Maya Angelou and Satchel Paige: Patron Saints of Retirees

Alan Spector

Alan Spector

 “Love life.  Engage in it.  Give it all you’ve got.  Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”

Maya Angelou not only got it right for the rest of us, she practiced what she preached.  This great American poet, author, Pulitzer Prize nominee, and civil rights leader passed away in 2014 at the age of 86.  Despite failing health, Angelou wrote four books during her final ten years, including her seventh autobiography, which was published in 2013.  And she was still stretching herself creatively—when she died, she was writing the lyrics and doing the vocals for an album of songs combining a number of genres, including hip-hop.  Caged Bird Songs was released posthumously.

Angelou was an inspiration on so many levels, including helping us think about staying active and engaged while aging.  Do any of these quotations of hers resonate?

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

“At 50, I began to know who I was.  It was like waking up to myself.”

“Life loves the liver of it.”

Although this one is not necessarily about aging well per se, it is a great philosophy of life, “I love a Hebrew National hot dog with an ice-cold Corona – no lime.  If the phone rings, I won’t answer until I’m done.”

Satchel Paige, perhaps the greatest Negro League and, arguably, the greatest any-league pitcher in baseball history, was once asked his age, a statistic that was frequently debated. Satch, who was a major league rookie in his early 40s and pitched for the Kansas City Athletics at age 60, answered the question, saying less about his age than about his general philosophy of life.  He responded with a much more profound question of his own, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”

I’m convinced that Paige, along with Angelou, should be considered the patron saints of retirees.  Their philosophies of life, as evidenced by their many insights, represent exactly the attitude we need as we age through retirement.

My late aunt, Ethel “Tappy” Harris, lived into her early 90s and maintained a great attitude toward life.  She was constantly looking for opportunities to stay engaged and interested.  When she would plan something and put it on her calendar, she could be counted on to say, “Well, that’s something to look forward to.”

Although Angelou and Paige said it just a bit differently, they and Tappy had it right.  Each would recommend to us that we lean forward into life.  Paige, for example, said, “Don’t look back.  Something might be gaining on you.”

The research is consistent—how people feel about aging and their expectations of their capabilities have a greater impact on health, happiness, and longevity than does their chronological age.  Satch, Maya, and Tappy didn’t need to see the research data.  They instinctively knew how to think about age, and as Paige said, “Age is a question of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Yep, Maya Angelou and Satchel Paige, the patron saint of retirees—along with Tappy, of course.


Alan Spector is the coauthor, along with Keith Lawrence, of the book, Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement. Alan and Keith conduct workshops around the country, helping Baby Boomers plan for the nonfinancial aspects of retirement. Since retiring from a successful 33-year executive career with the Procter & Gamble Company, Alan has been a founding partner of three businesses, the author of five books, and deeply involved with social service organizations, community initiatives to reduce violence, and education programming. He is a management consultant, baseball player, nonprofit Board member, frequent traveler, speaker, blogger, and most importantly, the active and proud grandfather of four. Alan lives in St. Louis with his wife, Ann.

Alan’s fifth book, Body Not Recovered, has been named as a “Hot New Release” on Amazon. Learn more about Your Retirement Quest at, and learn more about Alan and his books at


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