She isn't an advice columnist a la Dear Abby or Ann Landers, but mature adults could do worse than consider, "What would Jane do" when they confront knotty dilemmas both big and small.
Jane -- that's Jane Glenn Haas who writes the "Our Time" column and articles on aging in the Orange County Register.
She covers a range of subjects from retirement and elder abuse to sex after 60 and old friendships that don't last. Notably, she has shared her own experiences with breast cancer, cosmetic surgery and reuniting with a son she'd been estranged from for years.
"She's the kind of person you want to confide in," says Paul Kleyman, founder of the Journalists Exchange on Aging, a 600-member association of writers and editors who cover aging issues. "She writes in a wonderful, personal way that gives people an unvarnished look at things, and she has a personality that is accessible."
Writing about people 50 and older was a new field when Haas started a decade ago. Since then, she has continually reinvented herself on the job. She developed her own television show, she started her own Web site -- www. womensage.com -- and now she's published her first book, "Time of Your Life: Why Almost Everything Gets Better After Fifty," a compilation of her columns and stories.
She talked recently about some of the issues she writes about in the book.
Q. What do we call older people these days? Senior citizens? Mature Americans? Late middle-agers? Retirees? Why do we have so much trouble finding the right term?
A. We have a hard time finding the right term because there are more people alive over 65 today than ever have lived that long in the whole history of the world. Two-thirds of all the people who ever reached that age are alive today.
We used to admire older people. We used to wear powdered wigs to look older. Then we came into the old-fogey era, the late 19th century. We came to this idea that older people have no value.
Then people started to live longer after the war, so they started to figure out things to make these people feel better, so they could interact and not be isolated. So you had the Older Americans Act. Then you had senior centers, and you had senior citizens. The "new" old are saying that they don't want to be senior citizens because in their minds, a senior citizen is someone who needs meals and is living on the edge of poverty.
So here we are now with my generation, the Eisenhower generation, which is smaller than the boomers, we don't want to be senior citizens. We're the new-old. We don't want to be elderly because elderly is people in wheelchairs. It's a health thing, not an age thing. It's OK to be 60, but oh, gosh, I don't want to be 70. So there is no name for us.
Q. Many of your columns deal with baby boomers and aging. It seems like a time of incredible promise in redefining our attitudes toward the aging process. How well do you think boomers will do at that?
A. I think baby boomers will take credit for all the things that the Eisenhower generation did. Somebody's already hit the shore, somebody's already marching up the road. They've already established the beachhead for new aging, if you will, a new type of aging where we're much more active, much more involved, healthier, more vigorous than any other generation that has ever come along.
By the time the baby boomers arrive, they'll claim it. They'll do more facelifts, more of all this type of thing. Of course, they're more physically active. So they'll live even longer.
Boomers will never get old. They will never age. There was a survey recently and people said middle age ends at 74. So that gives me 11 more years of being middle aged.
Q. You've written about "aging naturally" -- women and men who want to grow old without cosmetic surgery and hair color. What'd you find?
A. I think a lot of women are defiant about it. I think the boomers are going to be defiant about it. I think that most of the women who are being defiant about it are in their early 50s and they need to come back and see me when they're in their late 60s and let me know if they still feel the same way.
I don't think you see a lot of society women with gray hair.
Q. Why not?
A. They want to keep their husbands and not lose them to trophy wives.
But I think some women don't give a darn about these images. They're perfectly happy. One of the things that happens when you get older or you go through a life-threatening illness is you re-establish your values. You realize that you want to do what makes you happy.
Q. It seems like we get very few media images of aging in this culture. We get very few realistic portrayals of older people in film. Older women are virtually nonexistent in fashion magazines, despite the fact that few 20-somethings can afford the clothes featured in Vogue. What do you think is going on here?
A. As a culture we value youth. We value women who are younger. We don't know what to do with older women.