Sentence: Although he is 90 this year, he still _____: he can still walk, eat on his own.

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    Copes or manages works here. They work with the fairly low standard of performance being applied. I think self-sufficient is better applied to my 91 year-old mom, who still drives, does all her own shopping, cooks three meals a day, and manages her household in general. – Phil Sweet Dec 28 '17 at 14:49
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    From the description of the question I can see it's looking for something else, but in my head I just answered 'Not dead yet' – djsmiley2kStaysInside Dec 28 '17 at 20:35
  • .he is still perhaps? And if you are going to add he can still walk, eat on his own., you might as well just call him agile instead of looking for a specififc word – user13267 Dec 29 '17 at 20:24
  • just "mobile" is often used here, too. – Fattie Dec 30 '17 at 14:52
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    How about Autonomous ? (Directly translated from a French Idiom) – NodeNodeNode Dec 31 '17 at 5:20

11 Answers 11


Sprightly is often used in that sense:

(especially of old people) energetic and in good health:

  • He's a sprightly old man of 75.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

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My next door neighbour epitomises the vigour of the elderly who are still spry.

He is 94, is up every morning at 07:00, smartly dressed and off to the shops on his mobility scooter. He has just married my other neighbour this year, who is sixty-six.

Joe is one year older than his birth certificate shows since his birth was registered in 1924, a year after he was born in 1923.

Joe is spry.

especially of an old person) active; lively. "he continued to look spry and active well into his eighties"

Google Dictionary

After missing out last year with a cold, the Queen’s back in style ... and Philip’s as spry as ever

Daily Mail 25th December 2017

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You have two different meanings here.

The question asked in your question title, mentions simply functioning properly, but the example sentence you have posted adds an extra dimension "on his own".

The best phrase to fit the meaning of your example sentence I would say is:



Able to provide everything you need, especially food, for yourself without the help of other people. -- Cambridge.

So your example sentence could be changed by adding "is self-sufficient":

Although he is 90 this year, he still is self-sufficient: he can still walk, eat on his own.

I would however remove the last comma and replace with and, re-order slightly and also remove the second still.

Although he is 90 this year, he is still self-sufficient: he can walk and eat on his own.

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Although he is 90 this year, he still lives independently.

From EOLD:



  1. Without outside help; unaided.
    ‘disabled people living independently in their own homes’
    ‘information for those who are travelling independently’
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    "lives independently" relates to his living conditions a good deal more than his age or ability at said age. "He is independent." is much better. A young man can live independently, it just means he's alone. – insidesin Dec 29 '17 at 2:45

Hale is an old word meaning healthy, now largely fossilised in the phrase hale and hearty.

Collins defines hale as “healthy and robust”, and gives the following usage note:

If you describe people, especially people who are old, as hale, you mean that they are healthy.

She is remarkable and I’d like to see her remain hale and hearty for years yet.

I think this has the meaning you’re looking for, and also tends to be associated with age, so it has the right connotations.

The single word hale is usable on its own, but the phrase hale and hearty is probably more common. Either should work for your purposes.

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  • OP is looking for a phrase or idiom - hale and hearty is a better answer than just hale. – Tim Dec 29 '17 at 14:32
  • Perhaps I'll edit to explicitly suggest both the individual word and the phrase. – TRiG Dec 29 '17 at 17:11

Although he is 90 this year, he still has all his faculties: he can still walk, eat on his own.


[fak-uh l-tee]

noun, plural fac·ul·ties.

  1. an ability, natural or acquired, for a particular kind of action:a faculty for making friends easily.

  2. one of the powers of the mind, as memory, reason, or speech:Though very sick, he is in full possession of all his faculties.

  3. an inherent capability of the body: the faculties of sight and hearing.

  4. exceptional ability or aptitude: a president with a faculty for management.


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  • @AndyT I've added the additional definitions (from the very same link) which include "Inherent capability of the body" - equally, the first definition would cover abilities of the body. I disagree that "faculties" is only to do with the mind. – RemarkLima Jan 26 '18 at 12:34
  • In the context of the phrase though, we're heading into colloquial interpretation. When a person whose health may be questionable is regarded as "having all their faculties," it's often presented in opposition to an inability to care for oneself. One might say "faculties" in equivalence to being "all there" but unable to interact with the world because of other disabilities. – Marc L. Jan 26 '18 at 12:40
  • @MarcL. Maybe, but I see the emphasis on "all", i.e. has "all his faculties" - that is can dance, walk, sing, complete a cross-word, use the toilet, play chess etc, etc. So has full mental and physical faculties. – RemarkLima Jan 26 '18 at 12:44
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    Hmmm. Your additional definitions (and those elsewhere) do back you up. In my experience though it only refers to mental ability, so it doesn't really work for me, as I'd misinterpret what was meant by someone using it for physical abilities. – AndyT Jan 26 '18 at 14:41

Some great answers here, but they all take a positive point of view of "functioning properly" - their words indicate function above and beyond the minimum.

Another options would be compos mentis, meaning "of sound mind; sane".

It is certainly used in British English to describe older folks who are still lucid and "functioning properly" from a mental perspective (even if they are otherwise infirm).

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    "compos mentis" (technical legalese) or "self-sufficient" (slightly loose) or "not senile" or "lucid" would all work. "Spr(ightl)y" doesn't ATQ. – casper.dcl Dec 28 '17 at 18:20
  • I'd leave out the "properly"; I think you can simply say: Although he is 90 this year, he still functioning. You could even add a "well" at the end. – J.R. Dec 28 '17 at 21:58
  • "compos mentis" is not English. – insidesin Dec 29 '17 at 2:46
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    @insidesin "compos mentis" is one of countless latin phrases that are in common usage in English. – Dancrumb Dec 29 '17 at 20:17
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    @insidesin - Yes, I'd hazard that it's a very British expression. It comes from British law, where the term is used as a description for people who are able to manage their own affairs without external guidance, and particularly whether any will they create will be considered as having effect. It's seeped into common usage, but that's where it's come from. – Jules Dec 30 '17 at 7:29

In addition to some other great suggestions here, I'd like to toss in "sharp" or "sharp and able" as a contender. I use it frequently to describe my wife's grandfather, who is in his 90s but still doesn't miss a beat and can do most things for himself.

Edit: My own answer revealed another possible answer, "doesn't miss a beat". It refers more to being mentally fit, but also implies being physically able as well.

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    And (as) sharp as a tack/blade – k1eran Dec 29 '17 at 16:38
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    @k1eran That may actually be the root of the term "sharp". Definitely another good suggestion, either way. – thanby Dec 29 '17 at 16:40

There's a popular idiom "fit as a fiddle".

Although he is 90 this year, he still is fit as a fiddle: he can still walk, eat on his own.


fit as a fiddle BRITISH, AMERICAN or fit as a flea BRITISH
If someone is as fit as a fiddle or as fit as a flea, they are very fit and healthy.
Note: In the first two idioms here, 'fit' means healthy and full of energy.
He was nearly 80 and as fit as a fiddle.

Note: This expression may originally have applied to a violin player, or fiddler, rather than to a violin, or fiddle. The fiddler had to be fit in order to play all evening at a festival or party.
Alternatively, 'fit' could mean 'suitable' rather than 'healthy', so the original meaning may have been `as suitable for its purpose as a fiddle is for making music'.

Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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Speaking as someone who younger people may regard as old, how about “he/she is normal”?

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  • "Normal" can be a very ambiguous term, in my opinion. It kind-of implies that it's "abnormal" to show signs of ageing. I do see where it's desirable, however, because virtually everyone wants to be treated with respect regardless of age. – thanby Dec 29 '17 at 16:31
  • Well put, @thanby. I confess, it was the ageist aspect of the original question that I allowed to provoke me. – Stephen Winnall Dec 29 '17 at 22:56
  • @StephenWinnall: normal can be age-relative. A normal baby is not walking at 6 months, and a normal 90 year old needs assistance in walking. I believe th OP is referring to an abnormal 90 year old. – jmoreno Dec 30 '17 at 19:40

ambulatory (adjective) 1. relating to or adapted for walking.

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