When it comes to the question of what old age means, I often turn to my patients for answers. As psychiatrist George Vaillant remarks, "Old age is like a minefield; if you see footprints leading to the other side, step in them." Is it possible, I wonder, for the aged to distill the lessons of extreme old age into a formula that would guide all of us into this new terrain? After all, the eighty-five-year-olds and older are the fastest-growing demographic group in the country now, and we are all headed that way. But the answers from my patients are often strikingly mundane: "I stopped counting my age years ago," teased one centenarian, whereas another insisted that she didn't feel a day over eighty. Their answers are not definitive, but that is the point. Hope is a viable response, among many, to old age. Book jacket.