Over Easy: Age is just a number?

For the Valley News
Published: 11/11/2022 9:54:46 PM
Modified: 11/11/2022 9:54:56 PM

The people who claim that age is just a number are delusional and bad at math.

One of them is on a TV commercial that plays often during the Nightly News and Jeopardy!, both of which must draw an older audience. Ads push potions for diabetes, breathing troubles and immune systems gone haywire.

People in the ads look pretty peppy, considering, but they don’t hear the disclaimers about side effects that may include grumpiness, spontaneous naps, difficulty operating a “smart’’ TV, repeating old stories and a sudden interest in prunes. I kid about those; they are free benefits in the AARP years.

But age, allegedly, is just a number. It’s just a state of mind.

I might employ numerical relativism if a state trooper stops me on the highway to chat about my rate of speed. “Eighty-five is just a number, officer,” I’ll say. I’m sure he’ll see it my way.

“It’s just a number” you can tell your doctor when she asks about your weight, but I don’t know if that answer will satisfy the mysterious forces behind medical bills.

And kids, try this in school when your chemistry final is a flop. “Fifty-eight is just a number, Mr. Beaker, and to be candid, I still want an A.”

But enough with numbers. I am creeping up on the age of 70, which, if I remember correctly, is higher than the average life expectancy of men when I was a boy. My father complained to me that most men lasted only three years after retirement. But what did I know? I’d never heard that age was just a number.

As a kid, you think age is very real, that 6 years old is vastly different from 5. You eagerly call yourself 6½, because 7 is going to be really something.

Not so with 70, apparently. It’s just a … you know.

Numbers aside, I feel pretty good as I approach this milestone. The knees and hips are A-OK. Vision is acceptable, although driving in new places at night can get dodgy. I am arguably in touch with reality, although politics and popular culture make this less appealing than it used to be.

I felt antiquated last weekend when a guest on a Vermont Public (radio) show said that the Kardashians are “America’s family,” just as the Kennedys were many years ago. As my gag reflex stirred, she said a televised Kardashian wedding was comparable to John F. Kennedy’s funeral. In importance? Iconicness? Skankiness? My will to live was slipping.

I know the Kennedys had their secrets, but they tried to keep them secret. The Kardashians make a living off of theirs.

Then another guest said that Kim Kardashian told The New York Times that she would consider eating poop (yes, poop) daily if it would make her look younger. She is coming out with a new skin-care line. I hope it doesn’t smell funny.

Back in the real world, I think I can speak for my wife, Dede, when I declare that we are content — happy, even — with our own particular status quo. Married in 1976, we outlasted Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, the greatest football player of all time and a top supermodel. We just recently put up a big number of our own, our 46th wedding anniversary. We both still claim to like each other, and I have never seen a People magazine cover that states otherwise.

I imagine Tom will soon start dating ridiculously young actresses, but he will have to go to Hollywood premieres that keep you up too late. We can go to cheap movie nights right here in the Upper Valley, preferably the early show. Winner: us.

All told, I feel younger than my calendar years. I realize this is a matter of clean living — exercise, eating oatmeal like a plow horse — but also luck. I don’t set my sights too high. At nearly 70, I hope I don’t look a day over 68. Oh, to be young again!

Still, I follow longevity science fairly closely. I believe daily walks could add three years to my life, but I will have to spend those three years on my feet. I’ve seen a man claim online that his wife has been walking 5 miles a day for a year. “I think she’s in another state now,” he wrote.

Here’s another joke I came across, in the comments section of the Times. The story was about health and aging, and the comment went something like this: When you are young, you sneak out of your home to go to parties, and when you are old you sneak out of parties to go home.

Sounds about right. If the party’s at night, I would happily not even go.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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