How to live your best life at 94, according to June Squibb

A photo illustration of June Squibb against a red background.
June Squibb, 94, doesn’t believe in aging out of Hollywood. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

June Squibb does her own stunts.

In Thelma, the actress’s first leading role, she plays a grandmother who falls for a phone scam and then sets out on a Mission: Impossible-like journey to get her $10,000 back. Squibb is no Tom Cruise, but, as one critic put it, she is an “unlikely yet satisfying action star.” While a stuntwoman was on set, Squibb took on a high-speed chase on a motorized scooter, a crash scene and more herself, motivated by the physical challenges.

At 94, Squibb isn't slowing down and has never subscribed to the idea of being too old to do just about anything. Instead, she stays in pursuit of exciting opportunities on- and off-screen. With that, there's a lot to learn from Squibb on longevity, from having a positive attitude to getting “gussied up” for the red carpet. Here's how she's doing it as a nonagenarian.

Getting older is not something Squibb has put much thought into. “I just don't think I even deal with it, to be honest with you. Maybe that's naive,” she says. “I think that's how I've gone through life.”

However, she isn’t ignorant to the fact that aging has taken a toll on her in some ways.

“I'm at the stage where I do need help with certain things, and I think I ask for it,” she says. “I stopped driving in 2017 because I have a wonderful assistant and she drives, so it just seems to make sense. And I never felt pushed, you know, [by people saying] you can't do this anymore. Even my son doesn't say that to me. But it just seems sort of natural the things that are happening.”

Her son, Harry Kakatsakis, did encourage Squibb to move from her second-floor apartment, where she lived for two decades, to one on the first floor so she wouldn’t have to use the stairs every day. “He does worry about it,” she says. Otherwise, she’s maintained independence in other daily routines. “I still get up in the morning and feed the two cats. I clean up and do all the things I need to do.”

“People begin to feel that we can't handle things. And in truth, there are things that we can't, but there are things that we still can handle,” she says.

“I have always been physical. I danced for years and I swam,” says Squibb. “I was swimming an hour a day if I wasn't working while living in New York, as well as out here [in Los Angeles]. So I mean, I've always used my body.”

She wasn’t scared off when she saw in the Thelma script that her role required some stunting.

“It kept saying she's on this scooter, and I thought that would be kind of wonderful. I love that. If anything, it made me want to do it more. But I don't think there was anything that worried me,” she says. “I felt, well, I could try it and see if I can do it. If I can't, though, I'll have a stunt person do it. It wasn't a lot of pressure.”

Squibb took up Pilates in an effort to prepare herself for filming. “My assistant and I started with Pilates about half a year before and that really helped, I think,” she says, explaining that they work with separate trainers. “You know, we do it at the same time, though it's two entirely different regimens going on at the same time. It's a very good stretch for your body.”

Fortunately, most of the action on set consisted of things she could handle.

“I sometimes do [surprise myself] physically,” she says. “I have some things with my body that are hard to navigate now. But I find ways of doing it. I know if I'm gonna get tired, I'm gonna get tired. And there's not much I can do about it. …But I ended up doing almost everything. So there you go.”

“I have people that I can rely on, I can call and ask whatever I want of them,” says Squibb. And while some of those people are her peers, she also cherishes the friendships she has with people much younger than her, like Glee alum Chris Colfer, who is 60 years her junior.

“He is a very close friend of mine. And people used to see us when he was in his early 20s and I was already in my 80s. We were just as close as could be, and we still are,” says Squibb. “I do learn a lot talking to [younger people] that I probably wouldn't be aware of if it weren't for those relationships.”

It also helps to combat some of the loneliness that can come with aging. “I am losing people. You know, I mean, I have lost quite a few people,” she says of friends her age. “Lost. I sound like they're wandering somewhere. They're dead.”

“I've never thought that made much sense,” says Squibb in response to ageism in the industry. “I moved out to Hollywood after About Schmidt and I was in my 70s already. I mean, there were rules and I broke every one of them, I'm sure.”

Despite the myth that it’s too late to find success after a certain age, Squibb believes there are new opportunities for actors like herself. “I think that there's a great deal of interest in aging now. And I think that that's showing up,” she says. “I just shot another film with a 90-year-old leading lady. And so, I mean, I think that people are wanting to see this.”

She’s hopeful that more storytelling will allow people to gain some understanding and empathy for their elders. “Older people have grit, they have determination and I think that they want justice,” she says.

“We have leading ladies now that are 40, 50, 60, and we certainly did not have that before,” she continues. “Luckily, some of the rules that were supposedly Hollywood rules are changing.”

She still finds it exciting to participate in the glitz and glamour of it all.

“I do respect it,” she says, mentioning her attendance at the June 10 premiere of Inside Out 2, in which she voiced the character Nostalgia. “I did the red carpet. I gussied up. I had my glam team, my hair, makeup and clothing and everything. I mean, getting dressed up is not to be sneezed at when you don't do it all the time.”

As of now, it’s not something she’s eager to get away from. “I just keep going and think, well, there will be a time, I'm sure, when I will slow down a bit,” she says. “I haven't. And it's crazy.”