Old is a Mindset, Not a Number

What is Old?

Is it 50? 60? Surely 70 or 80 is old.

Or is it?

My running friends Mike, Keith, and Tom, are all in their mid-70s. All regularly run distances longer than ten miles; two also run trails. They are faster, with more mileage than most runners of any age. Most of my running friends are older, faster, farther—tougher—than I.

And what about the inspirational Al Tarkington, 80, who just finished the Kona Ironman Triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and then a full marathon–26.2-mile run)!

My 73-year-old dad and original role model of the active life is still drawing house plans, scrambling around houses obtaining measurements, applying myriad building codes, dealing with Building Department bureaucracy, and driving around Oahu with the locations of all the houses he’s worked on in his head—no GPS!

To me, the term “old guy” summons images of active, lively, friendly, and engaged fellas. But most people will probably imagine an immobile, elderly person.

smiling elderly man wearing bike helmet and riding adult tricycle with basket
Photo by woodleywonderworks on flickr.

Old: lack of health and vigor due to lack of activity and spirit

-my definition

When we stop learning, caring, or interacting, we become old. In a way, old is a choice. Old is a state of mind, not an age.

Wrinkles, gray hair, and a stooped back are signs of aging, but they do not make one old. Not reading a book, not being curious about others, and not continuing to use your body and mind as best you can—these things make us old. We give up life when we…give up.

Instead of spending a fortune trying to look young—a ridiculous idea for anyone who has changed and improved with age—Americans should focus their attention on reaching out to new friends, reading all night (vs. partying), trying to live forever through an autobiography, mentoring, or building or creating something.

Maintain a youthful spirit via regular interactions with the world

Take a daily walk

Wave to and chat with neighbors and other walkers

Good-naturedly argue about politics

Care for an animal

Create—a poem, a drawing, a sculpture, a story

Breathe deeply—for your brain, spirit, and body

Show and feel gratitude

Talk to people, make connections


Join/start a book discussion group

On exercise

Gentle and regular is better for our longevity and health than sprints and spurts. You don’t have to go hard or fast. Just keep moving.

Use a kickboard or fins to do laps in the pool

Walk back and forth in the pool (not easy)

Walk briskly

Walk leisurely

Do yardwork

Dance! Ballroom, line dancing, hula

Run with regular walk breaks (see the Galloway Method) for any body in any shape to easily accrue miles without injury

Take an indoor bike ride on a reclined or stationary bike

Take a tai chi class – the leading senior injury and fall prevention method around the world (Michaels)

The more seniors I meet, the more convinced I am that age is a number and a mindset. We are incredible, miraculous beings with much to offer the world in all stages of life.


Think about what old means to you. Write down the measures you will take to contribute and squeeze the most from life.


“Contact.” All Kinds Drafting Services, https://allkindsdraftingservices.com/.

Galloway, Jeff. “Run, Walk, Run: it Began in 1974.” Jeff Galloway Training, http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/run-walk/.

“IRONMAN: Ten Photos From Kona That Tell Inspiring Stories.” Big Island Video News, 13 October 2019, https://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2019/10/13/ironman-ten-photos-from-kona-that-tell-inspiring-stories/.

Michaels, Stan. Personal interview. 6 Nov. 2019.

Featured image of a Sapa woman, by Sam Antonio Photography on flickr.

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