A friend of mine was dismayed when she read about the 70-year-old lady who drove her car into the liquor store. “They called her elderly,” she objected. “Shoot, she’s younger than me, and I’m certainly not elderly.”

That just goes to prove that growing older is only a state of mind, sort of the proverbial “You’re only as old as you feel” attitude.

If that’s true, then my appliances must all be feeling pretty elderly. My car, for example, is old enough to obtain its own driver’s license. My microwave, which wasn’t even dreamed of when I was born, recently met its demise, as did the dishwasher and the heat pump. Just yesterday, my refrigerator, not wanting to be left out, breathed its last cool breath and started pumping heat.

Unlike my machines, I’m not ready to call it a day, but I must agree with Betsy that the term “elderly” is a definite negative. When I grow old, in the far, far distant future, you can say I’m in my golden age or maybe my sunset years, in the autumn of my life, long in the tooth with one foot in the grave. You can call me a senior citizen if you must, a geezer-ette or a codger-ess, and refer to my declining years and dotage. But don’t call me elderly.

I prefer to think that I’ll be aging gracefully, stopping occasionally to smell the flowers I had no time for in the past. I shall dote upon the positive. After all, think of all the things us geezers-to-be have going for us.

There are Social Security benefits, including a 1.7 percent cost-of-living increase, Medicare, senior citizens’ discounts, plus no overdue fines at the library. You can order a chair to meet you when you fly to romantic places and enjoy a leisurely, hassle-free push to your next gate of departure instead of having to run for your life.

You don’t have to clean your plate in order to eat dessert. You don’t recognize any of the nominees for the Academy Awards, but frankly, you don’t give a damn, since Clark Gable isn’t in the running anyhow. You can find all the music you want to hear in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart, and it won’t be rap or hip hop.

You can sleep in every morning, take a nap every afternoon and even have a snooze during the sermon on Sunday. Shucks, you can doze off during the president’s State of the Union address, but don’t worry. Unless you’re a member of the Supreme Court of the United States, nobody will care.

People will treat you like fine old wine and fine old glass. They’ll even treat you to a fine old glass full of fine old wine every so often. You can get a tan without having to worry about skin cancer (I read somewhere that it takes 30 years for skin cancer to develop), but don’t quote me to your dermatologist.

Clint Eastwood will be your favorite Hollywood idol; you’ll find yourself the recipient of many helpful phone calls from kind folks who want to repair your roof, replace your windows, insure your teeth and your final expenses, reverse your mortgage, accept your generous donation to Citizens for Rights of Regional Raptors and award you with lottery winnings of $4,348 a week for life, if you’ll simply give them your credit card number so they can deduct a minor processing fee.

Having given up on giving up your vices, you’ll start the day with a cup of fully loaded Maxwell House while you read the obituary column. You’ll drive 40 miles an hour down the interstate with your turn signal on, cursing at the geezer in front of you who’s straddling two lanes.

We’re all growing older, to be sure, some of us more rapidly than others. Even our president, at a mere 53 years old admitted feeling his age recently to the Gridiron Club annual dinner. He said he was becoming crankier, and that “Next week, I’m signing an executive order to get off my lawn.”

I’ll bet he doesn’t want to be called elderly, either, no matter how old he gets.
Lexington (N.C.) Dispatch columnist Page H. Onorato is a retired teacher.