Throwback Thursday: Isabel Allende and the Art of Aging With Joy

Isabel Allende TED Talk BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of globalacademy.media

As we age, many of us fear what comes next. And we’re not even talking about death. We’re talking about wrinkles. We dread fine lines and the bags under our eyes. We fear the gray hairs that come with a life well-lived. But not world-renowned author Isabel Allende. At 78 years young, she has dedicated her work, life, and words to inspiring others to live well.

The Chilean author, born in Peru, doesn’t intend to spend her life living in fear of aging. Instead, she plans to live passionately. After all, we’re always aging. From birth, actually. So, who decides that aging is a negative thing to fear? It’s amazing how quickly the idea of aging can change when you shift your perspective ever so slightly. 

Isabel Allende’s 2014 Ted Talk is inspiring and truly gives you a new perspective on what it means to age. Even several years later, her message still holds up. Her candid talk will make you smile and chuckle – when a novelist, feminist, and philanthropist publicly admits to having an erotic fantasy about Antonio Banderas, you’re guaranteed to laugh. But her talk is so much more than an opportunity to giggle. It’s a breath of fresh air at a time when women, especially Latinas, can feel invisible and can struggle to find their place. 

Isabel’s career is dedicated to feeding the souls of others through her hilarious honesty, her vulnerability, and her empowering words. Her latest book, The Soul of a Woman, is all about feeding the soul of feminists — and all women — today. She argues that what truly fills us up is to feel valued, to be connected, to be in control of our bodies and our lives, and more than anything else, to be loved. This book is written to “light the torches of our daughters and granddaughters with mine. They will have to live for us, as we lived for our mothers, and carry on with the work still left to be finished.”

In her 2014 Ted Talk, Isabel talks a lot about this idea of aging and how we process that shift in our lives. Because as we age, we will inevitably lose some things — people, independence, energy… but we will also gain invaluable qualities as well. We gain the freedom to be who we really are. If you’ve ever watched in awe as your abuela or great aunt or elderly neighbor said exactly what she was thinking without a care in the world, then you know what we mean. With age comes freedom. We get to let go of what others think. We gain spirituality, and we embrace vulnerability. 

In addition to her various books and speaking engagements, Isabel also dedicates her life to the Isabel Allende Foundation, an initiative she launched after the tragic death of her daughter, Paula, at the age of 29. 

The foundation’s mission is inspired by her daughter’s ideals of service and compassion. It is dedicated to investing in the power of women and girls to secure reproductive rights, economic independence, and freedom from violence. Since 2016, the Isabel Allende Foundation has also expanded to assist refugees, particularly those along the southern border of the U.S.

In the final moments of her talk, Isabel reminds viewers that the word “retirement” in Spanish is jubilación. “Jubilation. Celebration. We have paid our dues. We have contributed to society. Now it’s our time, and it’s a great time,” she says. 

The spirit never ages, she reminds us. And we all have a choice to live passionately and to do so with an open heart.