02/22/2013 04:38 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2013

The Older 'Girls'

Two iconic women have returned to the media spotlight this week, if only briefly. Lee Radziwill, 79, graced the cover of last Sunday's New York Times Style Magazine with her still-beautiful face and whippet-trim form. Two days later, Yoko Ono celebrated her 80th birthday to public acclaim. These women -- one the embodiment of elegance and the other synonymous with the avant-garde -- are still going strong.

Stars of the 20th century, they remain relevant today because they are relevant to themselves. How many women of any age can make that claim? In both Radiziwill and Ono lies a power -- a spark of defiance that runs counter to the panic most women feel about aging. For these two, life is still fun -- and an adventure. That's an enticing message for other women to hear, especially for those of us in midlife.

The photos of Radiwill -- rare images of her personal life -- narrate the enviable existence of a debutante-turned-jet-setter. At home with such different personalities as Rudolf Nureyev and Mick Jagger, Radziwill was a great friend to many artistic giants of the 20th century, including Andy Warhol and Truman Capote. Yet, she never molded herself to any of these men, or capitulated to a particular era. Wherever she's photographed -- a ballroom, a discotheque, a strip of windswept beach in Montauk -- Radziwill seems at ease. She inhabits the couture, the physical space and the zeitgeist. They do not inhabit her.

"I've done so many fascinating things, and I continue to do interesting things and meet fascinating people," Radziwill told The Times. In a similar vein, Ono revealed to an interviewer in Berlin, where she spent her birthday, "When you do something you love, you don't feel tired. You have more energy. That's how I feel about my life. I love my life."

True, it may be easier to love life if you have a fabulous apartment in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower, as Radiziwill does, or live in The Dakota. Yet, it's not wealth or privilege that enlivens these women, but a daily joy they embrace. Even on the heels of tragedy, including the death of Radziwell's son, Anthony, and the murder of Oko's husband, John Lennon, they are willing to take the risk of engaging with the world.

That's good news for the rest of us. Active participation in life is an option for most people, even those in their 70s or 80s. Both Radziwill and Ono are enthusiastic players in their own existence -- more so than many people a quarter their age. hese women, despite advanced years, want to stay in the game. That's not merely a statement, it's an intention -- and a challenge to all women to live out our lives as people of relevance, not as relics of a bygone youth.