But just how old is old?
If you are a parent, you will already know that “old” begins at around about 30. I can still remember the shock that I felt, when I first found out I was pregnant, to be described as “elderly primigravida”, and I was under thirty. That doctor must have been an “ageist” because I checked, and that term actually applies to women over 35. Perhaps I looked older than my age at that time. Anyway, having been old since I was in my twenties, I am pretty well used to it by now. If you care whether you look your age, check out this new microsoft tool How old do you look? Or rather if you really care, don’t! I tried two recent photos and it judged me to look between a flattering 42 and a devastating 77! It’s a fun thing that is not very accurate, not meant to be taken seriously and not designed for old people.
Everybody is old to a child!
Children will constantly refer to their parent as old – didn’t you think your parents were old when you were under 30? Even our grown up children in their thirties these days will let us know how out of date our ideas are and put it down to our being “old”. The term is not something that has ever offended me because I had wonderful grandparents and other relatives who were all old! I liked them (well, OK, most of them) and my life was richer for knowing them. I don’t necessarily connect the word “old” with infirmity and senility, but it has to be admitted that many young people do. Fashions and attitudes change, and it does feel as though they are changing more rapidly today than ever before so it is not so easy for the elderly to keep up with it all.
Is 50 the new 60?
Lately we have seen plenty of amazing older people online, in their seventies, eighties, and even nineties doing things like sky diving, pole dancing, and making calendars. If you missed any of this, check out the Huffington Post. I guess the people featured are the exceptions that prove the rule when it comes to their activities in old age. These people are obviously not the average elderly person – they have always done their yoga, dancing or sporting activity, and have simply continued to do it because they have remained fit and able. I have to say I admire the lady who is sky-diving, but dangerous pursuits and risk taking are arguably more suited to the elderly who have lived their lives, than to the young who have their whole lives in front of them. But what are George Cluney 50 and and Mark Jordan 54 doing in this article? Is 50 the new 60? And I thought 60 was supposed to be the new 40? Does that make 40 the new 50? Oh well I never really was much good at math.
You’re as old as you feel
It is a truism that you are about as old as you feel, which would put me at about 25 until I attempt some low level rock climbing, when I age rapidly to about 80. Or when I catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window and wonder “who the hell is that?” Some men joke that they are “are as old as the woman they feel.” I’m sure that trading in the old wife for a younger model does make men feel younger, and often means that people actually do perceive them as younger. If you happen to be female and don’t have a toy boy…listen to me….you have MAKE-UP!
Maybe we are older than we think!
Taking a more general world-wide view of age, perhaps those guys in the article really are old by world standards. In other countries that have poorer health care the percentage of the population over sixty is much lower than our 14-15% in western countries. Take India and Indonesia for example, where the over sixty population is just above 5%. It would be interesting to know how younger people in those countries regard people in their 50s and 60s. Whatever the case, in western countries, 60 is not considered to be very old. Governments don’t think we actually get old at all until 70, because they are wanting us to keep working until then. The average young commuter doesn’t think 60 is old either. In fact you will be able to tell when you are old because youngsters may start giving up their seats for you! Yes, there are some pluses to aging.
“Old” may mean familiar and much loved
When we keep a positive attitude, old really can be awesome and doesn’t have to be a negative word. Sometimes we use it in a familiar way, such as in “old Tony is a great bloke”. We don’t necessarily mean that Tony is old. (I’m so glad I’m not trying to learn the English language, it must be incomprehensible to foreigners.) Or we could refer to ” those old trainers of mine” meaning that they are comfy, have served me well and are my favorite shoes. And what about beautiful old architecture and antiques. This is what we must keep in mind when youngsters refer to us as old!
We need some new words
One would think that the English language, being so rich in words and meaning, would have more descriptive words for being old. I guess in the past you were either old and sick, or you were young, no two ways about it. Today we need to invent new words for degrees and ways of being old. Advertisers have coined a few phrases for us such as GenX, Millenials and baby boomers, but they are specific to the current generation of oldsters. I didn’t even know that a Gen Y is pretty much the same as a millenial, and I think those terms serve marketers and government statisticians quite well. But for general conversation, I’d like some better words. I quite like “Oldster” but many might be offended by its rather comic ring. I don’t like “Pensioner” because many over 60s aren’t, and some young people are. And again the word has rather negative connotations.
I think we need a word for “older person recently retired”, “older person particularly active”, “older person still independent” and “older person needing assistance”.
Old is Awesome!