The over-70 crowd is a caucus all its own, fond of self-deprecating humor and kindnesses that cross party lines. Ninety is the new 80, Byrd quipped recently.
There is no more forgiving place to age, as Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina could attest. He died in 2003 at 100, then the longest serving senator in history.
Still, news of the 76-year-old Kennedy's malignant brain tumor Tuesday was a heartbreaker even for this wizened group, which has seen spouses and friends fall before them.