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Forever young
Old age for most is getting into a redundancy phase, when life becomes a burden for self and the others. But not for everyone. And, surely not for Jean Thomas.
FOR 70-YEAR-OLD Jean Thomas, old age doesn’t mean slipping into the shadow, remaining sexless or rediscovering God or finding solace in philanthropy. She refuses to become a neglected family fossil. Always vigorous and living life to the fullest, Jean, an armyman’s wife and mother of three, has just trekked from Srinagar to Leh. She is an inspiration for any old person and holds the message that life is to be lived till the last breath.
Old age is often synonymous with bad health, helplessness and neglect by children. But there are examples like Jean’s, who have defied the impact of age on body to become a robust elderly. Anybody can be like Jean. What’s needed is pursuing a fitness regimen and having a positive attitude.
Jean was in her 40s when she first began trekking. Initially, she trekked on and off. But later, it became her life passion. She has trekked through most of the routes in the Himalayas. 
Jean, who lives in Meerut with her retired husband, Lt Gen Mathew Thomas, has in the last 15 years of trekking, been through routes in Arunachal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, Garhwal, Kashmir, Ladakh, Ghauladhar, Lahaul-Spiti, Base Camp Everest and Tibet.  She has done all this on her own — no back-ups, no support. She has never once been afraid because in the mountains she feels “there is no fear”.
Jean was inspired by Alexendra David Neil, a French women who travelled to Tibet from Paris.  An intrepid traveller, she became the first white woman, at the age of 55, to enter Tibet. She went on to become a lamaist nun and wrote a book, My Journey to Lhasa. Jean calls this book her personal Bible.  Jean says, “If Alexendra could travel such a long distance in such difficult times, surely I, too, could do it.”
“In India, if one crosses certain age, the mindset is such that people feel one should live a certain way. Old age is not an end; growing old should never be fearful. Each one of us has so many capabilities. One should keep doing what they love. I don’t ever see myself as old. Sure, when I see the mirror, I see so many wrinkles, but it doesn’t bother me,” says Jean.
She has advice for the others. “Growing old is inevitable, so why not age gracefully? All through one’s life one is only paying attention to the body. Now is the time for soulful indulgences. One should realize that it is the young who have to worry about —education, career, competition, marriage, children, prosperity and the like. There is no point envying the younger generation.”
You meet Jean and you know she indeed is an inspiration and a role model for the aged.

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