Speeding down the roadway of life, warning signs posted along the way give us an indication of what lies ahead. One signpost in particular lies so far ahead, way off over the horizon, that we hardly pay it any heed. But it’s moving up fast, this speed bump on the highway of life.

Growing up, it was an exciting rite of passage to earn my Boy Scout Tenderfoot badge. I was so proud when I got my driver’s license. At the time, it was a thrill to submit my first tax return. Even recognition by the Selective Service, back in the day, was a special mark in growing up.

But as my age changed, so too has my attitude toward these hallmarks of the aging process. Now it feels as if the Feds are after me, as they were in the days of the draft, all those years ago. They want me to sign my Medicare card. This rite of passage crept up on me unawares. Who knew it would come so fast? Why wasn’t I looking, as I barreled through the years?

Sixty-five sounds so old. It’s a sign that retirement is right round the corner. It’s a symbol of senior citizenship. And all those people in our lives, policemen, teachers and businessmen, seem so young. Why, they’re just kids, only in their 40s.

We think we’re in good health. Yet we take more pills and vitamins, feel more aches and pains and worry about medical tests and bills. Have we joined our parents’ generation?

We need our glasses to see, our hearing aids to hear, and our calendars to mark our next doctor’s appointment. We forget why we came in a room, can’t remember a person’s name, and, what was the third thing? Oops.

Yet there’s more to it; 65 is that mythical year which marks an end to middle age and the onset of old age. What will happen next? My contemporaries seem in good health, but am I starting to show my age?

My wife, Joyce, and I tried to slow the aging process over this past year. The simplest act was to get off the couch and put a few hours into working out. It didn’t hurt. And we actually feel better with fewer pounds, not to mention more stamina and strength.

So working out is one way to slow the aging process. Another benefit of the Y, our choice of a workout site, is the social aspect. We are not alone; we have made many new friends through exercise. Added social contact slows the aging process.

Contentment lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and boosts appreciation for the little things in life. Joyce and I seem to get along. We accept each other’s foibles, working out challenges without making them personal or dramatic. A calm disposition eases the aging process by reducing threatening aspects of our daily life.

Eating a balanced meal is important, just as they told us. Minimal alcohol intake relaxes; too much takes a toll. Need I even mention smoking?

So am I a cynic? Does this take all the fun out of life? Do I sound as if I know too much? Perhaps the years have added a few grains of common sense, as well as gray hairs, to my thick skull. Maybe it’s experience.Whatever, I feel relaxed and at ease at this point in my life. Diet, exercise, friendships and contentment contribute to the sense that 65 is not so bad after all. Why, I’m halfway between 60 and 70. What am I worried about?

We have joined the youngest segment of the largest cohort. Regrettably, there are no more rites of passage to anticipate. I should take a moment to enjoy the fruits of aging, whether it’s cheaper seats at the Capawock, reduced rates on the Steamship Authority, or a moment to savor all those grandchildren who have entered our lives, a certified means to appreciate the aging process.


Gazette contributor Tom Dresser lives in Oak Bluffs.