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Mather: I'm definitely aging, but don't tell me I'm getting old

Tai chi has been a big help, and classes start soon
Tai chi is slow, it’s gentle, yet it is a full-body workout. And classes are an exercise in meditation as well. Move the body, calm the mind. (Supplied)

How will I know when I am old?

Certainly when I was young, old people were easy to pick out in a crowd. And probably young people would have no problem telling me that I am old. Clearly, that person who looks back at me in the mirror is aging — but is she ‘old’?

When I turned 65 a couple of years ago, I was confused. Surely people are old at 65? But how could an old person be able to get into and out of a sea kayak? How could she paddle all day long, then set up camp and sleep in a tent day after day? If she were truly old, surely she should not be out paddling across Killarney Channel in three-foot waves.

How will I know when I am old? It hasn’t happened yet, despite my chronological age. Sure, I’m often tired in the afternoon. Could be partly because of the extra 10 pounds I carry around that I did not have half a lifetime ago. Could be that I never learned to drink coffee. Or maybe it’s because I do tai chi.

During the tea break at a tai chi class last week, I asked the question, "How will I know when I am old?" Looking around the room, it would appear there were lots of people ‘of age,’ but were any of us ‘old’? 

It very much surprised me to learn that some people in the room were over 80! Surely 80 is old? Not necessarily. It was easy to see that being old is not determined by how many years you have been on the planet.

Movement is life. The more you move, the longer you live. Or maybe it is not so much that moving makes you live longer, but that movement makes the life you live better. This is my experience. I thank the Taoist Tai Chi classes I’ve attended for the past nine years for keeping me moving.

Tai chi is slow, it’s gentle, yet it is a full-body workout. And classes are an exercise in meditation as well. Move the body, calm the mind.

It takes just a few months to learn the basics of the tai chi set, yet it is a lifelong learning experience. And perhaps best of all, the practice of tai chi integrates with everything else in my life. In summer, I paddle and hike. In winter, it’s snowshoeing and skating. I have more strength and endurance than I had 10 years ago. Whatever you do, tai chi will make it easier.

Most importantly for me as I age, practising tai chi keeps me limber enough to keep doing the things I love. It baffles me when I hear folks in their 40s and 50s say ‘I used to…’ and now they don’t. Why have they given up on things that once gave them joy?

At the tai chi tea break, we often hear stories of how people are recovering their ability to do these things. The stories are quite amazing.

Taoist Tai Chi classes begin again in the second week of September. You can find the schedule by looking for Sudbury Tai Chi on Facebook, or drop an email to, or call 705-688-0111. I go to a couple of classes a week, Hope to see you there!

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984.