How to not act so old

For me, it's dangerous when the checkout line at the grocery store is several people deep and I'm back a ways. I stand there gazing at the "buy me" stuff positioned on either side of the aisle and then "¦ I succumb. Sometimes I opt for a particularly beckoning candy bar (not proud of that — but it happens), but mostly I decide to purchase a magazine "¦ like I did today.

This was not just any magazine — it was "More" with a tagline indicating it as "the best-selling magazine for women over 40." The name suited what I was doing — adding more to my already overflowing cart and justifying it because I thought maybe I could write a column about the whole experience. And so I am.

What caught my eye was not just the magazine. The cover called out the various stories contained inside, including one titled "Is Sugar Aging You?" But the real eye-catcher was "How Not to Act Old." It turned out to be an excerpt from a book of the same name, written by Pamela Redman Satran. You ready? This could be useful to you.

First, there was a directive about wearing a watch. It said, "A naked wrist is now as emblematic of youth as a perky butt." I'm not sure I think that's entirely true, but I may start wearing my watch less frequently and see what happens.

The article also suggested we must not: 1) Tell lengthy (well, make that "any") stories about things that happened more than eight years ago; 2) Feel compelled to send birthday and thank-you cards (I thought that one was a little harsh "¦ but it definitely lets me off the hook when I forget); and 3) Leave voice-mail messages.

Now that last one is particularly interesting — it has the secondary benefit of eliciting action. The author actually ran a test. She called people and did one of three things: She left a lengthy message explaining an issue and requesting a return call; she left a brief "call me;" and — the third and most effective method in this day of caller ID — she placed the call and then hung up. As Satran summarized it, "You make them curious and they call right back."

Aha. Perhaps that's at the core of not getting old at all. Just keep them guessing.

This book seems to focus on eliminating actions that position aging adults less attractively with the younger generation. As illustration, it suggested I stop asking my teenage granddaughter questions like "How's school?" or "Are you doing something fun this summer?" I'm not sure what I should say instead — maybe something about soy lattes?

The author also advises us not to be overly cheery around teenagers. I believe that to be the default position for most adults when they feel uncomfortable about what to say to adolescents, so there's definitely work to do there — but maybe that's just me.

I'm not entirely sure about this book. But reading an excerpt definitely made me laugh — repeatedly. And at the risk of seeming too cheery, that's a good thing.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.

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