DEAR ABBY: You recently published a humorous piece submitted by a reader who had clipped it from her church bulletin. It went like this:

"You Know You're Growing Older When . . ."You need your glasses to find your glasses.

"You sit in a rocking chair and can't get it going.

"Your knees buckle, but your belt won't . . . " etc.

It was very funny - but in a way, it was also sad. Everything about aging was portrayed as negative, dreary, downhill and hopeless. How much happier the world would be if we'd all look at the bright side of life. Remember how happy we were as kids - looking forward to summer vacation, looking forward to Christmas morning, looking ahead to anything that makes us feel good? Planning ahead for your 90th birthday beats the heck out of expecting to die at 70 - as I once did.

Abby, I woke up at age 70, surprised to find that I was still alive and in good health, and I realized that this business about being "over the hill" at 60 was a lie!

It got me to thinking: My mother refused to die until all of her six children could say goodbye. Very few people die before a birthday, but a whole bunch of people die approximately two weeks after their birthdays.

Here I am, past 90 and looking forward to celebrating my 95th. Then I'll decide whether to pick up my option for another five.

At 90, I'm having the time of my life! In 19-minute speeches, I tell the fellows at Lions' Clubs, Rotary Clubs and others how to postpone their funerals, add years to their lives and life to their years. Who could ask for anything more?

I've written a positive version of "You Know You're Growing Older When." I call mine, "You Can Stay Young When:

"You quit dreading old age and realize that life begins at retirement; it's your second chance at life - your opportunity to do all the things you've always wanted to, but never had the time.

"You will know you are staying young when you stop thinking you're getting senile because you forgot something that wasn't very important in the first place.

"You will know you're staying young when your joints suddenly hurt, and you think, `Well, what can I expect at my age?'

"You can stay young by planning your next birthday the day after you finish celebrating the last one. (Even if you don't make it, you'll have more fun than if you never tried.)

"You will stay young when you realize that our Creator gave us brains so we can make our own decisions. Then He gave us a choice of living 70 or 100 years, so you need not join the 68 percent who were healthy enough to reach 60, but never made it past 75. (Their own mental attitude set the date of their funerals.)

"To the 32 percent who reached 60 in good health, survived beyond 75, and are STILL young, never forget that the first four-minute mile run in history was duplicated 317 times within two years after Roger Bannister showed the world it could be done!

"The 32 percent who are staying young are positive thinkers who like it here and are determined to stay as long as they feel useful and needed. It's a great world - why leave it?" - E.L. STEPHENSON, SPRINGDALE, ARK.

DEAR MR. STEPHENSON: Thanks for a beautiful day-brightener. It was a tonic, a picker-upper - a refreshing swig from the Fountain of Youth!