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22 years of Successful Aging: Part one of the anniversary column

Each October I write an anniversary column that reflects what I have learned from our readers. This is year 22 and almost 1100 columns later.

Here’s the process for the column. I make a hard copy of each communication from our readers and then sort them by topic. The topics most frequently addressed typically are included in the column. This year, several made the top of the list: ageism, longevity and friendships. Others include employment, retirement, friends, divorce, hospice, birthdays, health, relocation and more.

Ageism: Our readers have experienced or observed ageism in different ways. One reader felt that the DMV was ageist in having those aged 70 and older pass the knowledge test while younger drivers were not tested the same way. She feels that if she has to pass the knowledge test again at age 87, it will be a form of harassment.

A reader no longer uses his photo on Facebook because he is being addressed by others as “old man.” He also is annoyed that others repeatedly ask him, “How old are you?” He tries to “blow it off or try a snappy comeback.”

An older job seeker wonders how to influence human resource managers to overcome “the societal and HR bias” towards rehiring individuals who happen to be older. He questions, “Is there any place or hope for seniors returning, once they retire?”

A union member indicates his union newsletter showed “cartoons/funnies that depict older persons as dumb, deaf and blind.” He wrote to the editor and had his comment published.

A woman who believes she was the oldest person attending a concert was surprised when the man sitting in front of her turned around between sets and asked, “Why would you spend all this money for a ticket to THIS concert.” She replied, “Because I can!” A female older patient found it insulting that her doctor asked her the date and name of the U.S. president and thought it was because of her age. Another reader suggested it just might be a required protocol for Medicare.

The cover of the New Yorker magazine (October 2, 2023) that showed four older political leaders walking using walkers was considered ageist by another reader. The title of the cover was “The Race for Office.”

Longevity: A 92-year-old woman acknowledged that genetics count in living a long life. However, she writes that what is most important is one’s attitude and adds, “loving life and being an optimist always helps.”

An 89-year-old man lives by the rule, “Don’t let the old man in.” He commented that no one believes his age. Another reader offered, “preventive health steps” for a long life and shared a sad example. Her friend had a colonoscopy at age 60, which unfortunately was 20 years too late.

A 100-year-old Navy World War II vet and great, great-grandfather notes he has become a celebrity when visiting his HMO. He writes that people “ooh and ahh” over his “ability to act like a normal person, driving and walking a mile a day.” And then there is the 91-year-old woman who asked for some advice on living to be 100. I answered her with some suggestions and would like to know her tips for reaching age 91.

Friendships: One reader acknowledged the importance of friendships and found that folks in later life “become settled and hesitate to interact because it’s too much trouble to leave the house.” She adds that with age, “it gets more difficult to make new and lasting friendships.” Another reader valued the internet connections that kept her five nursing school friends (1962-1965) connected.

Then there were the admonishments, such as these comments from one reader:

“You octogenarians know nothing about…really old age! Telling us to socialize is meaningless when all of our friends have died and the few that remain have dementia. I am 96 and books are my salvation…they help me sleep when I have occasional insomnia and help me stay in touch with the rapidly changing world. Thank goodness for libraries.”

Another reader referenced the column that described the 60-year friendship I have with my college “girlfriends.” After reading the column she wrote, “I am going to reach out to my gal friends now and let them know how much they are valued.”

There is more to say so stay tuned for next week’s column. In the meantime, stay well and just be kind; it’s more important than ever.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Visit Helen at and follow her on


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