When you think about actors whose performances have marked the lives of people in American entertainment, Dick Van Dyke certainly has to be at the top of the list.
Known and loved around the world for his unforgettable performances in Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and the Night at the Museum films, this incredible performer has never stopped or slowed down for a moment in 93 years.
Van Dyke pointed out that his love of performing has kept him feeling young for decades.
But what keeps this Hollywood legend going strong? When so many of the actors and actresses of his generation have passed on, why is Van Dyke still around and still performing?
While Van Dyke certainly gives credit to good genes from his parents, he has thought a lot about what it takes to make it as an old person in a world that focuses on youth and beauty. As he said to KTTV in Los Angeles, “people are more afraid of aging than they are of death.” When asked if he feels different now: “I don’t feel age at all. I don’t feel any different.”
And that feeling and the attitude behind it are one of the main things that Van Dyke gives credit for keeping him alive and well for such a long time.
Van Dyke certainly admits it isn’t easy for senior citizens today. “Old people used to be venerated. Now they’re ignored, sidelined, and institutionalized as fast as they can get rid of them,” he said to KTTV. When life is tough, that’s when attitude becomes even more important.
“Attitude is so important for a person that age. Today, an elderly person has to be self-sufficient.” While aches and pains or a belief that they can’t do the things they used to can often prevent seniors from living their fullest life, Van Dyke continues to do just about everything he used to. It’s not always easy, but as he said to KTTV, “attitude is everything. It’s not what happens to you, it’s the attitude you take.”
Van Dyke wrote an advice book in 2015 called Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging, which is another of his secrets for longevity. Despite his arthritis, he does some of form of movement whenever he can. As he told Closer Weekly, “I’ve always been an exerciser and still am. I go to the gym three days a week, get in the pool and exercise.”
Besides exercising, Van Dyke continues to sing and dance, even appearing in Mary Poppins Returns (2018) as Mr. Dawes, Jr. As he told Closer, “I’ve been one of those lucky people that got to do something for a living that he would have done for nothing […] they can’t get me off the stage.”
Perhaps just as important as his keeping his body healthy has been Van Dyke’s openness to new ideas. As he said to KTTV, “I have a lot of friends who haven’t changed their mind about anything in their lives. Despite new information that comes in, they still think the same, feel the same.” From his point of view, “an open mind is one of the best things to have when you get old.”
This openness doesn’t just extend to new perspectives. Van Dyke even met the love of his later years, makeup artist Arlene Silver, whom he married in 2012. Despite being nearly half his age, Silver has brought joy and music to his life. He told KTTV that she even does tap dance routines while washing the dishes.
“I thought [before] I’ll probably spend the rest of my life alone. Then I fell in love and now I have a third life.”
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Last but certainly not least, Van Dyke tells people to do something we all did as children. “Everybody should dance and everybody should sing, he told Closer.”
As for the people who are embarrassed to sing or think that their voices aren’t good enough, Van Dyke replies: “everybody can sing. That you do it badly is no reason not to sing.”