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Getting older has its perks

Jim Aylward keeps a large-print dictionary at hand. After all, it’s easier on aging eyes than small print.

Special to the Times

Jim Aylward keeps a large-print dictionary at hand. After all, it’s easier on aging eyes than small print.

I talk to cashiers in supermarkets a lot. I usually ask them if they're having fun. The answer is most always, "Not yet."

In a little discussion one day recently with a Wal-Mart cashier, she told me her mother is 88 now and likes to eat junk food. She said to her, "Mother, do you really want to eat that stuff?"

Her mother said, "I'm 88! I can eat (anything) I want!"

When you get up there in years, a certain kind of feistiness takes over. I'm just 77, but sometimes I feel the same way. But I also feel as if I'm the same little kid I always was. Inside, beyond the arthritis, I'm still Jimmie and I think "old" must be other people. And a new survey finds that to be mostly true. We're not old. Those people who park their cars funny? They're old!

There's a wonderful old movie, The Whisperers, starring the magnificent actor Dame Edith Evans. She plays an elderly woman who comes from the welfare office. She's been trying to get a new pair of shoes. She takes the bus home, walks slowly up the hill to her building, gets inside, puts on the kettle and the radio. The newsman is talking about the problem with senior citizens. The elderly. She turns to the radio and says, "The poor old souls!"

But, no matter what their age, most senior citizens today still insist they are not yet "old," whatever that is. A study from the Pew Research Center finds that most people think whatever age they may be, old age begins at some other time.

"Who are you calling senior, Senor?"

My high school classmate Dave Anderson, out in Idaho, still writes to me occasionally. His last letter ends with "I'm going to close for now. My handwriting is stinko!"

Dave, so is mine. I used to have pretty good handwriting. Miss Regish at Stoneham High School insisted I write with a flowing, readable style. I try to write that way today, but suddenly I see I've left out a letter in a word, or I've written something totally illegible.

My American Heritage Large Print Dictionary says "old" is "Far advanced in years of life, ancient or antique, of an earlier time, or worn out." As Jack Benny would say, "Well!"

I don't know what my small-print dictionary says because if the large print gives me enough information, I don't do the small print. That way I'm not worn out.

I suppose you're wondering if there are any advantages to being older. The answer is yes. When you're older, you can answer questions on TV quiz shows better than some younger people . . . "The answer is Harry Truman!" Right!

When you're older you can do treadmill-walking in the supermarket behind the cart, and you're just some "oldie" going up and down the aisles looking at stuff.

When you're older you don't have to finish your Brussels sprouts.

When you're older you don't have to complain about junk mail anymore because it's often the only mail you get. "It's a holiday? Shoot!"

And, of course, when you're older you can be like the cashier's mother and eat anything you want.

New Port Richey resident Jim Aylward was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City. Write him in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Getting older has its perks 10/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 4:30am]
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