Age is just a number

July 9, 2010

When I first met Laura in 2006, she left a distinct impression on me.

Slightly less than five-feet tall, she had a personality that towered over everyone else’s.

We were at History San Jose attending a class on feelings and spirituality — she and 15 other people as members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; I as a reporter for San Jose State University’s Washington Square magazine.

If it weren’t for the raspiness of her voice, or the wrinkles on her skin, you wouldn’t believe she was 87.

She described herself as “hard headed.”

I’d add “full of life.”

I interviewed Laura on three separate occasions, but even during our first conversation I knew she would be in my life for much longer than the shelf-life of a quarterly publication.

Laura isn’t your average “old woman.”

She joined the army when she was 22 and worked as a nurse until she turned 79. And if it weren’t for a surgery in 2004, she would still be swimming.

“I don’t want to live a life when it becomes only breathing and doesn’t have any meaning,” she had said to me. “I’m learning something new every day.”

Fueled by her passion for life and living, she joined the Osher program (that has since been discontinued at San Jose State) where she met people from all walks of life — teachers, accountants, nurses, engineers, writers — an exclusive club for men and women over the age of 50.

Laura was one of the oldest in the group, but that didn’t disqualify her from participating with full steam in the myriad conversations around the classroom.

“For me it’s exciting because I’m like the dinosaur in today’s society,” she told me. “I listen to the different ideas that the different generations have and I’m just amazed.”

But she was not the only one who learned cool stuff from her classmates. With her treasure trove of experiences, she brought many a class to life.

Like this one history class on World War II — the professor was talking about how Germans were sinking ships off of north Africa and Laura casually added, “I was on the ship that got shot.”

There she was, telling her story as a young nurse on ships sunk by the Nazis, while wide-eyed folks — students like her — listened intently.Ari and Laura1 Age is just a number

Osher students weren’t required to take notes, weren’t graded on their participation, and took no exams.

They were there for the sake of learning.

“Old people are misunderstood — we haven’t completely lost it and we don’t want to sit idle,” Laura explained. “We can still make decisions for ourselves and we want to keep exploring and learning new things – it’s just that our bodies cheat on us.”

But she hadn’t allowed the physical to restrict the intellectual.

Laura’s calendar was more busy than mine — and I work a full-time job!

Between her Osher classes, opera viewings, and social visits, she had little time to sit and twiddle her thumbs.

“You know, when I was young, older people didn’t go to movies and they didn’t go to shows,” she said to me matter-of-factly. “My mother stayed at home and sewed – it was a very different life. They were active physically, but their activities were not what we call active – they read the newspaper and coordinated big family gatherings.”

I could relate to that.

That’s the typical old-age-scenario I had been familiar with.

Both my grandmothers did a lot of housework, and spent a significant amount of time praying and cooking, but as far as intellectual stimulation went — nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Laura and Ma1 Age is just a numberSo, when my mom — who had been saying ever since she turned 50 how old she was — visited me later that year, I made sure she spent some time with Laura.

“You are just a baby,” Laura would say to ma. “So, what if you retired? It doesn’t mean your life has come to an end!”

There are some people who just cannot enjoy a “typical” retirement and Laura is one of them. “I retired from four different jobs from the time that I first retired,” she recounted.

No longer part of the workforce, Laura has found things she enjoys that keep her busy — and more important — sharp.

Ari, her cockapoo (a mix between a cocker spaniel and a poodle), is probably the only reminder of her age.

“I keep trying to forget how old I am,” she said on a stroll with Ari. “Except when I have to walk.”

I haven’t seen Laura for a while now, but I have her picture up on my office cabinet to remind me every day that age is just a number.

It shouldn’t deter you from questioning, seeking knowledge, exploring new ideas, expanding your horizons and enjoying life to the fullest.

Just because your birthday cake has 65 candles, doesn’t mean you’re old.

Laura is a testament that you’re old only when you think you are.

P.S. Read the article I wrote for SJSU’s Washington Square, here. [PDF]

16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F Age is just a number

dp seal trans 16x16 Age is just a numberCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Mansi Bhatia

You might also enjoy:

Tags: , , , , , ,

12 Responses to Age is just a number

  1. Rishi BNo Gravatar on July 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm


    nice article… gr8 post..

    • MansiNo Gravatar on July 14, 2010 at 9:28 am

      Thanks, Rishi.

  2. VyankateshNo Gravatar on July 10, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Great post Mansi!!

    The experience gained by the years spent by us on our tiny planet is simply invaluable.

    Sharing it with others will make their lives better!!

    • MansiNo Gravatar on July 14, 2010 at 9:45 am

      Thanks, Vyankatesh. Laura is a remarkable woman with such a strong spirit. I am so glad you enjoyed her story.

  3. Petty WitterNo Gravatar on July 10, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Saw your post mentioned on FaceBook’s Get Your Blog Followers and thought I’d stop by to say hello. A great post, what an amazing woman Laura is, many thanks for sharing her story. Nice to meet you, I’ve enjoyed visiting.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on July 14, 2010 at 9:48 am

      Thanks for visiting, Tracy.:-) Glad you enjoyed Laura’s inspirational story.

  4. BillNo Gravatar on July 12, 2010 at 3:58 am

    Age is just a number or a state of mind. I’ve always been surprised by the people that get caught up in how old they are. I never worried about it. I still feel like I’m 6 on a lot of occasions, it’s only through others that I realize how old I’m getting…especially my daughters…I think about this or that & realize that was 10 or 15 or even 20 years ago…then I feel a bit old (I’ll be 50 this year). I love life to much to worry about how old I am.




    • MansiNo Gravatar on July 14, 2010 at 9:57 am

      You said it, Bill. The more we dwell over the physical aging of the body, the more we allow our mind to crumble.

  5. RSNo Gravatar on July 16, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Hey Mansi,

    COINCIDENCE. A few days back I posted a blog-entry with the identical heading ‘Age is just a number’ w.r.t my father’s friend who was biking across the Himalayas at 62!

    Check it out.


    • MansiNo Gravatar on July 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

      I just did! Fascinating and very inspiring. Goes to show that one just needs to coach the mind, and the body will follow. Thanks for sharing :-)

  6. meghaNo Gravatar on July 25, 2010 at 5:40 am

    i learnt more confidence from this article and tryng to learnand make my life best

    • MansiNo Gravatar on July 28, 2010 at 5:37 pm

      That’s wonderful Megha. Thanks for stopping by.


More in poetry (5 of 46 articles)