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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ammi Midstokke: Rad Old People, the only real age-defying pill

By Ammi Midstokke Spokesman columnist

Something has changed in our American culture of aging, deeming the process of aging a thing one ought to avoid despite its inevitability. In other cultures, we can still witness a sense of reverence and respect for the aging and elderly, a way in which the rites of passage that accompany only time are honored.

And then there’s botox. Where wrinkles are mitigated, collagen infused, breasts lifted, and testosterone injections promise a virility so potent, you’ll be attracted to women with mustaches and cankles. We fear aging even more than disease (or we’d stop getting botox and start eating salads).

Whenever I’ve been tainted by the culture of permanent youth – usually after grabbing a magazine at the hair salon – I panic about getting old. As you’ll recall, I’m not quite 40, so this may seem silly. Turning 30 was a shock to me as well. It isn’t just my mortality at stake here.

I stare at these women and think, “How many years have they consistently applied lotion and drank a gallon of water a day to make their skin look like that? Is it too late for me?” Maybe I’ll start putting on lotion twice a day and drinking more water. Will I be happy if my skin appears nubile?

I’m not sure if my male counterparts experience the same when grabbing the latest issue of GQ. Do you guys hope you’ll go gray in that sexy salt-and-pepper way while maintaining sleek abs and climbing the corporate ladder? I think worrying about lotion might be better.

Whenever that realization of aging and the irreversible tick-tock of time starts freaking me out, I invite myself along with a group of people old enough to be my parents (or just my parents). I refer to them lovingly, perhaps a little patronizingly, as silver-sneakers, and then I get my ass handed to me.

There is nothing more humbling or inspiring than having someone 20 years your senior waste your huffing and puffing ego up a mountain side.

Last weekend I got a double dose of it. I grabbed some running snow shoes and met with a few people on the cusp of retirement to climb up Schweitzer Mountain. There was a lot of gray hair happening. I thought I had it in the bag.

There I was, like a kid in the back seat, asking every quarter of a mile, “Are we getting close? We must be near the top now? How far is this round-trip?” I even forgot to pack my snack.

In addition to the joy of not getting lost (my usual mountain skill), my hosts imparted hours of invaluable wisdom upon me. All of them veteran long-distance runners, they had some passage rites I hope I never earn. I estimated that between the three of them, with their 50 milers and 100 milers and other such nonsense, they’d ran a combined 18 billion or so miles.

I shamelessly asked every single rookie question I could between gasping for air. “How do I not bonk on a long race? What mistakes did you make? How do you avoid them now?” They all guided me with kindness and compassion. They shared the wisdom that only experience can offer. And I’m pretty sure none of them felt compelled to get botox or airbrushed.

If this is aging, I’m not afraid anymore. If I can out-hike and outrun eager company, share stories, and contribute to others’ journeys while I continue to explore my own, this is a path I can embrace with gratitude.

Mostly, I’m grateful for everyone who has patiently survived the aging process while tolerating the rest of us. I’m grateful for those of you clinging to your sharp minds or ski poles or mile times as a reminder to the rest of us that it isn’t about the destination or how few wrinkles you have when you get there.

We need you. Don’t give up on us. We’ll catch up. In time.

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