I can’t remember what it was I was lamenting about but I said out loud, “It’s hard to be old.” And as soon as I said it, someone shushed me up. As always.

Stop saying “old,” I’ve been told so many times. “Old” is a bad word. Is it, really? Or have we made it a “bad word?”

Age is just a number—I’ve heard it more times than I can remember. But it’s really not just a number because your age is indicative of the number of years you have lived.

If you were a machine, that number would refer to the number of years you’ve been in operating existence. And that number would be significant because it would indicate, in realistic terms, what you can or can no longer do in the years to come.

Depreciation is reduction in value. As a machine grows older, it becomes less productive due to wear and tear and that’s how its value decreases or depreciates over time.

Do we depreciate over time?

While human bodies do deteriorate and become less productive through time, human beings don’t only come with bodies, they also come with hearts, minds, souls and spirits. Thus, human beings possess the unique capacity to defy age and appreciate through time.

For so long as our minds work, our hearts sing, our spirits soar, our souls touch, we will grow in value as we age. So long as we never lose the capacity to think, to love, to learn, to nurture, to inspire or to move others—we only add value to life through the years.

I finally get it. Age really is just a number because it’s not how old you are, it’s how much courage you have—to live, to love, to give. It’s how far you are willing to go to grow. Whether you’re 28, 58 or 98.

Your value is not attached to your age. It’s what you do with your life—at any age.

But does becoming obsolete come with age?

Obsolescence is not the same as depreciation. It’s much harsher. It’s not reduction but loss in value. A machine becomes obsolete when it ceases to be functional because it has become outdated or irrelevant.

You no longer have value because you have lost your usefulness.

We become obsolete when we stop listening, reading, learning, when we stop becoming interested in what’s happening in the world. We become irrelevant when we become indifferent, when we stop getting involved or engaged.

We can all become obsolete at any age. At 28, 58 or 98.

Our obsolescence is predestined when we refuse to evolve, when we are stuck in a time warp, when we resist change, when we believe that to consider another perspective is to give in, give up or sell out.

Is old a “bad” word? Only if it means depreciating in value because we have lost the capacity to be more than just an aging human body. Only if it means losing one’s relevance in the world because we refuse to evolve. Otherwise, I’d say old is something we should all aspire to be.