I noticed the first gray hairs early, sometime in my late 20s.

So at the ripe old age of 28, I began coloring my hair. At the time, I thought I’d quit coloring it when I turned 50. By then, I figured it would be OK to have gray hair.

But something happened in the intervening 20-plus years. Society decided that 50 wasn’t old. Heck, some folks will argue that 50 is hardly middle age. As a career woman, I didn’t think it would be beneficial to “look old,” so I continued to color my hair.

At age 56, I became a grandmother. As I was trying to decide if grandmother status was reason enough to let the gray hair show, the fashion industry made the choice easy. Suddenly, young people were dying their hair various shades of gray, silver and pewter.

Hmm … the timing was right. So, at age 59, I have gray hair.

But I’m not old, and I certainly don’t think of myself as a senior. 

The St. Tammany Council on Aging celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and in honor of the milestone, St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister declared 2018 “The Year of the Senior.” The Council on Aging is planning anniversary celebrations across the parish. Serving our older residents for 50 years is certainly something to celebrate.

The Council on Aging offers 22 services to St. Tammany residents age 60 and older. Yes, you read that correctly. The federal government considers you a senior when you turn 60.

Do you need a moment to you wrap your head around that information? It may take a moment to digest. I’m still trying to figure out why AARP thinks 50 is retirement age. 

I recently saw a social media post about how the World Health Organization was incorrectly cited as saying those ages 18-65 were young, ages 66-79 were middle aged and people 80-99 were elderly or senior.

If you are 50 or older, you know that’s not necessarily true, but what is true is that “old” definitely is getting “older.” Research out of Stanford University last year suggested that middle age ends for woman at 65, for men at 61. By 73, women are old, and age 80 constitutes very old. Men are old at 70 and very old at 77.

The World Confederation for Physical Therapy, an organization focused on healthy aging, defines older people based on a range of characteristics including chronological age, change in social role and changes in functional abilities.

In highly resourced countries like the United States, older age is generally defined in relation to retirement from paid employment and receipt of Social Security, which is available as young as 62. The Older Americans Act, passed into law in 1964, calls for the establishment of Area Agencies on Aging to provide services to people 60 and older.

So let’s review. Sixty is not old by most standards, but it is old enough to qualify for services from the Council on Aging. It’s also old enough to get senior discounts at the movies, your favorite restaurants and many other businesses. And it’s definitely old enough to start planning for your elder years.

Welcome to "The Golden Age," where twice a month, we’ll focus on local seniors who are doing some extraordinary things. We’ll also feature issues and events that are important to everyone but especially our older citizens.

So whether you’re not quite a senior or you’ve been one for a while and just didn’t know it, "The Golden Age" is for you. Let’s find some great reasons to celebrate our age.