"A long memory can drive a man crazy."
-- Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Friday, August 31, 2012

When Are We Old?

     If you read my last post, you know I got embroiled in one minor issue of the aging over the weekend. But it got me wondering: When are we old?

     I remember going through my own aging issue, a kind of mid-life crisis, when I was 28 years old. Yes, 28.

     At the time, I recall thinking that I was almost 30 -- and 30 was, oh god, 30 was middle age. I was married, had a job, had just bought a house. My life path was set. No more surprises. I might as well lie down and die.

     Of course, now with the wisdom of age, I can see that I was being ridiculous. My life was just beginning -- I went back to graduate school, had a couple of kids, watched them grow up and go to college, bought and sold a couple of houses; got divorced; got downsized; found a new life partner; bought and sold another house. And life goes on.

     But as I now look around at all the other people in my life, and those I meet in town or while traveling, I notice people with little kids, and guys going off to work, and I see the people making news on TV or in the newspaper. And I realize ... I am older than all those people.

     I'm one of the gray hairs who goes to the movies at 5 p.m. -- with all the other gray hairs -- because I don't want to stay out too late. I'm one of the people interested in Social Security, not as some theoretical benefit far-off into the future, but in the here and now. When I travel to Florida, I realize that I'm not one of those people going to see their parents. I am one of the parents.

     They say that 50 is the new 40. Well, that's irrelevant for me. I'm long past 40, long past 50.

     So when does old age start anyway? At 55 when places like movie theaters and public parks start giving you senior-citizen discounts? At 59 1/2, when the government lets you withdraw funds from your IRA without a penalty? Or at age 62, when you can start taking Social Security? Or 65 when you get Medicare? Or 66, which is now considered normal retirement age?

     Or, maybe it doesn't start until you go into an Independent Living facility, at age 80 or 85.

     Walking around everyday, I sure don't feel like I'm old. And, remember, they say you're only as old as you feel.

Anthony Hopkins will play Methuselah in the upcoming film Noah
     But, eventually, no matter how you feel, time does move on, and even if you're healthy, you're old. And there comes a point when, if you don't think you're old, you're just in denial.

     Then there are the moments when the knee acts up; or my ankle hurts; or the back begins to bother me. Or I can't stay up late to watch the Olympics; and we're the first to leave the party, at 10 p.m., because it's getting to be our bedtime. Or . . . we just don't want to go at all, because it's a half-hour drive, and who wants to be driving home in the dark anyway?

     The term "old" is a vague concept, I guess. Some people are old when their 50; others are still vibrant when they're 70. Depends on your health, your attitude, your interests and activities. When did old age start for Methuselah, who supposedly lived to age 960 or thereabouts?

     Maybe there are stages in getting old -- perhaps the same stages people go through in facing death. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. As for me, I'm in the denial stage. Well . . . maybe the bargaining stage, because every once in a while I find myself trying to make a deal -- okay, I can handle the toothache, as long as this pain in my side isn't a tumor.

     But here's what I've finally figured out. My kids constantly joke around about how old I am. How I should count my age in Roman numerals. How I know so much about the Civil War because I was personal friends with Abe Lincoln. How I blog about . . . retirement.

     That's okay. They've been making these jokes ever since they started to talk. The time to worry, I've decided, is when they stop making jokes about me being old, because they know it cuts too close to the bone.

     That's when I'll know I'm really old.


Maura said...

New reader to your blog.... what a wonderful post!.... love it... and I'm right there with you!

Olga said...

I always like the "young as you feel idea." I have to say, though, that I have been most distressed to see my husband age by what seems like ten years in just the past twelve months.

Olga said...

New record!! It took FIVE tries to prove I am not a robot. God, maybe I am a robot.

June said...

I feel as if I'm ready to be old, but people keep telling me I'm not old. I'm like a four year old waiting impatiently for kindergarten except I'm waiting to be old enough for retirement.

I'm just a broken record, aren't I?

Tom said...

Olga (and everyone else) -- My apologies on the prove-you're-not-a-robot issue. I've had problems on other sites as well, from time to time, so maybe I'll try getting rid of it (if I can figure out how). Presumably, if I get bombarded by spam I can always put in back.

Anonymous said...

Oh I am so with Olga:)...I have only commented twice before today and was ready to give in and be a robot.....perhaps the robot would have had better luck in figuring out those letters. I admire Olga's perseverance ....I wanted to give up at four tries. Do enjoy reading your blog though...and did you answer the inquiry from Huff Post to blog for them:)? Since the robot was not the point of your post -will comment on that as well. My husband is 7 years older and this past year I have noticed so many changes in this delightful man. No longer wants to drive at night, naps in the afternoon, asks for confirmation of conversations multiple times (had the mini mind test and passed:)....having numerous uncomfortable health issues....I wonder if he sees changes in me that I don't see in myself?? Thankfully we have each other to support and love. Helen

Dick Klade said...

That "old" feeling only hits me when trying something physical that once was easy and now is difficult or impossible. I've noticed little difference in the mental part of the equation (so far!).

If you figure out how to get rid of that difficult comment testing, please let me know.23 erbenici

Janette said...

I'm with Helen. Married to a man seven years older- I feel the same age as him. Am thinking it is time to lighten up and get some spunk on.
The post really made me think about it.

Laura Lee Carter aka the Midlife Crisis Queen said...

When are we old? That's easy! My 77-year-old friend informs me that old is always 10 years older than you are right now!

#1Nana said...

I went to the eye doctor last week. I talked about changes with my sight as I got older. He talked about "mature" eyes. So...I'm not old I'm mature, and I guess I'm in denial!

Bob said...

I'm 62, and it seems that everybody is younger than me. It seems that the media and marketers are only geared towards beauty and youth.