The golden years sounded fabulous as I anticipated them. It became our dream, but alas, that title is very deceptive. We watched in shock and horror as our skin migrated south, our hair faded, our joints creak and crack and our energy slacked. There is good news — we’re too old to die young.

With my current status as a septuagenarian, there are plenty of perks — but perhaps more drawbacks. My solution is to laugh and be grateful as I carry on.

That is the solution — to carry on. These are the years we worked hard, scrimped, scraped, saved and sacrificed for. We can finally afford to travel, but hubby won’t go for an ice cream cone let alone a long trek to discover our world.

My ideal trip since forever is to travel only the side roads — no interstates — without an itinerary and interview the folks we meet along the way. The plan was to take lots of photos and write about the novelty of each mortal encountered along the way.

For me, conversing with locals is where real humanity is revealed. They know the best places to eat — avoiding chains like the plague — and the most interesting spots and sites to visit in the journey.

This dream has been crossed off my bucket list, but all is not lost. Through the magic of technology, it’s possible to travel via my recliner and seek human interest stories too. Happiness is all about attitude. Besides, my joints no longer allow me to explore.

Where was I? Oh, yes, back to the golden years. Here is word of wisdom for the younger readers. Do it, and do it now. Don’t focus on obtaining more and more stuff, AKA material things — do your traveling and exploring throughout your life. Use the money saved from “keeping up with the Joneses” to do the things you dream of now. Of course, there is a firm commitment to earning said money, but life is too short to constantly postpone your dreams.

Remember that we will all have the same size grave and that Brink's trucks don’t follow hearses to the cemetery.

Apparently I lived in a fantasy world, because growing old simply meant that you still did everything the same, except a bit slower perhaps. What disillusionment. Growing old for many of us comes with all sorts of dilemmas, and often unwanted surprises. Most of our outings now consist of medical appointments.

Hubby always said, “They call them the golden years because the doctors, hospitals and pharmacies get all your gold.” His point is valid. My always-a-lady, Southern mother was a bit more graphic and chortled “The only gold I see is in my pee.”

At this age, by the time you run across temptation, you are too tired to give in to it. Don’t worry about senility either, because when it hits you, you won’t know it.

Most of my life I’ve said, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.” Obviously oxidation is occurring at an accelerated pace.

Dress for comfort rather than style. Wear the comfortable clothes and shoes and avoid cover girls and fashion. They’re too skinny anyway.

Speak your mind even it’s outrageous — but never grow too old to be kind. They call us names such as relics, antiques, fossils, old fogies and geezers. Ignore the naysayers. Hold your head high and walk slowly, taking in all the beauty around you.

Let your character shine. It contributes more to attractiveness than multiple facelifts ever could. When I moved south, so did everything else. Rather than worry about your appearance, practice good hygiene instead.

We are born old. People say, “She is 2 days old,” or “6 months old.” Age defines us throughout life. My preference is to gain wisdom and confidence. My priorities have shifted from the gravitation of temporal things to placing greater emphasis on the spiritual.

Unless your resources are terribly limited, stop being concerned about saving for your old age, because this IS your old age. If you don’t spend it, your heirs most assuredly will — like a dose of salts through a widow woman.

Do what you want, when you want. Once over the hill, we automatically pick up speed. It now takes longer to rest up than to grow tired.

Cherish the good memories. Look at old photos, notes and letters you’ve honored, prized and embraced. Write your memoir — something I seriously need to finish. Don’t live in the past, but don’t negate your youth and those who have gone on before.

Learn to use “you’ll see” as a way to win disagreements with anyone younger. Enjoy a chuckle and wag your head as you do, but whatever you choose, make the best of the golden years.

— A coal miner’s daughter born in Appalachia and schooled in Michigan, she currently lives in rural Athens. Hill describes herself as a cook and cookbook author, jack of all trades and master of none, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She shares her home with her husband, Bob, and their spoiled-beyond-belief dog, Molly.

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