何毓琦的个人博客分享 http://blog.sciencenet.cn/u/何毓琦 哈佛(1961-2001) 清华(2001-date)

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On Turning 80 精选

已有 8611 次阅读 2014-1-9 21:42 |个人分类:生活点滴|系统分类:海外观察


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According to the Chinese lunar calendar, I turned 80 on 12/29/2013. But I was born on January 12, 1934. And officially (according to my passport), I won't celebrate my 80th birthday  until 3/1/2014.  In any case, according to the rules of the Chinese Academies of Sciences and of Engineering,  academicians of 80 years of age and above are considered to be mentally deficient  (The US Academy does not have such restrictions).  They no longer have voting privileges though other perks presumably remain. Thus, celebrating one’s 80th birthday is   somewhat a  dubious honor.

They say 80 is the new 60 or the new Chinese 70. In any case, one has lived long past the“product expiration date”  as required by law on many food items (for humans it is the life expectancy) in the US.  Or as the Chinese saying “ 古稀 ancient and rare”.  But by 80  one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at 40 or 60.  I was always the youngest in School and University now I am always the oldest in meetings.

At least in my own field I know of no one other than myself who has had two special issues of scholarly journals,  and two scientific books, and one book of greetings  specially dedicated to him on his 60th,65th, 70th, 75th, and most recently the 80th birthdays. As I said before,  I am lucky to have so many grateful students and colleagues, and that I shall die a very happy man.

Another distinction is to be invited to give a plenary  talk at  the annual society conference of my profession taking place in the US when I was 79.5 years old, and I still  delivered a fresh lecture and not something warmed up like the leftover  from last night meal.

Having children all independent; a retirement saving  I earned myself and cannot outlive; good friends and  colleagues  all over the world; a life partner of 54+ years who is  still healthy and be able to travel and enjoy life together are things one cannot plan  but only hope for.

Statistically,auto accident and fatality rate go up  dramatically for drivers over 80. But the thought of without your driving license in the US is almost the same as being sentenced to jail. I hope to maintain  this freedom as long as possible.

I took a mental agility test on line for people over 40 and  passed but with below average results.  Even though this is just one test and with questionable  validity, it is still rather depressing to know more adults in the population do better. On the other hand,  I can still follow technical seminars that I choose to go to  and give clear and useful technical talks and write blog articles that do not invite ridicule. But I have joined a brain exercise club which provides daily mental exercises. (Note added 5/21/2017: Having joined and used the Brain exercise club fo0r three years, I am happy to report that statistically based on my exercises history, my mental abilities are still ranked in the 80-90 percentile of the exercise population. )

I enjoyed skiing for over 50+ years. But now the joy of  downhill skiing is a distant memory. I did not even  get around to do cross country skiing for the last couple of years.  


To paraphrase General MacArthur at his farewell speech to the  US Congress: “ old scholar never die they  just fade away”. So shall I.

A couple of interesting quote about growing old:

If you don't do anything stupid when you're young, you won't remember something funny when you're old... - Marcus Tullius Cicero

A Lifeof leisure and freedom, freed from urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the  thoughts and feelings of a lifetime togetherwith your life partner. --.    SundayNYT review section July 7, 2013 The Joy of Old Age by Oliver Sacks.


Note added 2/25/2014: Photo taken at a surprise birthday party by friends in Lexington posted in my new album.

Note added 3/2/2104    More pictures in my album taken at another surprise party given by my local fraternity brothers and sisters

Note added 3/27/2016 For a most recent confirmation of my feelings, see http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2016/03/24/shifting-priorities-julie-wittes-schlack?utm_source=cc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nwsltr-16-03-25  



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