If ''Life Begins at 40,'' as the book, movie and song titles claim, when does old age begin?
When you quit shopping.
A new survey from Oregon State University researcher Michelle Barnhart reports the top indicators of ''old age'' are that it begins when people stop shopping for themselves or stop taking care of their own household chores.
I was ancient well before my 9th birthday.
Back then, I'd sprawl across the bed and read a Donald Duck comic book. Mom would fling a pack of socks at me. ''I bought these because you need them. Clean up this room. Do you think I'm going to do all the chores around here myself?''
Now I am 53. I sprawl across the bed reading Tolstoy's ''War and Peace'' - oh, who am I kidding? I still read Donald Duck. My wife will fling a pack of socks at me. ''I bought these because you need them. Clean up this room. Do you think I'm going to do all the chores around here myself?''
Perhaps it means I'm ageless.
I learned it from Dad. He drove Mom to the grocery store, tilted the seat back and napped in the car while she shopped.
One of his brothers called him an ''old buzzard.'' I guess he meant Dad was too old to shop.
Dad defended his youth by saying somebody had to stay in the car and watch the kids.
Sometimes, all four of us kids barged into the store with Mom. Dad still stayed in the car - just in case. Apparently, that's how Mom and Dad acquired kids. We just showed up in the car one day.
We looked every time we returned to the vehicle but all we ever found was Dad napping. There never were any more of us kids. Or young buzzards.
Now that I'm older and wiser - wiser. I meant just wiser - I don't think this shopping test has anything to do with age. It's about wisdom.
It's scary out there, especially this time of year. Football teams ought to be sent into malls after Black Friday to practice blocking and tackle evasion skills. And toughness.
I consider not wanting to go shopping a sign of great wisdom. It ranks right up there with knowing enough not to jam your fist into a hive of snarling bees. I sure wouldn't do that. Not a third time, anyway.
With age comes wisdom. Judging by the whiteness of my beard, I'm full of it. Wisdom, I mean.
Apparently how old is old is a question that's been wrinkling our brows since, well, since we were young.
In 2010, a survey headed by Professor Dominic Abrams of the University of Kent showed that the average Briton believes middle age begins at 35 and old age begins at 58. In 2009, the Pew Research Center found Americans allow a person to ripen all the way to age 68 before turning old.
But asked about life markers that demonstrated oldness, about 15 percent of the Pewsters decided it sets in when a person has grandchildren. Thirteen percent said it's when a person has gray hair.
Three-fourths of the group said old age begins when a person can't live independently.
Well, I'm not about to get a divorce just to prove juvenescence. Besides, I like living with my wife. If I didn't, who would go shopping for socks?
----- Wilt with the Old Buzzard Jr. at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook, or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org