0719 PV Headshot Jean Shriver.JPG

When are you actually old?

Maybe it's on the day you start walking carefully, putting each foot down at a slow and steady pace.

I had never broken a bone until I reached my eighties. Then one day when I was dashing to get the phone, I tripped, fell on concrete and broke my shoulder.

After that healed, l let some months elapse before I hustled across my bedroom, fell and broke my pelvis. Two was the magic number.

I now walk with care, even if it means missing a phone call. I am even going to a gym and doing all kinds of weird exercises to achieve better balance.

But does going slow make me old?

My life hasn't changed too much in the last twenty years. I still read the newspaper daily, do my household chores, pay my bills on time, enjoy a glass of wine and relish time spent with friends.

I admit that while I used to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle daily, now I tend to poop out midweek. I blame the inclusion of too many rock-and-roll questions. Me, I stopped memorizing band names when the Beatles broke up.

Oh,all right, I do forget things now and then—such as people's names. Or I can be standing in front of an open refrigerator, wondering what I was looking for. But if I wait patiently, the answers will get past the log jam in my head and swim down to the tip of my tongue.

As for my head of white hair being an age marker, I've had it for so long, I can't believe that. After all, my hairs were as white as the kitchen sink when I was hiking in Nepal or sailing in New Zealand. And I sure didn't consider myself a senior citizen back then.

My friend says that if the U.S. wants to make a sneak attack on other country, they should parachute in battalions of old women, because, she contends, they are invisible to younger eyes. Clever idea, and indeed, the gaze of most children does seem to slide over and veer off into the distance without acknowledging my presence. For this reason I keep toys in my house and candy in my purse.

I will acknowledge some age-related changes to my lifestyle.

It doesn't seem that long ago when I was bicycling on Esplanade and occasionally farther afield. Then my biking partner fell and broke her wrist. A bell went off in my head. Now, like running, biking is a risk I'm no longer taking.

And that's a sure sign of age, isn't it?

When you stop to think, “is this a good idea?” For sure I never thought that in my youth, my college days or even as the mother of three. I'd just plunge right into a risky activity. Never wondered if it was a wise choice. Just did it. And survived.

Which points me to one sure marker of having lived a long time—it's when so many people you cared about are gone.

If people of my decades spend time rummaging around in their memories, you can bet we're lingering with people we have loved and lost. And the older we get, the more of them there are.

So okay, guess I have to cop to being old.

But don't count me out yet. Even at a snail's pace, I'm still living, laughing and making trouble.

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