Barb Shaeffer

Barb Shaeffer, 85, of Chicago, does two crossword puzzles every morning. She often completes an entire book on her Kindle in a day and is preparing for her three fall classes, one of which she co-teaches, through a Northwestern University program for retirees. “It’s attitude,” she says. “I don’t care what you do, it’s attitude. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune)

"I'm interested in what's going on. I'm still interested enough to get up and go find out about stuff."

That curiosity led her on a trip to visit friends in El Salvador this year and on a train trek across Canada.

"I don't think of myself as 85," she said. "I don't think of myself as 50. I don't think of myself as an age."

But despite her distaste for ages, it's reassuring for Shaeffer to hear that her brain shares traits with people more than three decades her junior.

"I don't know how sharp I was at 50," Shaeffer said, "but it's kind of nice."

Goldsmith attributes his longevity to a combination of factors, including genetics, good medical care, a healthy lifestyle and "blind luck." While his mind remains sharp, occasional lapses cause him concern. Sometimes he'll drive past his destination or leave his engine running.

"I think everybody at that age, to some degree," worries about dementia, Goldsmith said.

That concern is part of the reason he started teaching the class about baseball history to other seniors at the Florida retirement community where he spends his winters. He's already planning this year's curriculum, and he'd like to include a panel on steroids and a discussion of the Negro Leagues.

He'll also stay involved in the Northwestern research, he said, for "the pleasure of knowing maybe I'm doing something to alleviate the suffering from this awful disease."