I turned 75 years old on July 30.  This is the first birthday that seems undeniably like the beginning of old age — three quarters of the way to 100. Six years away from the average American female life expectancy of 81. No matter my fate, I am beginning to see the horizon and the setting sun behind it.

Sunset behind the Allegheny Mountains

The past stretches out behind me like a vast Icelandic landscape.

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

What makes me feel more aware of age now?

  • reading about aging. A lot of demographers often use three categories: young-old (65-74), middle-old (75-84), and old-old (85 and older). I’ve known for a decade that I was young-old. Now I face the next ten years without that reassuring label of “young.”
  • walking with Stuart through a cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • more awareness of my own bodily quirks, aches, and pains as well as more difficulty in recalling words “on the tip of my tongue”
  • the prospect of two presidential candidates both older than I am

What makes me feel eternal youth? Keeps me in the present?

  • when my 96-year-old mother makes our whole family laugh and when I kiss her soft cheeks
  • when I sing with others, especially in church. This particular hymn “My Life Flows on in Endless Song” made popular by Enya in the 90s means more to me as years pass.

  • when we choose a 25-mile bike ride along the Susquehanna to celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary August 2 after “watching the corn grow” on the Amish farm behind our friends’ house while sipping meadow tea and eating snicker doodles.

The man at the bike shop was kind. He put our bikes at the front of the line, so they could be in perfect condition for a ride along the Susquehanna

  • when we spend a whole week with our grandson Owen in Iceland, a trip he chose as a coming-of-age (12 years old) adventure

    The three of us in Hraunfossar, Iceland

    Owen viewing the world through a camera lens.












internet meme

There’s so, so much to be grateful for. Old age is not just “better than the alternative.” It’s another adventure with its own perils and pleasures.

I would love to have you add to this list of pluses and minuses. Maybe we can all make each other’s lists longer!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on August 3, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    A lovely summary, Shirley, of what it means to be entering the “middle old” category. I turned 80 in May and thought I was now “old old” so am happy to be categorized as “middle old”. What a wonderful trip you must have had with your grandson (who looks very much like you). “My Life Flows on” is one of my favourites!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 4, 2023 at 8:31 am

      Thank you, Elfrieda. It delights me to think that you might have a few more years to get adjusted to the idea of being “old old.” None of these labels, generalized to whole populations, are necessarily accurate to the individual. They especially do not capture the spirit the way “my life flows on” does. Blessings to you on your path.

      • Janet Givens on August 8, 2023 at 11:31 am

        Thanks for this, Shirley. I appreciate the fact that you didn’t try to make this post one (more) of those “humorous takes on aging” for this is no longer a laughing matter to me. As you know, we’re the same age; I’ll be 75 in just a few weeks. Those forgetfulness anecdotes have gotten old as I watch my husband deal with the impact of an official MCI diagnosis and my 93 year old mother suffer her aging body, with an attitude that does not match. Denial? I’m reminded of that old quote from Reagan’s daughter, “denial is a much underrated defense mechanism.” That was back when her dad had Alzheimer’s and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

        I’ve been reading Jimmie Carter’s books on aging, serious takes on what we all will face (if we’re lucky?) both his “The Virtues of Aging” and “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.”
        I look forward to your (mine too?) Reflections At 80, when the time comes.

        Oh, to answer your question : I’ve taken to using “older” rather than “old.” “Older” seems preferable to the fixed absoluteness of “old.” Yes, denial ain’t just that river in Egypt.

        • Shirley Showalter on August 8, 2023 at 6:35 pm

          Janet, great to have your reflections added to this list and to chuckle with you. Thanks, too, for reminding us that Jimmy Carter has written two books about aging that might be relevant to our attempts to become older rather than old. I enjoy reading how others feel and think as they hit milestone birthdays, so please do share yours, and thanks for contributing here.

  2. Laurie Buchanan on August 3, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    Shirley — Oh, what a wonderful trip you, Stuart, and Owen had!

    Sixty-five years of life experiences—most good, some not so much—help me daily to make better-informed choices. Glad to know I’m a young-old.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 4, 2023 at 8:34 am

      If there is anyone who is “forever young,” Laurie, it’s you. You are just coming into your prime as an author, adventurer, and grandma. It’s fun to continue our connection over the last decade and to cheer for your thriving.

  3. Marian Beaman on August 3, 2023 at 4:14 pm

    I like blog posts arranged in bullet-points, Shirley. Maybe it’s my age, 7 years older than yours, or maybe it’s my stage, wanting things concise and to the point.

    What stood out for me: Owen’s face, recognizing how privileged he is to take a special trip with grandparents who adore him; feeling adventurous enough to tackle a bike ride in Pa Dutch country; including the sweep of three generation in your comments.

    This week I’m creating a PowerPoint presentation to honor deceased members of my EMC/EMU class of 1963 at Homecoming. I want to attach music to play (Ashokan Farewell) as the familiar faces—nearly 40 %—flow by on the screen. I recognize so keenly the privilege of being alive.

    Yes, the drumbeat I heard at 75 is becoming louder and more insistent now. When my children and grandchildren come in the door I want them to stay, stay, stay, but they have “promises to keep” and lives unfolding elsewhere. But I feel gratitude, above all! I am so thankful I am ambulatory now. I can still do a Pilates class and add steps on my Fitbit with my 84-year-old neighbor twice a week. But I nap often and take my body in for maintenance, last Monday, massage to get the “knots” out, and yesterday a chiropractor visit.

    Like Jane Kenyon, who paints a gentle view of death, someday it will be “Otherwise,” a challenge for me to live in the moment.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 4, 2023 at 9:17 am

      Oh Marian, these reflections show so many connections between our lives and make me grateful, again, that the internet’s promise to connect the world does indeed happen. You are a beacon on my path.

      I too love “Ashoken Farewell” I first heard on the Ken Burns documentary. I decided to go listen to it again here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kZASM8OX7s We feel so much beauty in mortality. Could we know beauty if we were immortal?

      And here’s “Otherwise,” another favorite of mine, for our readers too. https://poets.org/poem/otherwise. If you put on the music, and read the words, and don’t love your life, then God save your soul.

  4. melodie Davis on August 3, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    Things that make me feel old
    –Losing so many colleagues, bosses, friends, family as their clocks tick finished
    –Needing to take care of bladder needs increasingly often
    –Having fewer family reunions

    Things that make me feel like I’ve still got some clock ticks left
    –Exercising at pool, walking, or at home almost every day
    –Driving through heavy suburban traffic with another grandmother, to get our grandsons to a ballgame and low and behold, it all turned out well
    –Being asked to do things at church etc. that I can still do
    –Looking forward to times I can sit down at the computer to write newspaper columns

    Nice post, Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 4, 2023 at 9:21 am

      Melodie, you remind me of an important one I missed — attending the funerals, and reading the Caring Bridge posts, of ones I love.

      You have so much vigor and so many readers over many years. You continue to inspire. Thanks for this wonderful addition to our list.

  5. Maren C. Tirabassi on August 4, 2023 at 7:03 am

    After years of writing theology and poetry, writing cozy mysteries.
    Writing them with my daughter.
    Moving into a new house in a new town and finding we can make new friends.
    Supply preaching in a different church 45 weeks a year which I could not do if I were working steadily and meeting wonderful people being-church (and helping out pastors recovering from surgery, on vacation, on maternity or paternity leave … just joyful.

    Thanks for the chance to write this since this year also brought my husband (who hadn’t been sick since his tonsils were out at 6) a sudden onset of rheumatoid arthritis and finding new ways to live life fully is a challenge.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 4, 2023 at 9:37 am

      Maren, you remind me that I have been meaning to walk down to Aaron’s Books to talk to them about your books. And to order Death in the Woods, your new one. I’ll put that on my list today.

      We have a friend with the same condition as your husband. It’s been hard to diagnose and treat, but there has been improvement. May it be so with your husband as well. Hugs.

  6. Lois Kauffman on August 8, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    Shirley, I loved reading this story, and seeing what a wonderful trip with your Grandson!!

    I hadn’t heard these terms. I guess I have 4 more years in ‘young- old’. I’m feeling ‘older’ but not old: I’m sad not to be able to ride my bike we recently got all tuned up, due to hip bursitis. I do struggle with knee and ankle injuries that have changed my activity level.

    But SO much to be thankful for: last week I swam with my 4 grandchildren and had fun, diving under the water with them. They laughed when I tried to do an underwater hand stand. Next week it’s grandparent camp for all 6, with requests for miniature golf and Mexican food. It will be pure joy.

    Our oldest in entering high school, so I’m aware that time is moving very fast. I’m aware of my life, now, more than ever: the importance of AWE, kindness, and gratitude for every day.

    We sure miss you, and are thankful for Stuart’s good news.

    PS. Watercolor is very good to stimulate my mind!

    Perhaps we will see you again, in Harrisonburg.
    Keep writing these wonderful blogs!!!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 8, 2023 at 6:40 pm

      Lois, you are such an active grandma. Your six are so lucky. I am sorry you had to give up biking but am happy with you that you enjoy swimming. I wish I were more at home in the water. I know it is a form of exercise that can be enjoyed well into the 90s and even beyond.

      I admire your dedication to watercolors — a good medium for expressing those wonderful values of AWE, kindness, and gratitude.

      I appreciate your care in reading and responding to these blogs. Yes, you will definitely see us in Harrisonburg.

  7. Melanie Springer Mock on August 8, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    I always thought you were cool, Shirley, but knowing you play pickleball increases your cool quotient even more. Happy belated birthday. For a middle old person, you seem very young, but/and I appreciate your reflection on aging–and doing so gracefully.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 8, 2023 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks, Melanie. If someone as cool as you thinks I am cool, my day is made. 🙂

  8. Jeannette Uibel on August 8, 2023 at 1:55 pm

    Enjoyed your blog! I turned 89 this year my husband is 90 still living on our own!!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 8, 2023 at 6:42 pm

      Jeannette, welcome to this blog. You and your husband sound like the kind of people I want to be when I grow up. 🙂

  9. Audrey Denecke on August 8, 2023 at 3:00 pm

    Love that hymn, My Life Goes On … “how can I keep from singing?” I made my top 3 list. 1) Being healthy and mobile. enough (even with those few aches and pains) to take on so many different endeavors; 2) Having my car and its inherent freedom to drive to visit out of state friends and family. On a recent trip from such a visit, driving for more than an hour along the mighty Mississippi River and taking in its majesty;; 3) New babies in the family. Going this weekend to a baby shower for a coming new life in our clan. The baby boy will be with his parents and all of us quite soon. Being here to welcome this child of my now adult God-son and his dear wife. Babies awaken renewal and joy of life.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 8, 2023 at 6:44 pm

      Love all three on your Top 3 list, Audrey. Health always seems to be the greatest gift, but I had not thought of a car or a new baby through the lens of age yet. Now I see it completely! Thank you.

  10. Linda Gartz on August 8, 2023 at 3:40 pm

    Hi Shirley,
    I’m right behind you, 75 next March. We probably would have been in the same class together (I got started in Feb. 1954 at age 4, then bumped ahead half a year, so a year behind my classmates, age-wise). It’s so lovely to read such positive comments on aging. I get a little scared, knowing what the future will bring: more diminution of abilities, memory, balance (I have chemo-induced neuropathy, and I know my balance would be quite good without that unfortunate side-effect. But then, here I am), plus more issues coming with pains, overall health, etc. I exercise strenuously daily. Someone said that’s the only “fountain of youth,” so I’m on it (but that creates its own achey body) Still… aging happens.
    My sons are coming to visit this week, and that makes me super happy. My husband (78) is still doing great, but we are heading to that tipping point of the 80s. Actually, I came up with a similar, but different, demarkation of old age. When I turned 70, I proclaimed I was “in the youth” of my old age.” I’m waiting for age 80 to declare “middle-aged old age” and 90 for actual old age. I hope we make it that far in as good shape as my mother-in-law was. She lasted till 96. So glad your mom is still with you and giving you joy! Thanks for the encouraging post!
    P.S. You’ll by happy to know that my book, “Redlined” is now an audiobook – available everywhere and launching on some sites at just $6.99! (See website)

    • Shirley Showalter on August 8, 2023 at 6:51 pm

      I’m not surprised you skipped a grade, Linda. Have you seen the book The RBG Workout by Bryant Johnson? I heard the author interviewed on the Seniority Authority podcast. So I bought the book and have upped my sets and reps at the Rec Center as a result. I hope you have a lovely visit with your sons this week. And that you and your husband are able to enjoy being youthfully older together.

      Great news about your wonderful book! I hope you get some downloads after people read this post.

  11. Sue Shoemaker on August 9, 2023 at 9:44 pm

    Happy 75th! I will turn 74 on Friday. One of the perks of 75 is that you no longer have to take your shoes off at the airport – something I am looking forward to!

    The travel company that I work for as a Group Leader (Road Scholar), has developed Grandparent programs where they take care of putting together all of the logistics. We took our two grandsons to the Black Hills in South Dakota in June. It was wonderful.

    Last week, I led a Grandparent program in Chicago that was based on STEAM activities. It was fun and educational for everyone..

    • Shirley Showalter on September 25, 2023 at 3:33 pm

      Happy 75th to you too, Sue. Sorry I am late to the party.

      I had a fun experience coming through the airport in Zurich. I kept my shoes on. The agent asked for my passport to check my birthday. This is like getting “carded” in reverse. 🙂

      I’m glad we share an interest and experiences with Road Scholar. I’ll bet you are an excellent leader!

      • Sue Shoemaker on September 25, 2023 at 4:58 pm

        I love that, Shirley – getting “carded” in reverse! 😂

        Thank you, I love the work I get to do with Road Scholar. 💕👍😎

  12. Shirley Showalter on November 8, 2023 at 5:15 pm

    From my friend Carol Bodensteiner, a lovely Shakespearian sonnet after her own birthday:

    At 75 – A Sonnet*

    At 75, my body gives way,
    sagging like a century-old farmhouse.
    Knees and stairs creak, a weary dirge they play,
    a tune to cause groans and tempt me to grouse.

    Off-kilter windows like memories stick;
    Memories break loose and I can recall.
    Joints wear out; no denying I‘m not quick.
    Activity grinds to a halt. What gall!

    Yet my mind is sharp, experience vast,
    curiosity and will abundant.
    Upkeep and attention ensure I last;
    My body shifts but remains resplendent.

    In body and mind, I have much to give.
    I’m grateful for life I have yet to live.

    Carol B
    October 26, 2023
    *A Shakespearean sonnet – Fourteen lines of 10 syllables per line, using a rhyme pattern of
    abab cdcd efef gg

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