It’s starts with something little. “Cash or credit, ma’am?” You look around wondering with whom they are speaking. Not me, I’m no ma’am yet! In fact, I never plan to be a ma’am. But somewhere between ma’am and “Can I help you with that?” the label OLD is applied. When I let my hair grow in white, for the first time in my life men stopped giving me a second look. “White hair, not interesting, not interested.” And yet, an article on publishing my thirteenth romantic suspense had just appeared in the local paper.

North American society has taken to ageism, and it’s no longer gender biased. It used to be only females who had a use by date on them. Recently a 79-year-old man told me, “My family perceives me as old, because I look, move and communicate a tad differently than I did before, but so do they year to year. Now, I might as well be in a different room, because I cease to exist. They think I have nothing left to offer.”

My daughter visited this spring when I had an ill spell. Her loving heart just wanted to nurse me back to health, but by the time she left I felt like I should be checked into a long-term care home. While I saw myself recuperating and back in my kayak, she pictured me in a wheelchair heading for helpless.

I am told as a boomer I am an albatross around the necks of the younger generations. By sheer numbers our needs outweigh the declining tax base following us. Our children and grandchildren carry the weight of covering the costs of the hospital beds, doctors, and long-term care facilities we will need. I feel I should apologize for living too long and becoming an inconvenience to them. Yet, along with a large percentage of boomers I am still in my home, looking after my needs, supporting charities and paying taxes. Boomers are still volunteering and doing the jobs our younger generation won’t, including raising their children. We are valuable mentors, sharing our vast treasure chest of knowledge with others.

Giving a workshop on writing to a middle school class.

I am inundated with stories about what will happen to me as I age — threatened with a long, slow degenerative process. But I don’t have to wait for it – my God! All I need do is pick up a magazine and scare myself to death. Now!

So why am I letting the media freak me out now? For years I lived in a constant state of act and react, twitching like a frightened rabbit when I read butter will kill me – olive oil is the way to go. No sooner do I adjust to cooking with olive oil, than I am informed the white bread I’ve been eating for the last 50 years (a particular favourite, let me add) brings me closer to death with each bite. Face it I’m a goner, I conclude, as I shift to whole grain everything.

Years ago, I became a member of the I’m going to die a long, slow, nasty death club. I bought subscriptions to magazines that forecast every catastrophe that could or would happen to me. I  tuned my television into show on aging that left me unable to sleep at night and turned up the volume on my car radio when a guest starts talking about the statistics around heart attack. I force fed myself the latest results in science and technology, which are moving so fast there is a nonstop production line of them. What’s with our world, that instead of encouraging people to put the good stories out there, we all demand ‘conflict and drama?’ One of the advantages of attaining considerable years is pooh poohing the fear mongering the media pitches.

Where’s the story about the 92-year-old driving his 86-year-old wife to the restaurant for dinner?  Where’s the story about the 94-year-old who flies to Victoria to golf with his daughter? Or the 102-year-old who learned how to run the computer in his long-time care facility and makes customized greeting cards for the staff and live-ins? They exist – I know these people, who are trucking along with a few physical failings. They’re living large, because they refuse to see aging as a scary Ghost saying, “BOO! Your mortality is showing!”

Mortality is part of my birth package. Late at night it comes to visit. But it didn’t scare six-year-old me from climbing to the top of the highest slide. Or frighten me away when I did a solo paddle down the South Saskatchewan. So why, at age seventy-five would I say, “I’m too old. I better not.”

Many of my peers insist they still feel like they’re thirty. I know I do. The energy inside me determines my age, not chronological time. Turning 75 this year didn’t stop me from doing a headstand or driving to BC to kayak two new lakes. It hasn’t stopped me from hiking the hills at the Landing, or driving into Saskatoon to shop and visit friends. I can keep up with my yoga instructor, and spend days on my feet baking for family.

I just came back from downhill skiing at Panorama. I fell a couple of times, but still bounce and keep going. We’re lacking snow this winter, but as soon we get enough of the white stuff I’ll be out on my snowshoes and x-county skis. Winter bonfires with friends – you  bet!

Instead of wasting time imagining how horrific it will be to depend on a pacemaker to keep my heart ticking, to lose my faculties to a stroke or my toes to diabetes, I’m better served filling my life with the eight habits studies show are consistent life style choices in our octogenarians.


I have a good chance of living a long life. The average age is now 81.75 years. Many people I know are centenarians. I met a woman from NL who lived to 107 years old. I think of all she packed into her life, and the quality I can bring to mine. The exciting conclusion is I have so much more I can learn and give. I am enthusiastic about the years I have left, because I’ve already learned one of life’s profound teachings. The best path to longevity is loving and being loved

A study done on octogenarians listed seven qualities that are common in their long, rich lives. These masters of living:

  1. Accept and trust life, don’t beat your head against it.
  2. Find humor in the situation, there is always some.
  3. Wake up each day with a purpose.
  4. Have faith in mankind.
  5. Balance your life spiritually, mentally, physically.
  6. Build a support group with people of every age and type.
  7. Be willing to take risks – get out there and live.
  8. Give something back.