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This morning my old buddies and I were joking about the word spry. I’m 80¾ years old, Richard is 83, and Jerry is in his early seventies, the three women present were much younger. We were sitting outdoors in the beautiful garden setting at the Looney Bean coffee shop in Bend, Oregon (44.06005 -121.31454).

What does spry mean? It’s almost always applied to old men, usually in their eighties, and not to old women until their nineties. It seems to apply to the individual’s manner of walking. An old person who is walking slowly, especially if they are using a cane, isn’t referred to as spry; they are beyond spry.

Spry refers to an older guy who is stooped over a bit, but is walking quickly with short steps, toes pointed out a bit with the heels spaced about eight inches apart, elbows slightly akimbo. He proceeds ahead with a quick purposeful attitude. That is the iconic form of spry, at least for me. A short walk is often followed by grasping some solid object for balance, then looking around to ascertain the local situation, and then a keen, knowing facial countenance slides across his face.

Perhaps I unintentionally brought up the conversation today about that word, because yesterday, when I was conversing with a geriatric lady at the Hollinshead dog park picnic table (44.0707 -121.2875), she mentioned that I walked like a much younger man. I had mentioned my age, which I like to do, because it is a conversation starter, and this older lady mentioned that she is the physical education instructor at the local senior center (44.0378 -121.2818), and that’s why she paid attention to my walking gate.

While we old dudes and dudettes were discussing the word spry I got up and walked around the Looney Bean park a bit in my finest demonstration of a spry style. They got a chuckle out of my antics, but it gave me a chance to prepare for my not too distant future old age. My general plan, since my twenties, has been to act old while young so as to get the proper hang of it, and to avoid stupid mistakes. One of my New Year’s Resolutions back in the 1960s was, “Don’t act smart, but avoid being stupid!” That silly idea has stood me in good stead because it set my mind to being considerably more careful physically than I probably would otherwise have been. Thus, with the exception of falling while chasing rabbits with my dogs, and years later having a minor accident on a bicycle, both events resulting in broken ribs, I haven’t been injured in fifty years. Many older people here in the resort town of Bend limp from physical injuries, from skiing, rock climbing, bicycling, etc., but not me at the moment.

It might save you some grief if as a youth you consider how an old person would approach your present problems. 

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