Bella Fontana

A weekly column about life in Bellefonte, PA, reprinted from the Centre Daily Times

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Growing old has its advantages, though they are often hidden

What began as an ordinary trip to the drugstore for moisturizer turned into an education. Besides standbys such as Nivea and Neutrogena, the shelves were stacked with a bewildering variety of anti-aging products -- wrinkle removers, skin lifts, peels, masks, even a microdermabrasion kit that seems to operate on the system of sandblasting.

I left the store without buying anything because I was too confused, not just about the products, but about the aging process as well.

In his new book "Healthy Aging," integrative medicine practitioner Andrew Weil says we should embrace what is good about aging. In the CDT on Oct. 30, Arthur S. Rotstein quotes Weil as saying that "aging brings its own rewards."

Well, it brings senior discounts, but the first time the checkout clerk at Pizza Hut gave me a discount without my asking for it, I felt kind of betrayed. Then after the same thing happened at the Garman Opera House movie theater, I got used to it.

I received a reduction on my car insurance after I took a safe-driving course for older drivers. And recently, I applied for a senior pass at the new Centre Area Transportation Authority bus station at Schlow library. When the clerk, a lady of a certain age herself, asked if I didn't also want to get a pass for Centre Ride, the van that takes seniors to their appointments, I didn't flinch.

I may be riding that van for a long time. My beautiful aunt and godmother Gertrude Torsell lived to be 103. But no van for her; she was still driving in her 90s, always smartly dressed and blessed with perfect skin. I asked her once what she used on her face and she said Pond's Vanishing Cream. I think her real beauty secret was in never talking about her age.

The other day a tree trimmer was cutting dead wood out of one of the silver maples down the street. "These trees are all dying," I said.

He fixed me with a penetrating stare and said, "So are we." The arborist was also a philosopher.

This time of the year, the rich colors of the leaves remind me of my favorite Crayola crayons. But there are changes there too. Burnt and raw sienna are still in the box of 48, but golden ochre and burnt umber have vanished, like Aunt Gertrude's face cream.

In the autumn of my own life, the leaves this year seem more brilliant than ever. Maybe Andrew Weil is onto something.