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by Abigail Van Buren

Retired Biology Teacher's Youthful Spirit Persists In Spite Of Doubters

DEAR ABBY: I am retired from teaching high school biology after 39 years. The last year I taught, some of my students said I was the "youngest" teacher on the faculty -- not chronologically, but in the way I talked to them. I treated them as important, as equals. Being around high school students all those years kept me young.

Since my retirement, I can no longer do the thing I loved best: teach biology. However, I am keeping my commitment to staying young. Last summer I bicycled 500 miles across Kansas. I do nine hours of dance exercise and aerobics a week, paint with oils, do photography and am starting to relearn the guitar. I may be in the early stages of Parkinson's disease, so I want to do everything I didn't get to do when I was younger while I still can.

I think too many people are busy being old. Most of my former classmates and friends have died. Many younger people can't do what I do. Some of them tell me I should "act my age" and "learn to be old." But what I'm doing keeps me young, and if I look silly doing it, so be it. I feel more fit now than when I was 21. If I die in an aerobics class it will be a lot better than doing it slumped in a chair. What are your thoughts on this? -- LIVING WELL IN WICHITA

DEAR LIVING WELL: As long as you are living a full life and enjoying what you're doing, you should ignore those "helpful" individuals who tell you to "act your age" and "learn to be old." It has been awhile since I have read such nonsense.

You have been blessed with health, vitality and an inquiring mind. Life is too short to waste a second of it. When you're old and infirm you will know it, so don't let anyone rush you.

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