Dr. Phil Hines: Shattering the myths of aging

Documentary from Kamilah Brown on Vimeo.

On a typical day, Dr. Phillip Hines might do a bit of dining with friends, attend a weekly study of Greek, translating biblical texts, then round off the day with a cooking lesson back at home. None of this sounds strange to the average person

Until they hear that the retired English professor is just five months into his 90th year.

On Aging

Old? Who’s old?

“I don’t know how it is to get old, because I haven’t yet done that,” Hines said, chuckling at himself. “90’s not too bad.”

Hines, who taught at Old Dominion University in Norfolk for more than a decade, tries to stay active, participating in most of the activities offered by the assisted living facility in which he and his wife reside.


“It does not stop,” Hines said. “There’s something about accepting life for what it is. It’s kind of intangible.”

Though he claimed not to be fit enough to give advice, he said he makes sure to keep his mind and body busy.

“It keeps the mind sharp,” he said.

His minister and another from a neighboring church join him each week to study Greek translation of scripture. He also dines out with a group of friends who named themselves R.O.M.E.O—Really old men eating out

At 90, Hines seems to be living life anew. So, what’s his advice for the rest of us?

“Be careful not to behave too badly,” he said. “But if you don’t go to excesses sometimes, you’re a dull person.”

Humble beginnings

“I’m from Kinston, North Carolina, about 130 due south of Norfolk,” said Hines. “It was a tobacco town til tobacco lost out because everyone gets sick from tobacco.”

“My father was in the Army, WW I,” he said.

His grandfather owned a lumber business, which he passed on to Hines’ father.

“He had a place when he came home, and that was lucky because not everybody has that. So he came home and started work, and later got married in 1923. I was born in 1924,” he said with a smile. “Things went along swimmingly.”

Though Hines himself said he was most likely expected to follow in those footsteps, it was not to be

Life and times of Phil Hines

“I went into the service,” he explained. “I was in WW II, veteran.

I was in the Army Air Forces from 1943 until 1946, I think two months shy of three years.”

He saw no combat.

“Thank goodness.”

But he did see a number of sites across the US, including Mississippi, New York, South Carolina and even North Africa for sometime.

“I was in Casablanca for almost two years,” said Hines. “Being there, this is a very Arabian place, it was very different. The weather was very good.

But the military was not to be for Hines, who said that he went into the service only because he was drafted

“After the war, they discharged us all, and I, of course, wanted to get out,” he said. “I did not intend to make the army a career.

On teaching and education

He returned home and did joined his family’s lumber business for about seven years, he said, before literature called him elsewhere.

“I’ve always wanted to teach. Teaching is a good thing for almost anybody.” Usually if you had the opportunity to teach

“It was kind of an intention I had, without really having an intention. It was like rolling down a hill, that is, getting into it.”

Over the years he has seen the profession change, some ways for the better and some for the worse.

“I think that more and more people come into teaching without really the proper training,” he said, though he puts the bulk of the responsibility on students.

“The students ought to be prepared enough and willing to be prepared enough, and that’s a big problem, especially now,” he explained. “Too many people expect almost everything and don’t expect to put out much effort. And that’s bad.

On people

In a 2011 Chicago Tribune article, How old do you feel inside? The key to staying healthy and living longer is deciding you’re not old and decrepit, author Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, surmised that, feeling younger might not make one so, but attitude toward aging can

Despite all that he has seen and experienced, Hines remains optimistic about the fate of man kind.

“Most people are good. Most people want to do the right thing,” he said. “The bad people do not outnumber the good people. And that’s still true.”

Hines believes that even in those moments that may not be ideal, learning can happen.

“My father,” he explained, “was a bad drinker.”

Still, he says his childhood was a happy one. Besides, lessons can be learned from almost any situation.

“We all know friend s who do thing we wouldn’t do but we’ve learned not to do them from the friends.”

“So there. See…?”

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