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The Viscissitudes of Old Age

by Anna Hiebert

The word "old" is really a relative term. It seems that no sooner is a child born than he is old--a week old, a month old, a year old, and so on. I remember with what awe I as a l3-year-old realized that my Sunday School teacher was 20 years OLD, something like the present "over the hill" idea. As I grew older, the "old age" concept was pushed back further and further. I passed forty, fifty, sixty and finally seventy, but the top of the hill was still ahead. Even at eighty I was still "getting old." Finally at 87 or thereabouts I began to concede that I must be old when people began to refer to me in terms of "at her age." Even then I rebelled, comparing myself to friends and classmates who were celebrating their 90th birthday, others who jogged at 97, or many whose families were making plans for their l00th birthday. And then of course there were those in Bible times who counted age into the hundreds, two hundred, four hundred and even eight hundred, with Methuselah reaching nine hundred sixty and nine.

So why do I feel myself "old" at eighty-eight, looking forward to eighty-nine in another six months? Is it because my hair is white? Or because I can't walk the three blocks to church or even the two blocks to the grocery store? Maybe the wrinkles on my face? It must be my hands. They say hands tell your age. But many who are much younger than I have these symptoms and many more. So the term "old" must truly be relative with no defined beginning or end. Perhaps the cliche "You're as old as you feel" is the clue to perpetual youth! It may not be the number of the years, but the feelings that matter.

Meanwhile we should make up our minds to enjoy both the ups and downs of our so-called "old age" as best we can, especially the ups. We must learn to see the funny side of things. Actions of aged people are sometimes very amusing, so we must learn to laugh at ourselves along with the others instead of feeling insulted.