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AARP Bulletin

22 Things You Should Never Do Again After 50

Author Jacquelyn Mitchard considers her limits after a half-century of experiences

There is just about nothing I could do when I was 16 that I cannot do now … except hang-up calls and the splits. I can't explain to my children the sheer innocent malice of hang-up calls, a simple pleasure robbed from them by caller ID.

Risky activities for people over 50

Certain physical activities (such as doing splits) are best avoided after age 50. — Getty Images

But I digress.

There are things I did at 16 so excruciating in retrospect that simply thinking about them in that shadow hour before dawn causes me to make the sound you make when you hit your tailbone really hard — more than a moan, less than a shriek.

Some of my friends still can do splits. One even played a starring role in a French farce (requiring splits and a harem costume) that she first acted in 25 years ago. When I cried, "Brava!" I was cheering for her just-plain moxie. But, also, I was cheering for my just-plain joy that it was she rather than I up there in the I Dream of Jeannie outfit, sliding slowly into that really precarious position, as we all held our collective breath.

Last summer, when my brother did the limbo, I had similar agita. Now, my brother is a hockey ref. He's fit, flexible and only recently 50. In this case, his feat was perhaps technically more egregious since it was not tropical-resort limbo, but graduation-barbecue-suburban-lawn limbo; the question "How low can you go?" was as much philosophical as physical.

How low he could go, in other words, had as much to do with the comfort of his teenage children (who, with their friends, made like Secretariat for the nearest break in the hedge) as it had to do with my brother.

By the way, he indeed did get very low, with very little pain — in part because he was so far past feeling any.

That's the thing about throwing a kegger after the age of 50. A person might feel limber enough to limbo. Everything might be uproarious fun, in the moment. The risk is hindsight: You might look back at some lasting damage, up to and including moderate disability.

When you're 16, or 22, or 25, or even 31 and 3 months … well, tides of youth, and fortunes of war. However, at 50, as George Orwell said, everyone has the face he deserves. Now, at 50, we might not all have the face or the fate we deserve. (I sure don't.) Still, we must all do what we can to avoid doing what we must not.

Next page: The things you should just say no to after 50. »

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Video Extra

YOU NEED LAUGHTER YOGA!: Developed in 1995 by Madan Kataria, M.D., a family practitioner from India, laughter yoga “is based on the scientific concept that your body can’t tell the difference between simulated and spontaneous laughter,” Kataria says.

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