Jane Pauley wants you to know that her new “CBS Sunday Morning” primetime special, “Forever Young: Searching For The Fountain of Youth,” is not about plastic surgery.
“This is not an hour about famous people who are amazingly beautiful and successful, even if they are,” said Pauley, 71. “I think this program is full of great ideas for vibrant and provocative ideas that make you think : “‘I do not want it’, ‘I hope it happens’, ‘it is not for me.’
“The idea was to take the age-old quest for eternal youth and look at it from many different angles … whether it’s in the animal kingdom – the tortoise, who is 189 and his eyes only newly developed cataracts … or a tree that is 5,000 years old and young when the pyramids were built. “
“Forever Young,” which airs Sunday (November 28) at 22.00, also includes interviews with Candice Bergen, 75, and Billy Crystal, 73, who talk about aging in Hollywood’s youth-obsessed world.
“Candice Bergen expresses it beautifully,” Pauley said. “She said, ‘I wanted to grow older with credibility.’ She’s completely honest about demonstrating the whale on her neck, why she’s wearing a turtleneck, the clefts over her lips, she admits that being 75 hit her like a ‘lump’. It was harsh, it was a big deal… and she still has something to do with it.
“I think these two Hollywood celebrities are uniquely comfortable in their skin,” she said. “I do not think one can throw a really wide net over Hollywood and find a lot of people who would talk about this.”
The thesis takes a look at how scientists are exploring ways in which humans can live longer – and how humans will one day be able to “live” forever, virtually, through avatars and artificial intelligence.
“Researchers are wondering why there are people who seem to age differently than the rest of us who avoid illness and grow very old,” Pauley said. “There are places around the world that seem to favor unusually old age. We are going to Sardinia, where it is almost common to be 100 years old. What is it about the small island? What makes it so favorable?”
Pauley said the thesis struck home on a personal level.
“There are people who very soon after their death prepare to be frozen in the hope and expectation that their lives will one day be revived,” she said. “I could think of a thousand reasons why I would not do it, but some people find great comfort in the opportunity. I wonder what gigantic steps I need to take to turn back time at this point in life. There’s a voice inside my head that says, ‘Well, you quit smoking a long time ago.’
“We’re researching why women definitely, as a category, live longer than men, and the reason I fear does not apply to me,” she said. “I’m pretty sure my husband [Garry Trudeau] will survive me because how women emotionally and culturally and genetically handle stress can be one of the factors [to living longer] – and I do not handle it so well, so I may not be individually a beneficiary.
“Only time will tell, I think.”
Pauley said she asked Bergen if she felt her life was getting “smaller” with age – and that she was surprised by her response.
“She immediately said ‘Yes,’ but then went on to say, ‘But it’s more focused and less scattered. I’m focused on what’s in front of me.”
“I thought with the Thanksgiving weekend I’m focused on what’s in front of me [and] the priority in my life now, which is family and grandchildren.
“And what’s better to focus on,” she said. “It strikes me as perhaps not ‘less’ – but richer and more important.”