Jimmy Carter is getting into the act of promoting positive aging. In his 12th book, The Virtues of Aging, the former President joins America's luminaries on this increasingly popular topic in exuding confidence in the good life after 65 and exhorting each and every one of us to follow suit.

All should decide on a life path which, above all, centers on giving us a purpose, quality relationships, and a disciplined exercise program. We should see our lives as expanding, not contracting, writes Carter, who at age 56 left the White House and Washington.

He and his wife, Rosalynn now enjoying their second 50 years of marriage returned to Plains, Georgia, where he writes they struggled to find their place again in the world away from the political spotlight and outside the frenzied Washington beltway.

After months of uncertainty except when the concern was returning their peanut farm to prosperity, the Carters established the Carter Center in nearby Atlanta as the focus for pursuing their multiple interests.

From this enviable vantage point, the Carters together and individually convene meetings on favorite topics of national and international import, participate with hammer and pliers in Habitat for Humanity (building houses for those who are less well off), and maintain an interest in promoting international citizen exchange through the Friendship Force.

Paraphrasing a verse from the Old Testament, Carter tells his readers to forget caution and take a chance.

The Virtues of Aging is a virtuous (sometimes saccharine sweet) book written by a virtuous man. The author's approach is down-home and conversational. He might preach on occasion ( Social Security laws must change. )He also might meander, but never far from his readers who feel as if they are sitting across the kitchen table in Plains.

We almost see him blush when he deals all too briefly with the subject of sexuality and aging, reminding us painfully of his admission of experiencing lust in his heart. In a chapter entitled What Is Successful Aging?, Carter writes, You may be surprised to learn that I think one of the most important [goals] should be our own happiness. Well, not really. But read this short and sweet book anyway. It's written to the point, which is this: go experience life, even though you've crossed the threshold of 65.

Marsha VandeBerg is a writer in San Francisco and founding national editor of a magazine for readers who are 50 and older.

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