Maureen Pratt

This month, I will celebrate a milestone birthday. I’ve done the math and know what the numbers say, but I have to beg to differ: I do not feel like my age, not by a mile.

My optimism and faith, life graced with God’s goodness and wonderful friends and family — these bring a sense of youth that not even lupus flares erase. And, I know I’m not the only one who feels younger or older than her (or his) age:

According to news reports, in 2018, a Dutchman was so convinced that he was younger than his numerical age and could benefit from actually being younger that he took legal steps to make it so.

Emile Ratelband, who was 69 at the time, petitioned a court in the Netherlands to allow him to alter the date on his birth certificate and officially shave 20 years off his age, going from 69 to 49.

With people seeming to be able to alter many aspects of their identity through surgery, whim or other methods of self-identification, I wasn’t surprised to hear of someone seeking to alter numerical age. (And I also thought there were probably many more people who’d like to do the same thing!)

But Ratelband’s effort was for naught; although he even reportedly offered to postpone his pension for 20 years, in December 2018 the court ruled against him, and his numerical age stands. However, the BBC reported, the judges said Ratelband “is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly.”

Which brings me back to my starting point: Without “court approval,” there still are many like Ratelband who feel, act and think younger than time on earth would indicate, people who defy figurative, age-based gravity.

And there are examples of people from biblical times forward to now doing things that are usually only associated with younger persons. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, gave birth to Isaac at age 90 or 91 (although I understand calculations of age were different, then)!

Grandma Moses (aka Anna Mary Robinson) began painting in her 70s. One of my uncles, who just went home to God a few months ago, drove a car well into his 90s, using his skill to drop in on my mother, read newspapers at the local library and just move around town to see what was going on.

Clearly, age doesn’t have to correlate with specific activities that we take up or give up. Rather, there is more of a mindset to it, a way of approaching it where its numerical reality isn’t the benchmark by which we live and act on our dreams, hopes and what God wants us to do.

And, there are more resources for persons who are aging to stay active and explore new interests, beginning or exciting second and even third acts. (To this point, UCLA’s alumni association has a lecture program called “Second Act,” where alumni who have gone into a new endeavor later in life talk about their experiences — and the room is always packed!)

As my milestone birthday approaches, I take great heart that I needn’t suddenly adapt to some preconceived notions of what this new age means. Rather, I’m inspired by the examples close to me and from ages past of people who acted on God’s direction no matter when they discerned it. And I am grateful for this time, no matter how it is calculated numerically.

What’s in a number? Reason to celebrate, certainly, and joy-filled potential!