, Port Arthur, Texas


May 15, 2013

Acting one’s age is overrated

AUSTIN — How does a person learn to act one’s age?

At the age of 61, I’m still trying to figure that out.  While I get daily reminders of my seniority from the preschoolers I teach, I’m also pretty skilled in the art of denial. Yesterday, one of the four-year-olds asked me about the cracks in my face.

Anyone over 40 would look like a senior compared to the “fresh out of college” teacher with whom I share the class. Her skin is like porcelain. Her hair is thick and shiny; a deep shade of red that is completely natural.  Anyway, that’s my rationalization and I’m sticking to it.

The years may have left a few wrinkles behind, but I still feel fit as a fiddle. In fact, I ride my bike whenever and wherever I can.  All the other teachers express surprise when they see my wheels chained to the fence out front.

“Is that your bike out there?” Their words drip with worry.  One of them said she hopes she’s half as strong when she gets to be my age.  Was that a compliment?  A person in denial does not think so.

Goodness gracious!  One would think I was swimming the English Channel instead of pedaling 7 miles down a paved roadway.  Lots of folks do what I do. People are living longer these days. Many are active into their ninth decades.  

From what I hear, ninety is the new seventy. Last week I read a piece by Laura T. Coffey that really inspired me.  It was about an elderly yoga instructor who broke her hip. The brilliant surgeon who replaced it for her said she would never be quite the same. Slow down, he told her. He might as well have slapped her face.

That headstrong New Yorker went right out and signed up for ballroom dancing classes.  At 93, she travels regularly to dance competitions with a teacher/ partner who is 70 years her junior.  Should anyone doubt the veracity of her story, there are pictures to prove it.  In one of them, the remarkably fit woman is sitting in lotus position wearing all white with an “I told you so” smile. In another shot, she has struck a ballet pose while being lifted over her partner’s head. Needless to say, she looked quite confident in that photo, too.

One of the specialists quoted in the article said the greatest influence on the aging process is heredity. Who didn’t know that? Thank you, Daddy, for passing down your love of exercise. Unlike the lady in the article, my father didn’t make it to his nineties. However, he did maintain some pretty impressive abdominals until his death at the age of 72.

That’s when he suffered a major stroke while mowing the lawn in 100 degree heat. He had spent a couple of hours in the weight room just the day before.  Daddy lived for those daily visits to the health club featuring bench pressing contests with men half his age.  

Please do not assume that I am in great shape just because I have my father’s genes. Like many others, my weight goes up and down based on occasional upswings in chocolate consumption and downswings in exercise. The thing that remains constant is how much I love to play.  Swinging on the playground and riding bikes yield both fun and endorphins.

I also enjoy climbing trees.  I have learned to be careful with that one, though. At sixty, it’s easy to look crazy in the branches of a tall tree. Not long ago, I climbed the Spanish oak outside our house looking for some solitude.  It was 8 p.m. on a week night. I thought for sure I would be alone out there. Naturally, my neighbor Naomi chose that time for an evening stroll.  I was quiet as a tomb while she walked beneath my branch, but she looked up as if I had called her name. “Doni, is that you?” I didn’t even try to explain.

Acting one’s age is overrated. A better plan calls for remaining young at heart.  I recommend embracing denial, laughing loud and often and doing something fun every single day.

Donia Caspersen Crouch was raised in Southeast Texas and lives in Austin. Contact her at

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