Life Here

July 11, 2017 By Jerry Mulenburg

Just How Old Are You?

At dinner one evening at PVE, we were discussing how old someone was and this triggered a question in my mind. “Really, how old are you?” Maybe it depends on only a few simple factors.

Are you as old as your years? Before Judy and I became residents here, I had some concern about being surrounded by a lot of older people. It wasn’t long before I determined that years don’t make you old. I’m still trying to out-golf many who are much older than I am.

Are you as old as you look? In many cases, people I know who are older than I am actually look younger. For most of us this is probably not an important factor because there’s little we can do about it.

Are you as old as you feel? This is an interesting question because we often have no idea how someone “feels.” I know that I feel younger than my years as many do, and also younger than how old I am or look.

Are you as old as you act? Now we’re getting somewhere! I see PVE’ers singing in the Club, playing tennis or pickle ball, doing water aerobics or taking exercise classes and more acting very young indeed.

However, this also triggered a similar memory of mine about aging. A colleague of mine, Professor Marion Diamond at UC Berkeley, admitted that she was often asked how old she was. Her reply was, “Which part of me?” She was not being facetious and regaled us with how the parts of the body age differently.

“About every 10 days we get new taste buds. In two to four weeks, we have new lungs and skin. Every 21 weeks we have a new liver. New bones come every 10 years or so, and we get a new heart three or four times during our lifetime, if we’re lucky,” she said.

A disappointing conundrum is that we are born with all the brain cells we are ever going to have. The brain, which we would like to self-renewing and is a specialty of Dr. Diamond, ages more or less as we do except for the parts that do renew themselves and that govern themselves and that govern our sense of smell and our ability to learn. But fortunately, and contrary to earlier predictions, we don’t lose many brain cells as we age. By age 80, we only lose a couple of the 48 ounces of brain with which we began.

So, really, how old are you? The best part is that we have some choices in how old we want to be within the limits of our health, strength and desire. Our age often shows in the look on our faces, the spring in our step, and what we do in our lives.


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