Dick Van Dyke is 96 years old and “just glad to still be here,” according to the New York Post.
That’s a lovely reminder—life is precious and we should cherish each day—but I would like to append a request to it: Please leave Dick Van Dyke alone.
The latest paparazzi photos of the nonagenarian actor—a sentence I never thought I would publish on a professional website—were taken on June 16 as he was leaving lunch in Malibu, California, with friends, the Post reports. Along with some remarkably friendly banter with Van Dyke, the same outlet published seven photos taken that day, including one of the actor in a drug store, and another of him holding his presumed purchase—a bottle of Neutrogena self-tanning spray—into his bag. (I’m describing these photos so that you don’t have to click the link above, though I recognize that you may have already done so, and in that way, we are the same.)
The Post wrote up Van Dyke’s fit—describing his accessories as “sensible slip-on shoes and a stylish leather shoulder bag”—the same way it would that of a 20-year-old TikTok star. It also called him “sprightly” and “sharp as a tack.” And while I cannot (and would not want to!) dispute those claims, I don’t love the hefty dose of condescension inherent in using them to obliquely comment on the health of someone who did not ask for your opinion.
This was not the first time Van Dyke has been the subject of paparazzi interest recently. In May, the Post (again) published photos of the actor smiling widely while leaving a gym (can’t relate), calling his appearance “age-defying.” Of the same photos, a BuzzFeed writer said, “Like, I truly can’t believe this man is 96.”
I don’t mean to be rude but…I absolutely can believe that. I am lucky enough to know multiple people in their 90s; I promise you that Dick Van Dyke’s physicality is very age appropriate.
So I have to wonder: Are people making fun of him? Are we just generally unaware that you can live a happy, active life in old age? Are paparazzi becoming more inclusive in their invasive coverage? Am I reading too much into this? Maybe he’s just a delightful guy, and in these very dark times, people like to be reminded multiple times a day of the fact that he still exists.
In any case, I return to my original point: Leave Dick Van Dyke alone. Managing to stay alive for nearly a full century should earn one the right to go to the gym and buy self-tanner and generally move through the world in peace.