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Thursday, 30 August 2012

What is it Like to be Old?

Because I am a bit distracted this week while setting up and organizing a filing system for my new History of Old Age project, that's mostly what I've been thinking about. So today, I have a related question for you.

Small children and elders usually get on together quite well; they seem to have an innate understanding of one another. That often changes sometime around adolescence and thereafter, young people and even mid-aged people can be too caught up in their lives to pay much attention to old people or their lives.

Hence, Socrates' question to Cephalus quoted here yesterday: What is it like to be old? which would be the query version of the subtitle to this blog in the banner above.

My intention when I selected that phrase was that over time, if I went at it from every conceivable angle that presented itself, a picture, a feeling, a good, general idea of what getting old is really like might make itself clear or, at least, somewhat more clear to us.

What I realized yesterday and surprised me is that unlike Socrates, I've never directly asked that question of anyone. How could I have missed that.

Old age, to most people not yet aged, is like a foreign country they have not visited and indeed, that is exactly so. You can't really know it until you're there.

One of the most striking features of old age is its diversity. We age at dramatically different rates and some people in their fifties can be decrepit while some in their nineties are as sharp and nearly as capable as in their mid-years.

However that turns out for a given individual is due mostly to genetics, health and dumb luck.

Last week, geriatrician Bill Thomas noted in these pages that “As we get older we are less and less like our peers in every way." Pat Thane, the author of The Long History of Old Age agrees:

”'Old age' is a diverse phase of life partly because of its very length. It is said to extend from the fifth decade of life to past 100. By contrast both 'youth' and 'maturity' cover shorter timespans.”

Over the years of this blog, some readers who have been well into the years of old age have insisted they are not old, often quoting the adage, “you're only as old as you feel” which has always struck me as the ultimate in denial not to mention illogical: since you have never been as old as you are now, however that feels is what that age feels like.

So if anyone reading this is inclined to debate when exactly old age begins, please don't. If you like, we can do that another time. Today, I'm setting the onset of old age at an arbitrary 50 and I am deeply curious to read your answers to Socrates' question: What is it like – for you - to be old?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Earthquake Weather


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

For me, very simple - poorer physical health and loss of stamina. That has a knock on effect on mental activity, because lower stamina means I'm more prone to fatigue which affects both mental and physical capacity.

I think for me, sometimes being brushed aside by my children and grandchildren because they are too busy and take me for granted.

Old Age = Deteriorating physical status, flickering mental status, rich emotional status.

Explanations--
Flickering means as strong as ever but with intermittent interruptions.
I almost wrote "spiritual" instead of emotional, except I am not talking about religious matters, but inner life.

I'm 60, a widow and honestly can tell a big difference in my physical stamina. And my worries now consist of fear about falling, getting sick, outliving my money, being unable to take care of myself... But the most insidious thing seems to be a creeping sense of lethargy, no goals I can think of, nothing that excites or inspires me like when I was even in my early 50s. I'm not looking forward to the 60s, since it seems to be all "downhill" from here.

I don't think of myself as old tho arteriosclerosis and arthritis have really slowed me down this year. LOL

As I've aged (currently 69), I've gotten shorter than I was - 5'7" versus 5'9". That's causing the body mass to settle around my center. Now I've got a muffin top in jeans where there didn't used to be one. I weigh the same, but it's shifted a bit.

Eliza's comment prompts me to say something. I think it is essential to plan for an old age where we are emotionally self-sustaining. I mean, we must build a life where our happiness is not dependent on attention from our children. Then whatever we get from them is icing on the cake, not something we require not to get depressed. Have lots of hobbies, make new friends, be interested in stuff.

Mentally, I fell no different. Retirement affords time to read a lot. Stamina is the issue - It took forever for my husband and I (ages 68 and 69) to paint our bedroom. It is difficult to give up these tasks. It was hard to have someone paint the house this spring but climbing to the second story was a no brainer.
I look in the mirror and see my mother. I have also inherited my mother and grandmother's veiny and lumpy legs. It is the sudden unexpected events - husbands sudden quadruple bypass and my breast cancer - that make every ordinary day a precious gift.


I sort of enjoy being old, Ronni.

I like that the kids help me down the driveway when I visit their homes and I loved the time last Winter when I was visiting my dughter in Chicago and dreaded getting into my cold bed only to find she had put an electric mattress pad on there so it would be toasty warm for me.

I like that my oldest son calls every week to see if we want to go to our local pub for a fish fry and ale.Mostly we go and it's great fun.

I like that my Grandchildren are now having their own babies and those Great Grandkids are bringing new joy into our lives.

I like that everywhere I go someone defers to my age and offers me a seat or a drink
or at least a nice smile.

And, of course, I like that we are offered discounts on almost everything we want.

I don't like that I am old as opposed to being young but I always feel that I had my turn and I made the most of it and now it's somebody else's time to be young and do the fun, adventurous stuff we once did.

I have always admired the remark Erma Bombeck made:

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used up everything you gave me".

That's a great line to remember, Nancy.

This year, at 70 is the first time I've felt old. Seems to be related to health issues and shrinking energy reserves. The times that a day out resting fixed anything seems to have passed. I do see the grands moving on and my kids very busy as I was at their age. I too am concerned I will outlive my money. Making new friends is important, mine have died, moved away, or can't travel any longer. Hooray for phones and the computer but I plan on volunteering again and making some new and local friends.

I'll be 60 in a few weeks.

For most of my adult life, I've looked at myself in the mirror and seen the 25 year old me looking back. Not in the receding hair line or the wrinkles, but in my eyes. I always thought I felt like the same person I'd always been. If--sometimes--I was startled for a moment to find my father or grandfather looking back from the glass, the feeling passed. I chalked it up to strong genes and fond memories.

This year, for the first time, that's changed.

It happened when I took a picture of myself on the cellphone camera. It was an older phone that didn't have the forward facing camera. I wasn't even sure I was in the frame. When I turned the camera over, the image I captured showed me a very different face.

It wasn't the 25 year old me behind the eyes. It was of a very different man. A man caught almost unaware by the camera and showed me something that I can't really explain. In many ways it was the me-that-I-am and not the me-that-I-see-in-the-mirror.

And I like it.

How can I know what it's like to be old when I'm not there yet? Age 82.

There has been a big shift in me about how I feel about housekeeping. I used to kind of love to make the house "shine"..it was a point of pride with me and while I worked Saturdays were taken up (happily, mind you!) with making the house sparkle. Now, age 62, I am committed to a passion for art and there is always laundry in the front room and stacks of things to put away (left there for weeks). I used to secretly admire old women who did not care a whit about housekeeping. I met a woman years ago ..she sat surrounded by books in a messy apartment. She sat with her glasses on top of her head quoting some great author--not caring that the carpet needed vacuuming. Why aren't I like this, I wondered. Well, now....I kind of am! It's not like I am a total slob, but I also drive a dented car, because it drives just fine! I've become much more relaxed and accepting. I don't care about "status" at all anymore.

Everyone is getting Old-er. You mean feeling age-ed. There are many things to dislike about being over 50(me closer to 60), the always aches and pains, feeling more tired even though I go to the gym. Everything seems to take more time, as rushing around is not really an option. But, with age does come wisdom, wisdom about what matters in living and ease at releasing what does not matter. I like Mara's above comment : 'Old Age = Deteriorating physical status, but rich emotional status'. As with all ages in life, they each have their challenges and joys and being old also means so many memories of a life (hopefully) well lived.

I love it. Keep up the great work!!

P.S. I'm only 75. Will let you know what it's like when I get "old" in 15 or 20 years.

For me, at 71, a noticeable increase in patience and tranquility, an interest in the lives and thoughts of other, much older people, as well as my contemporaries when they're not absorbed and verbose about their physical ailments. A greater capacity to say "no" - if you like, less need to please others.

AS with other posters, I too experience a reduction in strength and stamina and it takes me twice as long to do physical things. I have regular C.R.A.F.T. moments when brain feels like porridge, particularly in the really hot summer months. But in the main I think I've still got all my marbles.

I so wish that I could be like 82 year old Johna and say that "I am not there yet", but I am definitely there at age 87. The least exertion tires me so much now that I almost feel sick and need to rest for hours to recover. I swept my back patio this morning and felt like I had run a marathon. The reality is, I just can't do it anymore.

I have given up cooking, thorough cleaning, and most yard work. Each year I give up more and am now becoming a very lazy lady.

I can accept the fact that, as a very independent woman, I now have to rely on others for help. I am old. But the thing that bothers me the most is not being able to recall a simple word when I need it. I am not doing that very often in conversation, but as I write I am constantly seeking the word I want and have worn out a dictionary and thesaurus hunting for the word that is on the tip of my 'brain.'

The mind is a terrible thing to waste. And that part of being old is the part dislike.

I like the concept of a "green old age," and that's where I'm at right now at 77.

I've done some reading on the history of old age, and that's where I learned about this. In colonial times, Americans used the term, green old age, as the English had before them, to refer to all the years when you're not quite up to doing all the things you used to do, but you're not slowed down all that much, either.

The colonists recognized that green old age was generally followed by a time of physical and mental deterioration. They apparently were smart enough not to claim that these stages of life started or ended at particular ages. Presumably, they understood that people age at different rates.

I'm enjoying my green old age, and I think we should revive the term to give people something to look forward to. For me, much of the pressure is off now. Upsetting things don't generally upset me as much. I've slowed down some, but who cares?

One thing I've noticed is that time has speeded up. Yesterday was Sunday and already tomorrow's Friday--how did that happen? Maybe I haven't slowed up as much as I think--maybe it's just that time is moving faster.

first, I have a problem with you using "old" rather than "older". Since I was about 18 and witnessed the behavior of a woman who was crotchety and unpleasant and noted how different she was from my own grandmother I have differentiated between "old" and "older". My grandmother was just older and I think of myself as emulating her. I often forget that I AM older. I was 76 this year. But I keep forgetting that. Age has never been an issue for me. I've always had friends who were older and younger. I don't feel different and when I catch sight of myself unexpectedly I'm surprised.

The years since I was 50 (which to even suggest is "old" seems ludicrous to me) have been rich in new opportunities and relationships. Yes it ticks me off when I get ignored because of my white hair but then I was often ignored because I am a woman. So I figure it's their loss. The pain in getting older is the loss of people I love through illness and death and witnessing the challenges that make it so difficult for others. The joy is seeing my children and stepchildren mature and my grandchildren evolve into such special people. And having the time to travel, read, and express myself creatively. Yes, I have been blessed with abundance in many areas, which of course has colored my perspective and I am so very grateful. I don't take these things for granted. But above all I carry in my heart the knowledge that I have been deeply loved, and have loved in return.

I guess one change for me has been that I'm inclined to do less cooking, which was always a great joy for me. And I don't care that much about how I'm perceived by others. Also, on my 60th birthday I decided I was no longer in charge of the universe and that has been a great relief.

Who among us knows what the future will bring. I'm hoping for interesting -- in a good way.

Dear Ronni,
Others have expressed in one way and another what it feels like to be the age I am--some positives, some negatives. I have been watching, with interest how it feels while I have been in the process of becoming old. I took a class called Adolescence and Aging years ago in college. Comparing the changes adolescents go through becoming adults with the changes older adults go through as they become aged was fascinating. Similarities and differences, goods and bads. Really glad you have taken on this project of studying old age....

Brenda (and others)...
You may have a "problem" with my word "old,", but the fact is that using that word - proudly and loudly - for people who are no longer youths or mid-aged has been a deliberate and unmovable choice on this blog for many years an will remain so.

"Older" is just another euphemism for old and Time Goes By does not truck in euphemism. And it begs the question: "older" than what?

Also, whether someone is crotchety or not is unrelated to how old they are. Plenty of young people are unpleasant and giving the word "old" a negative meaning when it is, in reality, nothing more than a neutral descriptive (the opposite of young) implies there is something wrong with all old people.

I do not believe that is so.

I feel energetic and sharp, even after the rigors of moving from the east coast to the west coast less than two months ago. My domestic partner and I agree, though, that we never want to move again.

I have Type II diabetes due to gestational diabetes in pregnancy. I control it by cooking healthful meals for my partner and myself and exercising (no meds)which go a long way to keep me healthy.

Ronni:
Her's a partial answer to your question in a poem I wrote two weeks ago.

No hurry

The car behind me passes in a flash,
The driver gets in front of me, and then
The light turns red; he stops his frantic dash.
I edge my car behind him, smiling, when
I see how much he needs to win, his race
To be the first. The light turns green, he speeds
Away. I keep my boring, steady pace,
Content and slow, thinking of his needs,
The only goals, the restless urge to shine,
To have the finest home, the biggest car,
The gorgeous wife; to drink the finest wine.
And when he's plucked that burnished shining star?
Like him, my days were spent in frantic haste,
What drove me then is done; I've lost the taste.

I will try to make a coherent comment using my iPad keyboard because these comments stirred up so much for me. I turn 70 in a few months and find that halfway through my first decade of being retired that I am enjoying life very much. However, my energy levels must be honored rather than pushed through as was my wont in my youth. Unexpected things rattle me more than they used to. But I can also feel a certain acceptance of the aging process within my soul. Perhaps this is what is meant by wisdom. And I love that Erma Bombeck quote! Yeah!

I'm now 78 and feel good most of the time. A few years ago one of my grandchildren asked me what it is like to be old. I said it's just like being young except that now you're old. And that she and I are at different points of our lives. Now, though, my energy is less, especially in the evenings, but most of the time am good to go. Hope it continues for a few more years.

Having turned 70 this year I well remember my father's outlook ... 'Life begins at 40 - middle age at 80!' Always like his way of thinking!!

Aging does accelerate in our 70's, as my friends and I are observing, more and more as 80 approaches. You have all said things that I relate to.

Celia, if you can, it is good to make YOUNGER friends--Many friends my age are unable or unwilling to get out and go places with me.

Cara, good Lord, dear girl, 60 is middle age--I wrote 3 books after age 60,developed a paying hobby of photography, and was still having a singing career till 67, ill health and all.Up till age 76 I ran folk concerts, and am still writing,(often am on Elder Storytelling) teaching a weekly writing group and facilitating a support group for celiac disease. You're a long way from downhill.

Mara, right on!

Everybody, I do enjoy the respect and chivalry that we receive from younger people, and even older. There is a 90-something gentleman in our building who waits to hold the door for me when I bring in groceries! When traveling I loved how many young men offered to help with bags and getting down the plane steps and into the wheelchairs.One even offered to wheel me over to the next gate if the aide didn't show up.

Forgive me if I sound preachy--it is a subject I write about a lot at this age and care about very deeply.
My biggest complaint, which I share with other friends my age, is how much slower we have become, and how little we can do before we have to rest.

Johna, you are the cat's meow!

Brenda,lovely, thoughtful post--I've missed your writings on Elder Storytelling--come back, please.

Marc--beautiful poem. Love it.

Rachel--I love your dad's thinking!

I thought turning 70 this year was shocking, but so was turning 40.

There are times when I feel taken for granted and/or ignored, but realize it’s up to me to fix that (sometimes easier said than done).

I’ll be retiring in a few days and wondering how I will adjust to not working after so many years.

I will be 64 in a few months and have been retired for 2 years. I never had the opportunity while I was working to be the activist that I wanted to be so for me, being old, is rich with community work. I always wanted to make a difference and I always wanted to leave a legacy. I am currently a volunteer cub reporter for our local newspaper among many other activities that I do. We were asked to answer two questions. "Who are you and why are you here?" I realized when I answered who I am that I am in transition from middle age to old age. I had never pinpointed it till that moment. Like many other respondents, I too have a problem with energy and boy do I ache in many parts of my body. You see I was a ranch manager for 25 years and used my body hard and was in many horseback wrecks! I will end saying to Claire Jean that it is easy to adjust to retirement if you find ways to volunteer and lead in your community. We are so valuable at this time in our lives with all of our experience and with the time we can devote to things that we love.

Claire Jean,

Good luck to you in your retirement.

Enjoy going out to lunch with your husband. Make lots of new computer friends.Try a new hobby. Take a walk every day.Volunteer,as Amy suggested.

You've got lots of life ahead of you. Make the most of it.

Don't forget to write stories for the Elder Storytelling Place.

I enjoy the leisure immensely. I have fewer responsibilities to fewer people and the time to get enough rest and to plan my schedule as I see fit. It seems to me that right up to the point of precipitous physical and mental decline, life just gets better and better with age. Ultimately, given adequate resources (wealth not required), an active mind, and a sense of joy about the possibilities that life will bring tomorrow, I'm ecstatic about being alive and able to enjoy simple pleasures.

This string has been a delight to read. I knew I wanted to answer too, but there is so much to say that I don't know where to begin.

I've always looked younger than I am, mostly due to accidents of genetics. I'm programmed to be thin--I weigh the same now at almost 65 as I did at 20--and my hair is only sprinkled with gray (I've never dyed it). I walk about 5 miles a day, do yoga three times a week and lift weights twice a week. So I've retained my energy and I feel able to do most things I want to do.

Nonetheless, I am plagued with a number of small ailments that alert me to the changes ahead. Just this week an opthamologist told me I had very early stage cataracts. "It will be years before you need surgery," he said, which only made me wonder how many years.

The thing I like about getting older is that my rollercoaster emotions have settled down to something like contentment. I notice and appreciate small blessings that I would have overlooked as a young person.I pay more attention to other people and try harder to be kind.

I am offended by all the ways in which our culture promotes the denial of age--especially for women. We are all supposed to dye our hair, get botox or facelifts and dress like our daughters. When it comes to fashion, I figure I have paid my dues and no longer accept wearing anything that is uncomfortable for the sake of looks. I am comfortable in my own skin.

What I fear as I age is loss of intellect. My father had dementia, and watching him decline was heartbreaking. I already have those maddening moments when I can't think of a word I want, and each time it happens I can't help worrying that I will be like my dad.

Being able to retire has taken a huge load of stress off of me, and I only wish I could have done it sooner. I've begun volunteering and taking classes, as well as doing some freelance editing.

What frustrates me is the difficulty of making new friends of different generations. I spend time with my adult son and his girlfriend, but other than that I find it hard to find a way to connect with other folks. It seems to me that outside the family, people tend to sort themselves by age and not be terribly open to friendships with those significantly older or younger. Yet I want younger friends to keep my thinking fresh and to make sure I won't be alone if I outlive friends who are my contemporaries. If anyone has insight on that topic, I'd love to hear it.

Me, me, Nancy! I developed friendships with younger women through common interests--in my case, it was folk music, and running concerts with committees
for many years, and also photography. Religious groups, classes, athletic clubs, even facebook have yielded companions in shared activities who have become personal friends.For me, it's no different than it's always been, except now I'm often the oldest in the group. That's okay--sometimes it gives me a place to share my wisdom (that my family might be less receptive to).

What is it like to be old? I'm 62. I have so many dreams I want to fulfill, just as many as I ever had. I want to play my violin in the orchestra again, find an agent as I attempt to revive the writing career I had in the 1990's, volunteer to teach adults to read, teach my grandchildren all the family recipes, learn to can tomatoes, find a go-to vegan company meal that non-vegans will love, too. Being old means constantly readjusting my dreams to reality, however, and that sometimes brings grief and sometimes patient acceptance. I had always done all I could do to live a long and healthy life into my old age, and then was slammed with an autoimmune illness that taught me quickly that you can't always earn good health. I still dream my dreams. I hope some of them come true. I grieve on the days when illness locks me in bed. I smile at the memories of the things I did attempt. I drop momentarily into depression. And then a granddaughter calls and tells me that she had to choose a favorite book she'd read over the weekend and she chose one of mine, published way back in the mid 1990's. And I'm proud and happy and excited and dreaming big dreams all over again. What is it like to be old? It's a constant matching of desires with reality, but we sure have a whole lot more spiritual and emotional tools at our disposal than we had when we had to do this as toddlers and then as adolescents going through puberty. Young people should know that when they see a wrinkled face and shuffling feet, they're still seeing a dreamer.

The fact that a man will never again look at me with hunger in his eyes breaks my heart. For far too long I was a good girl -- I should have overcome my inhibitions and enjoyed my youth... and now it is too late.

There's not much I can add that hasn't already been said as well or better by the many intelligent and articulate contributors that have preceded me. I'm now closer to 76 than 75, but most of the time I don't feel dramatically different from how I felt 10 or even 15 years ago.

One change I noticed a few years ago is that I no longer have the drive or ambition I had in my middle years. That's probably adaptive since the workplace isn't very interested in ambitious old folks! I'm lucky to still be employed part-time and go out of my way to do my job well, but I'm aware that there's no "next rung" on the ladder. I'm finally O.K. with that.

Although I'm not quite as high-energy as I once was, I sometimes surprise myself by what I can still do. A few weeks ago we had a major water leak on the 2nd floor of our townhouse (major mess!). The repairs seem to be taking forever, so last weekend I decided to move things along instead of waiting for the painter. I painted walls and trim for 6+ hours a day over a period of two days. Sure I was tired afterwards but the work got done--and I survived to paint some more this weekend, too.

What do I worry most about as I get older? Losing control over what happens to me; i.e., losing my husband, outliving my money, dementia, serious physical disability, not being able to drive anymore and finding someone to love and care for our two beautiful 10 Y/O cats if they outlive us.

I am eighty and in most ways very healthy. I feel and have felt for the twenty years since I retired that I am free. Freedom is scary because it's up to me to make good choices, and misplaced ambitions can make me feel terrible because they don't seem attainable nor can I let go of them. On the whole,however, every day is a gift, and I am grateful to be a free agent.

Renee

I just started a new job this week, back in a school, after having retired as a teacher 6 years ago...it's only 3 days a week, but I felt like I was coming home when I stepped through the schoolhouse door. I am edging toward 69 and still feel there is so much to look froward to in life.

well for me..one night i went to bed an ingenue. the next morning i woke up a character actress.

that fast and that complete.
it was like amnesia in reverse.

i remained knowing who i was while the world around me no longer recognized me as a familiar.

it seems a costume change is huge..not much call for character actress' as leading ladies.

truly a stranger in a strange land. to go from high visibility and the perks that accompany,
to the butcher baker candlestick maker suddenly unable to see me standing in front of them.

speed forward a few years..
i've faced the world will do what the world will do.
fearing our old ness. their future old ness. how sad.

but for the ingenue and the character actress..
they are having a fine old time together.
they couldn't be in better company.

I will be 66 in september. I am divorced, I have a new companion , 5 grand children,a god health, many activities. But, last March, my deat Mother died at 98, till tehn I feel old and lonely. Time will cure.

Given your arbitrary selection of 50 as old -- with which I don't agree in the scheme of life's years, especially considering the extended life span today ;-) -- I first became aware of a slowing down in my physical activities a couple or three years into my mid-seventies.

Coincidentally, or otherwise, this followed a year or so of leading a rather minimally structured, probably not good-health-inducing life style, of somewhat erratic living habits and activity -- trying to pack in too much all at once and launch down new roads after my husband's death.

Finding some new future meaningful activity which I could pursue, even into my old age when I might become less physically agile and would choose to give up my profession, suddenly seemed inviting. Common sense and past experience should have told me I would have been wiser to return to my work much sooner than I did -- and to save lurching into anything new 'til later, but I was lacking common sense and was a bit discombobulated for a while.

I've continued to work part time, which means very irregularly and I've cut back even more. My work has proven to be a very important emotionally satisfying and stabilizing path for me as I age.

Whether working (I truly wish that everyone who wanted to continue working could do so and consider myself fortunate,) or anyone engaged in some other activity -- whatever gives one pleasure, a sense of accomplishment -- I believe, is a key factor that keeps our minds sharp, attitudes positive and outlook forward-thinking.

I enjoy whatever limited contact I'm able to have with family -- all who live at considerable distance (no longer any even in my State) -- but do not believe it to be their responsibility to fulfill my personal life, emotional needs -- as someone else, said -- they're the "icing on the cake."

Many of my close intimate longtime friends live considerable distance away, with most having died. Limited email, phone, texting, Skyping, continuing (but only occasional and decreasing) snail mail all serve to keep us in touch.

I do agree with the person who commented about difficulty establishing new close relationships -- never before an issue in my life as always were more people than time I had. What I have found is too many contemporaries don't want to do anything at night, or are interested in only domestic matters, not interested in driving trips, other activities.

Also, many singles/widows/widowers of all ages want to troll for permanent partner which is fine for them -- but not on my agenda -- the widowers go fast as much competition so never even get a chance to be just friend/companions. ;-)

Interesting active my-age singles seem to fortunately-for-them have their circle, but I rarely encounter them anyway 'cause they don't go to the groups available that advice-givers tell us to attend. Seems to be that in the interest groups I do participate that the members have a spouse at home now-retired who wants their attention and I encourage 'cause time goes fast (which was my situation for years, so I know how that goes.) I have a bare minimum of contacts, including a tried and true couple who do not live close by, but we have a great time when we get together. They're aging and encountering parental caregiving now, so their life pattern is changing, too.

I've reconciled to enjoying life with activities I can engage in independently,or spontaneously when the mood strikes me to do so, either at home or elsewhere.

Technology offers all sorts of entertainment including blogging, but I like to limit the amount of time I engage in doing that, just as I discriminate about TV and other tech. So, I'm content -- most of the time!

My life is still every changing but I now have a greater awareness of the changes and time to study them. Not a good or bad thing...just the way it is. Children move on away from elder grandparents because it is basic biology. Young animals move on to mate and to get better chances at food. We are animals basically and mimic that pattern for survival.

To me, I think I became "old" when my life's finish line came into my minds view. When I realized that I was on my last slice of pizza (I believe we start out with 4 slices--representing 4 25 year periods) and that I shall likely never finish #4.

dear classof65, i have never been a good girl(you have not missed much). walking down the street, with my now yr old tatoo over my upper arm i noticed a young man looking and quickly turning away when he realized i am older. it made me smile all day, he could never have handled me at any age.;)
now in my 50's i finally feel like my mind and body match up. i am just an old soul. retiring soon(2 weeks), i want to have more time to play. why keep working,kids just ask for more money.

At 62 I miss not being able to eat as much as I want of whatever I want.

When I was younger I would ask my mom, "Do you want some onions?" and she would say, "No, thanks." I would persist, "But, Mom, you like onions!" "Well, yes, I like onions, but they don't like me anymore." That also seemed to apply to cucumbers, peppers, etc. Now it's me.

I haven't gained a lot of weight, but it seems to be in different places. I am looking online at Vermont Country Store muumuus - comfortable for hanging around the house and yard all day, but still can answer the door.

Will I ever be a Helen Hooven Santmyer who published her bestseller "...And Ladies of the Club" in 1984 when she was 87-years-old?

It's annoying and sometimes scary how much I have to use the thesaurus when I write.

I'm more likely to speak up for myself. No, I don't want to share my lap lane in the Y pool with your child; in fact, the Y should have a lot more adults only hours!

We now find that some things just need to be hired out. We are having a yard cleanup and some trees replaced by a local yard service...we just can't do it ourselves anymore.

I am able to contribute more civically.

In the last decade we have lost eight members of our immediate families, including all four parents. I feel as though we have lost our family traditions.

For some reason I haven't taken any college courses in ten years. I feel as though I don't have the time, but I did it when I worked full-time. Hmm...

I can't stand hot weather any more and don't understand how anyone can retire to "warmer climes".

When members of my high school class get together, it doesn't matter whether you were close in HS or not. Now we are all old friends.

When we adopt a new pet, age matters - the age of the pet. Now we figure out how long the new pet might live and how old we would be at that stage. The good thing about that is that we are giving a home to older animals that others might overlook.

When it comes to sex, comfort trumps variety.

I have been enriched by the comments. Thank you each.

I've been asking myself this question for the past two days and I keep coming up with the same answer. What is it like to be old?

I have absolutely no idea.

Georges Simenon, author of the "Inspector Maigret" and hundreds of other works published the first volume of his memoirs which he entitled "Quand J'etais Vieux" (When I Was Old) in 1962 when he 60. He began writing it soon after he was divorced and feeling lonely, disillusioned and burned-out. He then hired a new secretary who he soon married and the short interval of "oldness" came to an end. He wrote several more books and lived until he was 85.
Simenon's brief and temporary experience of old age was an example of how we decide how old we are. It's not the clock or the calendar but our minds that determine our age. If you're starting to feel like you're getting old, get up, brush your old self off and start all over again!

I love what Mara said.

I'll be 56 at the end of this month, so still on the young side of old. I always refer to myself as an old lady though, kind of to keep reminding myself that I'm not young any more.

I was getting forgetful, but having gone back to work it's funny how much memory has come back. I know SO MUCH MORE than I did when I was young, that the combination of reasonable brain remaining, plus knowledge, almost makes up for not being able to hurry any more.

That's what I notice - I can't hurry like I used to or I miss things, and I have pretty much non-stop aches and pains, albeit minor. So far, a net plus, being old.

I turned 59 this weekend. I have not lost energy or stamina and for that I am grateful. Especially since I had a stem cell transplant for Multiple Myeloma (a bone marrow cancer that is treatable but not curable) almost 2 years ago. I take a low dose chemo drug daily. I work, practice yoga, Jazzercise and find my 3 grandchildren (ages 1,2 and 4) the best medicine! I pray to God I will experience "old age" and have often wondered what that number really is. When someone my age dies everyone says "she was so young". When we live they call us old!

When I turned 70 I was devastated that I was really on the downward spiral of life. That attitude lasted about a week and I am me again. Sure I get stiff and tired, but I am interested in what is happening to my children as they are living the life I once thought was so important. With my beloved spouse gone two years, I still find lonely moments; I rather live alone than have another person take his place. My energy level has its ups and downs. Water walking at the YMCA has given back strength to my feet and legs.In fact they are working better than they did three years ago! I tire easily. When I have a surge of energy and really get into cleaning, etc., I am in a state of collapse for the next two day. However, I pick myself up when my body says that I am ready and take another stab a project that has waited for months. There is both joy and sorrow in my life. I have lived to see my children grow into fine adults with good jobs.No grandchildren yet, but that doesn't matter as much as it once did. I do what I can, when I can and if I feel like I want to do it. Living day by day is part of growing older and keeps us on our toes concerning the important things of life.

Wonderful question and posts! My response today is reflective of caretaking a dear out-of-state 97-yr old for more than a week. Poor gal has everything physically wrong with her you can imagine & lives alone, which she should not now. And she's delusional about her ability & desire to stay alone: THAT'S old!!

After that, I feel YOUNG at 63! Guess it's all comparative...plus a few delightful days with a very youthful 71-yr old whom I think is tops!! ;)

I love that I don't feel the need to compromise my ideals; that I have the time to do just what I choose to do now that I am retired; that my children are raised and I now can just love my grandchildren and watch them as they grow and mature; that I have the time to take care of my eating and exercizing without having to work around a job and family schedule. When I look in the mirror and see my mother, I am thankful to remember that she really never seemed old until about 6 months before she died at age 93.
Yes, there are a few aches and pains and there are certainly daily concerns that could get me down if I let them dominate my thinking, but there is so much more to be grateful for and that is what energizes me.

I am turning 60 this month, so I am "old". What's it like to be old? Well, I'm putting more unfiltered comments out there, as I feel I've earned the right to say what I think, because at this point, I care less about what others think. I now find it humorous as others try to lay their veneers of opinions on me, telling me what I should think and do. I say "So, what?" more often. I am still me, I feel good, I guess I'm lucky in that regard. I still feel like somewhat of a novice as there are huge amounts of life and things to be learned that I want to experience. I want to play harder, and work smarter, not harder. I don't want to clean the house like I used to as I feel like there are better ways to spend my time. I got married when I was 17 and had a son. Still married, still have son. I feel younger now than I did then, as I felt the weight of world on my shoulders when I had him, such a responsibility for one so young! I find joy in small things, like a hot shower or the smell of a gardenia. All in all, I like this getting older thing, I feel like I'm shedding the shoulds in my life, and that's a good thing!

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