Back Home: Aging not so gracefully

By Chris Hardie
Posted 1/3/24

“Those who love deeply never grow old, they may die of old age, but they die young.” —Benjamin Franklin

“By the time you’re 80 years old you’ve learned …

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Back Home: Aging not so gracefully


“Those who love deeply never grow old, they may die of old age, but they die young.” —Benjamin Franklin

“By the time you’re 80 years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.” —George Burns

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” —Mark Twain

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.” —Frank Lloyd Wright

The topic of aging has been on my mind a lot more lately, and with good reason. I recently crossed an aging Rubicon when I celebrated my 60th birthday.

I know there are many readers (some, anyway) that figured I was already a lot older than that. Others – because some publications use a mugshot taken nearly 20 years ago – may be surprised.

I’ve certainly looked like 60 for a while and a tip of my cap will reveal a thinning silver mane that has glistened metallic for years. I also like to write about topics that may appeal more to the graying crowd. 

No mortal being knows how long anyone is going to live. We have indicators – like mortality data that can give us an idea. The Social Security Administration, for example, says that a male born in 1963 has an average life expectancy rate of 12.8 years.

On one hand, that’s pretty sobering. Thirteen years goes by in a blink of an eye. On the other hand, that’s merely an average statistic, putting everyone from the most healthy to those with the most morbidity in the same pot, stirring it all together and spitting out a number.

That number factors in everything that can happen in life, including the chances of getting hit by a bus. I did once get hit by a car getting off a bus when I was 11 years old, but that’s another story and obviously I survived. If I were a feline, it would have been one of my nine.

There are lots of quotes about aging, including many that say you’re only as old as you feel. That’s great for inspirational social media posts but it’s also true. For the past few years or so, I have had sore hips and legs. I really didn’t pay much attention to it, but a year ago I found out that I have advanced to extreme arthritis in both hips.

My first reaction to this news was saying to the doctor, “Aren’t I a little too young to have arthritis in my hips.”

Her reaction was direct and succinct. “No,” she said. 

I asked if this was caused by my days as a runner, but she said it was unlikely and could be genetic or simply overuse. The cartilage in my hip joints has worn away, resulting in bone rubbing on bone. My left hip is slightly worse because I have bone spurs where the damaged bones grow outward, limiting movement even more.

There really is no treatment for osteoarthritis, just measures to relieve the pain. The best permanent solution we have is a hip replacement, where an artificial hip replaces the damaged bone and cartilage. So after trying other measures without much success, I will be getting a new hip just in time to begin the new year.

Apparently getting a hip is hip with older folks like me. The procedure I will undergo – an anterior replacement – allows for quicker recovery. I asked if I could get a BOGO, since the right hip isn’t much better, but I will need ample recovery period for both hips in order to get back into the … yes, you guessed … the swing of things.

As I limp to the finish line on this story, consider it to be part one. I’ll likely share all the glorious details of my recovery in an upcoming column … for anyone who can stand it. It will give a leg up on planning. Best foot forward, as they say. 

But I’m still going to have some fun at my own expense. One of the necessary tools of recovery is the use of a walker. So to mark my newly arrived 60th year and my upcoming surgery, I did my best impression of an old man hunched over his walker and shared the photo on social media.

I think I nailed the look. The slouch was perfect. I felt like guarding my yard.  

One might think I am a natural.

Chris Hardie spent more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won dozens of state and national journalism awards. He is a former president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Contact him at

Chris Hardie, Back Home, aging, column