own ships."
When Mondschain was 50 years old, he faced a major change in his life -- he was downsized at his job and "had this opportunity, once again, to answer, 'What do I want to be when I grow up?'"
He decided, for example, to start playing the cello, which he did for 10 years. He also started a consulting firm that is geared toward aging, working with hospitals on Medicare-related strategies.
It was also around that age that Mondschain's wife presented him with a professional camera. He'd always enjoyed photography, often taking photos while on business trips in the Middle East when he was younger.
This time around, however, was different. He was introduced to late folk singer Pete Seeger, who invited Mondschain to come to New York and spend the day with him. Mondschain took photos of Seeger, which were later acquired by the Smithsonian.
Years later, Mondschain received a phone call.
"I'm not sure if you remember me, but this is Pete Seeger," Mondschain recalled from the conversation. Seeger invited Mondschain to attend a 90th birthday celebration for Seeger at Madison Square Garden and shoot photos.
The event featured artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Taj Mahal. Mondschain even had the chance to sing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" with Seeger during a post-dinner jam session during his trip.
"The Smithsonian acquired 65 photos from that event," Mondschain said. "I now have 85 images in the Smithsonian."
For someone whose parents both died at 62, Mondschain considers the "Beautiful Minds" campaign an important one. He wants older individuals, along with those in their 40s and 50s, to embrace the idea of having a diversified life and to continue pursuing their dreams.
"Don't die with the dream. Live with the dream," Mondschain said. "Make it happen."