By on November 1, 2012
Nov Special Feature Ruth

Ruth Colvin: Age Is Just A Number

During her lifetime, Ruth Colvin has received various honors celebrating her work and professional career. Ruth founded the Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. in 1962 in the basement of her home. The mission grew and eventually combined with Laubach Literacy to become ProLiteracy. The non-profit organization works to lower the illiteracy rate and extend the opportunity to learn to read and write to every adult.

Ruth and her husband frequently travel in the United States and abroad to give workshops on literacy and English as a second language. Ruth has received nine honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degrees, the 1987 Volunteer Action Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. She was inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame and has written various books. But it doesn’t stop there.

Her latest achievement came in the form of the 2012 Eldercare Lifetime Achievement Award, which she received at the 5th annual “Gift of Age Cabaret” on Sept. 28 at the DoubleTree Hotel. This award was different because it represented age and achievement, she said. She is currently 95.

“We’re all aging. Some are further down the road than others. But ages are just numbers. It’s only one way of measuring what we can do.”

Ruth says that she is nothing short of blessed in her life. Age is a reflection of time, and she takes every minute to heart. She still enjoys playing 18 holes of golf, writing and tutoring. Balance is key, she says. In order to stay healthy, you have to have a balance of physical, mental and emotional stimulation. Ruth wakes up every day and lifts weights. Physical stimulation, check.

Later on in her day, she devotes her hours to writing and capturing her thoughts on paper, which gives her mental and emotional stimulation. Check and check. She recently published a book called “Off the Beaten Path,” which follows 92 stories of people who have made an impact on Ruth and her husband, Bob’s, lives. Along with a little bit of luck, Ruth lives each day with a spirit of zeal and passion for life.

Normally, the cut-off age for doing volunteer work abroad with the International Executive Service Corp. is 80. Ruth and Bob, however, were in good health and had a keen set of skills when they were on the brink of turning 80. They accepted an assignment in Zambia, Africa, and later in Papua, New Guinea, Madagascar, the Solomon Islands, Cambodia, Haiti and Guatemala.

“When people are in their 80s, they think they’re old. But I want them to know that very often, it’s just a number. It depends on the individual people, their lifestyles and their health and their willingness to do volunteer work. A lot of interesting things can happen.”

To date, Ruth has been to more than 26 countries with her organization, and she continues to tutor people and give talks. Through all her travels, the one thing Ruth has noticed is how willing people are to devote their time to help others. “In America, we’re willing to give what you can’t put a price on,” she said.

“That is a beautiful thing,” she added.


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