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Living Well at Any Age

When I rounded an aisle at Walmart, nearly colliding with a man’s overflowing cart, I heard, “Dad, you almost ran over that little old lady.”

“I’m not old,” I objected, laughing good-naturedly. But later, I thought about the girl’s comment. I’m seventy-five, full of energy and ambition. Although I’m no longer considered “middle-aged,” I’m much too young to be old.

When we reach sixty-five, we’re often lumped into the “elderly” category. The word is outdated in most circles, but some newspaper writers haven’t gotten the message. I read, “An elderly woman lost control of her car and ended up in a ditch on Capital Avenue.” Later the article said she was sixty years old. Elderly?

According to developmental psychologists, there are stages of old age just as there are stages of childhood. One source says the young-old are between fifty-five and sixty-five years of age. Middle-oldsters are sixty-six to eighty-five, and the old-old are those over eighty-five.

Gerontologists can label us young-old, middle-old, or old-old, but they cannot assign expectations to our ages. Some fifty-year-olds are sedentary, some eighty-year-olds still mow their lawns. Whatever our age, whatever our physical challenge, we can continue to live well and enjoy our lives (Yes, Virginia, there is life beyond middle age–and Santa too.)

While laugh lines decorate my formerly flawless complexion, and arthritis symptoms flare up when I over-exert, I continue to live fully. I enjoy hanging out with my friends, my adult children, and my pseudo-adult grandchildren. I’m comfortable with the routines my husband and I established long ago. I look forward to going to work at the part-time job to which I returned after retiring at a “normal” retirement age. I’m also pursuing my lifelong dream of writing.

We have a responsibility to future generations to live enthusiastically, with a “glass half full” not a “glass half empty” attitude. It’s not always easy to remain positive, of course. As we traverse the path of senior-hood, we encounter some bumpy terrain. But like other life stages, we will discover how to do-aging by doing it. And maybe we can help others along the way by sharing what we learn.

A dear friend, who recently passed away at one hundred and four, taught me about aging well. The week before she passed, Margie told me she was ready to leave this world, “Whenever the good Lord is ready to take me.” She added, “In the meantime, as long as I’m here, I’m going to keep on laughing and learning and loving.” And that’s just what she did.

Someone once observed, “Old is twenty years older than me.” When we were twenty, we thought fifty was old. Fifty-year-olds might consider seventy-five to be old. Margie thought I was a mere youngster. I asked the seniors in my weekly positive thinking group, “When does old age begin?” Most believed you are old when you reached ninety-five. Sally added, “It depends on attitude–how you see yourself.” Everyone nodded in agreement.

Well, I see myself as being in the adolescent stage of old. I’m a bit rebellious about conforming to standard age-related behavior, and I’m busy living life, making mistakes, but doing things my way (like Frank Sinatra once sang). I’m still dreaming and planning for my future, a future filled with laughter, learning, and love.

In other words, I’m not yet a “little old lady.” I’ll let you know when I’m ready for the title–possibly in another twenty years.

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