Best Life

Barbranda Lumpkins Walls is a features editor for AARP Media who spotlights everyday people doing exceptional things. These folks might not make national news, but they deserve a shout-out. She loves pop culture — especially food, fashion, television and R&B music. Family, friends and spirituality play important roles in her life. And traffic.

Working Out to Help His Brain Stay Sharp

T Michael Harty, 59, works out every day. But he doesn’t use elliptical trainers, weight machines or stationary bicycles. His workout regimen: brain exercises. The Shippensburg, Pa., man keeps his mind in fighting form by spending at least a half hour a day memorizing random cards, number sequences and words.  On March 29, he’ll put his skills to the test when he comes up against more than 70 other mental athletes at the USA Memory Championship in New York. Participants …

AIDS Activist Mary Fisher’s Newest Good Deed

Who knew that counting beads could help change the world? Mary Fisher had a notion it would. The AIDS activist and author immediately saw the power of connecting beads to good deeds after meeting a filmmaker who told her about a game he played with his children to track their anonymous acts of kindness. “I was fascinated by this,” says Fisher, 65, from her home in Sedona, Ariz. “The minute he said beads I thought I had to do a …

24 Veterans Get Long-Overdue Medals of Honor

Melvin Morris vividly remembers the day in September 1969 when he became a war hero in the eyes of others. Morris was a young Green Beret staff sergeant in South Vietnam. After his master sergeant was killed in a jungle ambush in the vicinity of Chi Lang, Morris, serving as the commander of a Special Forces strike force, went back into the line of fire three times to recover the body and a map case – and was wounded three …

A Dollmaker Brings Cheer to Children

After her husband passed away in 2007 following a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, Reva Balogh searched for something to fill her time. Then, reaching into her own childhood, she found it. Balogh, 89, of Curtice, Ohio, is known these days as The Doll Lady. That’s because in the past six years, she’s made more than 1,600 dolls and donated them to charitable organizations, social service agencies, hospitals and the Ronald McDonald House, which distributes them to children. “I love …

T. Thomas Fortune: He Paved the Way for Civil Rights Organizers

W.E.B. Du Bois. Mary McLeod Bethune. Stokely Carmichael. Malcolm X. Martin Luther King Jr. These are names of civil rights leaders you’re likely to hear during Black History Month. But here’s one you may not: T. Thomas Fortune. You might say that Fortune was the forefather of civil rights organizers. In 1890, he founded the National Afro-American League, the precursor to a host of groups, including today’s powerful National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Fortune was born …

Vivian Davis, the Oldest Active Peace Corps Volunteer, Raises HIV/AIDS Awareness

Whenever Vivian Davis feels like doing something, she does it. So when she felt like joining the Peace Corps, she did – at age 78. Now 80, Davis is the Peace Corps’ oldest active volunteer. But not for long. She’s winding up a two-year assignment in Vaalbank, South Africa, a small, rural village 50 miles north of Pretoria. Davis has helped to raise HIV/AIDS awareness – distributing condoms, holding meetings about mother-to-child transmission of the virus, organizing data systems and …