How Old Is Too Old?

I am a fan of short, online videos—the kind you see on YouTube. I often follow the links that come flooding in with my emails. I’m willing to give them a try, trusting the judgment of people in my chain of friends (and friends of friends) who have liked them well enough to pass them along.

There’s one video I’ve watched half a dozen times already and will definitely watch again. It’s an interview with a woman named Evelyn who lives in a retirement community. When she first moved in, a community bus took residents to the supermarket twice a week, but then the bus was discontinued. Evelyn’s friend, Joyce, was upset. If she had no way to get groceries, she’d have to move out, she said, and she didn’t want to go. Evelyn, who had a car, promised to get her to the store.

Then the state took away Evelyn’s license because at 97 she was supposedly too old to drive.

“I didn’t have a mark against me,” she says in the video. “I was heartbroken with that. It made me feel old. It made me feel useless.”

What’s more, she had made a promise to a friend, and she felt it was important to keep promises. (To find out what happened next, watch the video.)

Why do I keep coming back to this three-minute clip, besides the fact that it’s a well-told story? It says a lot to me about how important friendships are as we age and about the fact that many older people feel a strong need to go on helping others. As Evelyn says, with starch in her voice, “I’m on this earth, I’m here. If I can contribute, I should. Shouldn’t we all?”

But mostly I keep returning for the point in Evelyn’s story when she throws back her head and laughs with delight—and in triumph.

She’s 97. She’s just fought a battle and won. She makes 97 look like fun.