The young think they will never be old. Gradually, they realize that they will age and even die, but not yet. At fifty, you’re just hitting your stride. Sixty is still pretty young. I thought I would never be seventy, but now I feel lucky to have made it so far. Even so, I don’t feel like an old woman except for the moments when I see my mother in the mirror or when a person offers me a seat on the T (or when nobody gives me a seat and I wish someone would) or when I get the senior discount without asking for it. Those are the moments that make me realize I’m one of them – a senior citizen, a golden ager, a retiree, an elderly person.

What do those labels really mean beside the senior discount? The body parts show some wear and tear, but the person inside still gets hungry and horny and excited and disappointed and sorry and glad. We old folks are really just wrinkled editions of everybody else, with a few age spots and bad joints, but otherwise the same. We can still laugh at off-color jokes and drink too much wine and ache with love and cry for happiness.

So why is it surprising that “elders” write mysteries and poetry and short stories? Why is it notable that old people paint and play music and catch fish go to work and learn French and plant gardens, dance, and yes, even make quilts? Young people do all those things and nobody notices.

The difference between us and them is that we can remember a lot. We know the words to old Broadway musicals, and we remember margarine that came in a bag with a little red dot you pushed to make it turn yellow. We remember black out curtains and FDR, Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind, and The Shadow on Sunday nights. We remember Coke in a bottle, cars without seat belts, and chains to put on the tires in the winter. We remember life without TV, black and white movies, stockings with seams, and men wearing hats. We know exactly where we were when we heard that JFK was shot.

We’re lucky to remember all these things. Such memories bind us together in ways the young can’t share. They will have their own collective memory to unite and comfort them in their “golden” years. Our memories are like museums, chock full of old stuff. But otherwise, we are like everyone else. My father once said that the worst part of being old was that he was an old man on the outside, but inside he felt like the man he’d always been. I was twenty-three when he said that. I am almost as old now as he was then, and I know exactly what he meant.

Never mind what labels people give us or what those names imply. If they’re lucky enough to live as long as we have, they’ll find out what we already know. We may look like grannies and geezers, but we’re still people who walk on the beach, build with wood, sing hymns, and eat chocolate. We can make love, sail boats, write novels, run a business, and study the stars. We watch the moonrise over the harbor, and we smell honeysuckle in the sun. We listen to music played out of doors, and we ache when something is lost.