How to Stay Young & Hot Forever: Advice from a 96-Year-Old Grandma.

Via Francesca Biller
on Feb 26, 2013
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Anna Lee at 90 years-old at a Party

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My grandma was always the hottest commodity in her town, and in any town for that matter.

Bonus! Life Instructions from a 95-year old.

Perhaps it is the way she flirted and posed for the camera, even winking as she adorably crossed her legs slowly and deliberately for each photo from age six to 96, as if she were the most beautiful and important person in the world.
And ever since I can remember, that’s just who she was: the most important and beautiful woman around, and always the youngest-at-heart person I had the gracious opportunity to know.

Maybe it was the way she knew how to get the best seat at any fine restaurant on a Saturday evening, and without a reservation.

Sounding a bit like Bette Davis on a humorous day but looking more like Betty Grable, she would say, “Now don’t tell me you don’t have room for a pretty girl like me with personality to boot?” as she coyly smiled.

It worked like a charm every time.

“Come right this way,” the Maitre D would reply, as she gave me a knowing grin as if to say, “I hope you’re taking notes.”

Or perhaps it was the way that she laughed, that joyous laughter that captivated anyone who heard it, as it was genuine, hearty and sexy to the core because of its sincere sing-song, unpretentious and absolutely infectious sound.

Anyone who can manage to stay beautiful and youthful well into their ninth decade on this planet is someone well worth listening to. That is just what my grandma, Anna Lee did until her very last day at the ripe young age of 96.

Think of Betty White with a dash of Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball, and a princess or two thrown in for levity, and that’s just a hint of how much the hotness factor played in my grandma’s entire being.

But I believe that what truly made my grandma a gorgeous woman and appear younger than her years was her attitude about life and the way that she carried herself in it.

“If you can’t laugh at yourself, no one will ever take you seriously,” she once casually exclaimed while cutting roses from her lush and overgrown garden.

When I was a little girl, she used to take me along on endless, joyous days when we would visit museums, fashion shows; enjoy Tea Time with her friends and spend long lunches with interesting and fabulously exotic people.

Because I was with her meant that I was somehow beautiful too because she included me in her endlessly passionate and exuberant life.

One day when we whizzed about town in her Canary yellow vintage convertible Jaguar as she donned a Grace Kelly style scarf and sunglasses, she said to me, “I think we need girl’s afternoon to spoil ourselves, what do you think?”

I just smiled back at her, all of the age of 10 with my shiny, patent leather Mary Jane shoes as I held on to my door for safety as she was a fast driver, although she always managed to talk herself out of a speeding ticket with charmed-I’m-sure police officers.

One of my last memories was when she phoned to tell me she was going to purchase a new bathing suit, and “Would I like to go along?” She loved wearing festive, new suits each season as the men at The Senior Center expected as much, and she didn’t have the heart to let them down.

Mind you, she had been been married twice and lost her second husband some 25 years before, and was now a confirmed and happy bachelorette, living each day to the fullest of scales by anyone’s measure.

I regret that I did not shop for a bathing suit with her on that day, but I will never forget one of the last things that she said to me.

“Well honey, I just hope that you take the time to buy yourself something pretty too. It sure does a girl a lot of good.”

Grandma, you’re still doing me a lot of good, and for all of your wisdom and advice that I cherish and now pass on to my own daughters, I can tell you that we are grateful.

20 Ways to Stay Young and Hot From Someone who Really Knew How:

1. Watch your figure closely, because if you don’t take the time to do so, nobody else will. She watched what she ate and exercised, but she also knew how to wear a dress like nobody’s business.

2. Avoid spending time with people who complain about how old they feel. They will just pull you right down with them and make you feel old too. Instead, surround yourself with people who feel and act young, both inside and out. Seriously, she lived by this rule and only kept the company of positive and enlightening folks.

3. Exercise every day, no matter how tired or lazy you feel. Just moving around will make you forget about how tired you are, and pretty soon, you’ll have more energy to do all of the fun things you truly want to do. She either played golf, swam, danced or walked nearly every day of her life.

4. Travel whenever you are able. Seeing the world and discovering how other people live adds life, love and lucidity to your years. Well into her 90s, Anna Lee was traveling abroad to fabulous and exotic places on a moment’s notice.

5. Take the time to plan wonderful things for the future, this will give you something to look forward to and make you feel hopeful. Whenever I spoke to her, she had something new to tell me about what she was going to be doing—both sooner and later.

6. Be extravagant once in awhile. Whether its eating a decadent piece of chocolate cake, wearing something much too sexy for your own good, or dining at a very expensive restaurant once a year—this can make you feel both happy and young. She could be seen eating a small piece of dark chocolate every afternoon while sometimes wearing a low-cut sweater.

7. On a daily basis, eat whatever you want, drink what you want, and say what you want, but all with a degree of moderation. While she enjoyed a martini, she didn’t get drunk, although she may have danced a bit more because of it.

8. Flirt with life—not just with men and women, but with all of what life has to offer. This will make you feel young, hopeful and excited to get out of bed every day. My grandma enjoyed flirting with any man in uniform, and I am certain that if she were around today, she would flirt with my boyfriend while also flirting with the idea of buying new shoes.

9. Surround yourself with lively, smart, fun and interesting people who adore being around you, don’t settle for anything or anyone else. I once witnessed my grandmother speaking to a man with a mustache who spoke to her in Italian about a book he had just written, while he smiled at her the whole time.

10. Be spontaneous. When you do something out of the ordinary and on barely a moment’s notice, this can make you feel alive and young. She was known to announce unexpected trips and excursions to the beach.

11. Don’t ever feel sorry about yourself. It is a waste of time and a waste of your life. And it also bores people to tears. Never once in all of my years did I ever hear my grandmother complain about her life.

12. Take the time to be beautiful. You can’t feel both depressed and fabulous at the same time. She got her hair done every week; it was dyed a beautiful shade of blonde with perfect flips and fragrant hairspray.

13. Treat yourself regularly to wonderful little things, especially if they seem unnecessary and frivolous. This will remind you that you are wonderful and when you feel wonderful, you just feel better. She often frequented special bookstores and could also be found buying herself shoes and hats on cold winter days.

14. Never say or think that you are “too old” to do anything. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, you are only as old as you make up your mind to be. My grandma was the first person to volunteer to do anything that seemed youthful.

15. Live the way that you feel your real age to be, not what others tell you. If you feel 16, keep that energy up and you will feel like a teenager for as long as you are willing. Even though she was way past sixteen, she could make anyone around her feel as forever young as she was.

16. Every morning when you wake up, tell yourself you are a beautiful and wonderful person while you look straight into the mirror. Anna Lee really did this, I saw her, and she would also sing to herself on occasion.

17. Read a lot of history, it will teach you a lot about what other people have gone through and their stories will inspire you. It will give you perspective about how good you really have it right now. My grandma was absolutely obsessed about history, especially about the soap opera dalliances of English Royalty and the sufferings of commoners and romantics.

18. As soon as a negative thought comes into your mind, make a habit of replacing it with a joke, a humorous anecdote, watch a funny film, or call a positive friend. Grateful to say, she often called moi for a humor boost.

19. Whether you’re a man or a woman, never sit around all day in your bedclothes. Get dressed, brush your hair, spiff yourself up and be ready for the Queen of England if she happens to stop by. Within a half hour of waking, she had her “face on,” her heels and her hair brushed and smelling like candy.

20. Pay attention to children because they know how to be happy, young and carefree. I should know about this one, I was lucky enough to be her granddaughter, and she paid a lot of attention to me and my three daughters.


Anna Lee in Bathing Suit 1922, Top rightNote and Background about my Grandmother:

All of the above was actually said by my grandmother, some of it paraphrased.

Anna Lee Shetler, born Anna Lee Williams was born in Oklahoma to my great grandparents in 1913, her father was a newspaper publisher and local politician, and he later opened up a chain of hip and swanky nightclubs when they moved west to California.

She attended Beverly Hills High School where she met my grandfather, Robert Biller and then attended Chouinard Art Institute and became a well known and respected restorer and collector of antique clothing and dolls from the 17oos through the early 1920s which, along with vintage cars with her second husband.

After he passed away, she spent the last 20 years of her life traveling around the world with girlfriends, tour groups and even ventured to Russia and China by herself.

She also added a small museum to her home where she held private showings of her collections, along with luncheons and charity events.

She loved to tell tales about her travels, share her advice and most of all, be wined and dined by people she loved while she wore beautiful clothes.





These aren’t really even Buddhist, they’re just human tips:



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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

And, I give you, China’s “Hottest Grandpa”:


About Francesca Biller

Francesca Biller is an award-winning investigative journalist and has reported for print, radio and television for nearly twenty years. As a reporter, she has widely covered the issues of politics, the economy, women’s issues, families, race, the media, popular culture, children and a variety of other topical and timely issues. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow award, two Golden Mike awards and four Society of Professional Journalists First Place awards. Currently, she primarily writes political satire, op eds and essays with a focus on women, children, politics and pop culture for various blogs, websites and other media outlets. You can connect with Francesca on twitter


69 Responses to “How to Stay Young & Hot Forever: Advice from a 96-Year-Old Grandma.”

  1. Cindy says:

    Wonderful article, I feel better already!

  2. Great advice! I was blessed to have women in my life….my mother, grandmother and aunts who subscribed to many of those concepts and beliefs and passed them on to me. I live juicy as a result.


    Edie (Bliss Mistress) <3

  3. Deborah says:

    Wonderful advice.
    The specifics depend on the personalities of the people
    makeup and hairdos may not be the desire of many
    but the passion for life, people and self is what matters

  4. legalchic7 says:

    Awesome! I love this article – what a great way to celebrate her life, her passion, her wisdom and her lust for everything about life – thank you for sharing!

  5. Robyn says:

    I love your grandma. I'm sorry you lost her. I lost mine last month at 91. Your grandma sounds like an amazing, vivacious woman who was full of fun and good advice.

  6. Francesca Biler says:

    Hi Cindy, I am so glad that you "feel better already"! So do I:)

  7. Francesca Biler says:

    Edie Weinstein, I love that! "Juicy as a Result" I may just have to borrow that for my next article :_

  8. Francesca Biler says:

    Robyn, Thank you for loving my grandma too:)

  9. stephruff says:

    your article really gave me a lift…. thanks so much for sharing these nuggets on life/loving/living! not only are they a wonderful rememberance of your grandmother, but a real bounty of inspiration for how i want to live my life and how wonderful it will be to be remembered by my children and (eventually) my grandchildren. it makes me want to get up and dance! thank you, so much……..

  10. Kelly says:

    Ooooh she sounds like a lovely woman and grandmother! Great advice. 🙂

  11. Wow. You and anyone who had the opportunity to meet your grandmother have much to be grateful for! She lives on in your words. xo P.S. I especially love that "She could be seen eating a small piece of dark chocolate every afternoon while sometimes wearing a low-cut sweater."

  12. @MidlifeMona says:

    Your grandmother was wonderful and an inspiration to all around her. I love #8. Flirt with life. Nicely said and nicely done. Great post.

  13. Fabulous column! My grandmother did many of these things and lived beautifully to the age of 103!

  14. Christina Del Bene says:

    I too had two grandmothers like that! Taught me all I needed to know on how to be a lady and love myself first!

  15. Kelly says:

    Oh I love this article! It was a true uplift to my day. Thank you for sharing. It looks like your grandmother is continuing to inspire people even after she has passed!

  16. Valerie Conklin says:

    Love this! That's a woman who knew how to live!

  17. Wissal says:

    Fabulous advice,
    your Grandmother was a very great woman . Thank you for sharing this interressant article with us

  18. alinusya aka Thinking Creature says:

    Beautiful writing. Love personal stories. Gorgeous memories. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Katie says:

    It sounds ridiculous but at 31 I am having a lot of anxiety about my age and also getting older. Mostly bc I am terrified of being old and unattractive. This is helping me turn my view around. Thanks for the great post, one of the best on EJ in a long time!

  20. Inna says:

    Lovely…..I almost feel that I am the grandmother reincarnate !!!

  21. audiomind says:

    Life is quite bit less stressful when $$ is no obstacle. From the details of the article it appears she had enough dinero to ease the daily negative stress involved in providing for oneself and family. $ is the central point of a lot of stress in life and can significantly impact your quality of life, especially in later years.This is an observation, not a negative response.

  22. adnan says:

    That's absolutly right

  23. phyllis haig says:

    Agree with audiomind above.The positive attitude in life, especially for older women in this cultura, is much easier to maintain when you have money and therefore power, ability to buy great quality food and services, get preferential treatment and thus feel entitled. That feedback makes it easier to maintain one's feelings of worth. That is exactly why it is so important to develop and maintain an insular happiness, joy and gratitude practice that is distinct from materialism or even how one gets treated by others.

  24. Kristina says:

    I love her!! What great gifts she blessed you with! I printed the list and hundreds it in my office as a reminder to age with grace..charm..and fun!

  25. Heather says:

    You are your Grandmother to the tee….mine was also beautiful and practical….my children and grandchildren are taught by her comments and example. Hugs so close to the Mother's Day <3 May we all be such an inspiration and legacy to future generations!

  26. Tracy says:

    LoVe this!!! Thanks for sharing!!! Words I hope to always live by….just BEAUTIFUL!!!

  27. Allie says:

    This is wonderful, she sounds like a beautiful character, thank you for sharing her.

  28. MassageAmom says:

    What a great story and good advice too! I shared it on my MassageAmom FB page for all my mommies!

  29. Amy E says:

    Love this article. Great advice. What a woman!

  30. Jinny Nash says:

    Wonderfully inspiring words; I get the lippy and heels out on ordinary days just for a lift and it works! I agree with audiomind and phyllis haig as well; having a consistent financial comfort level that appears to be the case from your article and her bio will make a difference because you always have a 'go to' when the chill wind blows, which does for everyone. Deeper work is required when that comfort isn't present in life so that when the chill wind appears we have inner strength and self-management techniques that don't depend on money to validate and give a sense of worth. She was a classy lady and clearly an absolute pleasure to be around, not to mention wise. She's the definition of glamour in the old school sense of the word; how wonderful that you had her in your life!

  31. Lucinda says:

    This brought back memories of my Auntie who was exactly like this….brought a tear to my eye ….she died at 98

  32. Arlette says:

    I lost my grandmother in May. She was 96 also and a maverick in her own right. My strength as a woman came from spending my childhood with her. We were both blessed with wonderful role models. 🙂 What a great tribute to your grandmother! Thank you for sharing!

  33. Josephine Quigley says:

    I love everything about your grandma Ann Lee, she was blessed with beauty inside ,life is a gift and sure she did it her way.
    Thank a million for sharing .

  34. Nowadays it is very rare to find a person living at the age of 90. Maybe we couldn't get that kind of age because of our lifestyle, but because of what you have shared, my perception really changed! Your grandmother way of living inspires me a lot.

  35. Lisa Lund says:

    This just put a huge smile on my face! I was not fortunate to know my grandmother (Mother's Mom) but my sisters did – and they tell me stories about her all the time and I picture her just like this! I will meet her someday I know it and I can't wait. So glad you had this woman in your life and so glad the memories are so wonderful – what a hoot she was! I hope I'm half that spunky when I'm that age – or I should say I WILL BE THAT SPUNKY IN MY OLD AGE! Thanks for sharing – love the story!

  36. PJI says:

    I loved the article. Thanks for sharing your grand mother's philosophy. It made my day. I adored my grandmother too.

  37. Judy says:

    Very good advice! Thank you for sharing. I wonder, what astrological sign was your grandmother?

  38. Tea says:

    Hey Francesca! What an inspirational article, it made me light up inside 🙂 I must say, your grandmother sounds very motivated and positive but she also sounds like she was wealthy. Is this right? Its not easy for everybody to travel or forget the strains of their mundane lives.

  39. Sandy says:

    Beautiful! Now that was a woman who knew how to live life! May we all learn from this remarkable lady. 🙂

  40. mauraboland says:

    This made me miss my Grandmother who was one of the funniest, smartest, and independant ladies. Even though it has been over 30 years, I still miss that old bag:) BTW she loved when I said that to her…

  41. Ogooluwa says:

    This is a truly amazing write up! I want to remain 16 forever and your grandma just helped me realize I can achieve this. Even though not physically, but psychologically

  42. Liz says:

    I love this! Thank you so much for writing and sharing your wonderful grandmother with us. Beautifully uplifting.

  43. Kimberly S says:

    I couldn't have read this at a more perfect time in my life. About a week ago I realized I'm stuck in a caterpillar stage and need some time to reconnect with myself and decide what I want to do with the rest of my life. I love what you have written about your grandmother and would love to have a taste of that. I'm going to actually make a copy and hang this where I can look at it every morning and evening to remind me what I can do. Looking forward to it now. Thank you for sharing this. Love!

  44. Sally says:

    I am 80 and love life, singing and dancing, but I'm going to have to upgrade to a much higher level to even come near to her! Thank you for giving me inspiration to grow more beautiful and sexy!! 😉

  45. Carlos says:

    Thank you for writing this. I don't know your grandmother but just the way you wrote this made me feel an immense amount of joy and happiness. As if I was experiencing life with her. Thank you for that.

  46. Deedee1955 says:

    Good advice and great reminder how to live life. I could tell by the advice, your grandmother had a privileged life that had plenty of free time and money. For many people working 2-3 jobs, working anywhere from 10-16 hrs a day, some may find it hard to drive around with a scarf flying in a yellow jag. Oh my!

  47. Sarah Brannick says:

    My grandma lived to be 96 too. She was a teacher and a life long learner. She never gave a hoot about being hot but she smoked and drank til the end. I believe it was more about her curiosity and her disconcern for many things. She never stressed about anything. Things were what they were. It wasn't what happened to you it what how you reacted to them. Life was in your hands. You made it what you wanted it to be. Even death, she always said "it's a natural part pf life". I never saw someone so matter of fact. But as an adult I realize how right she was. You can't stress over things you have no control over. You can be sad about things but only so much. Her sister, also a drinker and smoker lived to be 97. Guess they knew what they were talking about!

  48. Rich says:

    So part of her advice is teaching girls how to be manipulative to get what you want, the best seat at a restaurant,be sulty and seductive and alluring to tease men or people again, to get what you want. There is already SO much of this going on today thanks to feminism and the media, teaching girls to use their bodies, sex, looks, appearance to manipulate men into giving them or doing things they want, we don't need more of it.

    While there is some decent advice about replacing negative thoughts with jokes or such, the advice about being extravagant, act like you could meet the queen and England and dress like it, is really all part of the general female psyche's obsession with looks, appearances and vanity, which again, there is already faar too much of in this world.

    At a quick glance, it appears that virtually every comment here is from a woman who is agreeing with this whole heartedly.. because of course anything that women can do or use to take them out of the constantly negative thinking most seem to exist in almost all the time is praised, lauded and preached.. but the problem is that as usual, that it's done using vanity or materialism to give you that temporary fix, which is not a true solution and never will be.

  49. Madhuri Shelke Gaddime says:

    What a worderful thought.. so nicely to live life.. really vry inspiring words…specially for every women … thank u….

  50. Sheighle says:

    Lovely! Needed that as I was feeling a bit sorry for myself…fighting cancer and feeling less than lovely. Thank you

    Intend to retrieve my joie de vivre and hope to dance again.