Katherine’s Walk: Day 17, May 5

Today I am 60. Here’s my cake, to prove it. Some people say 60 is the new 40. What’s inside that idea? First, what’s wrong with being 60, and second, they must think the extra decades we have gained have been added to the middle of life. They haven’t They’ve been added to the end, and we are just beginning to discover what that means.

At 60, I’m now old enough to qualify for programs through the Older Americans Act, and old enough to use the ITN. Yayyyyy. I think this also means I am officially old enough to be an older driver.

I can remember the first day I realized that I am an older driver. It was about 20 years ago, when I was first studying senior transportation as a public policy graduate student at the Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service. Back then, there was no school where you could study senior transportation as ITNAmerica does it today. Now, I speak at schools all over the country, but then, I pretty much had to talk to myself.

That’s what I was doing the day I realized I am an older driver: talking to myself. I was dust mopping the front hallway and stairs. It was a sunny morning, and the dust motes floated in the sunshine slanting through the front door windows. The sun was so clear, it seemed as if I could run my hand long the edge of the light beam like a piece of furniture. Ryan and Alison were still little guys in elementary school, so it must have been a Saturday, the day I cleaned house. I was dusting and thinking. Sometimes, asking and answering questions, even in your own head, is a good way to solve problems.

“Who is an older driver,” I asked myself. The house was quiet. Mop, mop. “Who is an older driver?”

I sat down on the landing of the stairs and looked at the golden oak floors I had been mopping. That’s when I saw the dust moats in the sunbeams.

“Me.”

The realization came suddenly, but the understanding that lead up to it took years. For awhile, I had been looking into the faces of older people and trying to imagine their face when they were younger. I’d look into the face of an 80 year old man and try to imagine him at five years old. Then I’d look at young woman, and try to see her at 85, like time-lapse photography in my imagination. Now I do this all the time, with practically everyone I meet. But I was pretty new at this imaginary time travel into aging back then, so I had to sit myself down on the stair landing to absorb my idea, which was actually so simple.

The older person we will all be is just us, in the future we will become, and the child we were is inside us, in our memories, experiences and hearts.

Older people and older drivers are just younger people who have aged. We will want the same things when we are older that we want now. Everyone is an older driver someday—we might as well try to plan for it now. That way, we won’t be forced into denying we have problems driving because we have made no plans for how we will get around when we are older. Pretty simple, when you get down to it.

On my 60th birthday, I walked a mile. (1 mile, 30.5 miles total)