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What It's Really Like to Get Old

Here are the two winners in the random drawing announced Monday for Malcolm Nance's book, Defeating ISIS: Who They are, How They Fight, What They Believe. Two days later, I rolled the handy-dandy, online random number generator and...

Drum roll please:

One of the winners is Celia Andrews who blogs at Celia's Blue Cottage. The other is Yvonne Behrens. Congratulations to you both - and books are on their way.

* * *

You may have noticed that the headline on today's post is the same as the subtitle up there on top in the banner of the blog. I've tried to make that thought a large component of Time Goes By even if not the entire purpose.

When I started this blog back in 2004, there was literally nothing good being written anywhere in the popular press about growing old. I've told the story here many times that the media – and the culture itself – made getting old sound so awful (and they still do) that I thought then I might as well shoot myself at age 62.

But I didn't really want to do that so I started TGB instead.

However, there was an error I've carried through these pages for too long: I've overdone the positive sides of ageing or, maybe, underplayed the difficulties. Or both. And I want to start fixing that.

Getting old is hard. Most younger people (including ourselves back then) have no idea what courage it takes to keep going in old age.

From simple aches and pains with or without a particular cause to the big deal “diseases of age” like cancer, heart disease and others that afflict elders in much greater numbers than young people to counting out medications, following special diets, exercises, etc., it takes a lot of work, a lot of gumption to grow old.

All this came to mind a few days ago when I ran across a list of tweets about a some changes that are common to most old people I know – and that's what makes them funny.

Some might think these are ageist but I think we need to reconsider how easily we (or I, sometimes) throw around that epithet.

I am beginning to see that such a judgment can require more nuance, as we are discovering is so with the accusations of sexual harassment and/or misconduct and/or abuse can be.

A lot of these were good. Here are my favorites:

  • I thought I was just really tired but it's been five years so I guess this is how I look now.

  • The older I get, the earlier it gets late.

  • I'm not saying I'm old but I just had to increase my font size to "Billboard."

  • Hey guys, remember when you could still refer to your knees as right and left instead of good and bad?

  • You know you're getting old when you pull out your high-powered back massager and actually use it on your back.

  • I'm so old, I can remember getting through an entire day without taking a picture of anything.

  • My daughter just asked why we say "hang up" the phone and now I feel 90.

  • I may be getting old but I'm not "let me call you, I hate texting" old.

  • You know you're getting old when you finger cramps up while scrolling down to find the year you were born on a website.

You can see more of them at Buzzfeed but feel free to add your own in the comments.


A sense of humor helps get us through a lot, young or old.

As to the tweets you chose, I look in the mirror every day, and I know I am aging, but it’s most shocking when I see myself in a photo. Guess I am very photogeriatric.

It's good to laugh, even at the risk of being in some way incorrect. Yes, the photos, Norma,
that's how I discovered I was old! Thanks for a few chuckles, Ronni.

Just about once a week I find myself saying "Getting old ain't for sissies..." when talking with someone about their recent operation or one of my previous. (Note to self: You PROMISED yourself years ago you would not do that!)

Very appropriate column today. I'm getting over a bout of bronchitis, have finally almost stopped coughing, but have no energy at all. The first thing I thought when I got out of bed this morning was that old age has finally caught up with me.

It is good to laugh, thanks for the fun spot in this week

On a positive note, we are all lucky to be old! It is a privilege to be here as difficult and challenging as it can be. I have to work on growing my grateful muscle daily to get me through the aches, pains, and physical realities and keep reminding myself that it could be worse, I could be long gone with nothing to complain about anymore, so think complaining is better than that. And, I keep working on acceptance. Gratitude and acceptance!


I had my first cancer at age 43, so I feel like I had advance preparation for the maladies of age. Second cancer at 60, and I'm 62 now. Sure, there might be more cancer and other bad stuff lurking out there in that dark alley, but I'm looking forward to growing older. Humor helps! Wishing you all the best, Ronni.


You got me at: Hey guys, remember when you could still refer to your knees as right and left instead of good and bad?

Indeed, if we can't laugh at ourselves, we are missing out on a lot of humor. Besides, I'd rather giggle than cry any day.

Your post also reminds me of the Laughter is the best Medicine in the venerable Reader's Digest.

I want a t shirt that says "Groaning Old". I have one that says "If it ain't achin it ain's movin"

Great column.

I hate texting.

I remember, very long ago, when my colleagues and I almost simultaneously turned 40. My son said, "You guys are entering old farthood." At about the same time, the local paper had an enormous headline--FORTY--and listed all the horrors of turning 40. Even at the time, I figured the writer must have been around 20. My father, who was a physician, had an answer for the patients who complained, "Doc, I'm gettin' old." He said, "I just tell 'em to consider the alternative."

You know you're getting old when your youngest turns 50 and the other three are AARP eligible.

Karin, thanks for the reminder to be grateful for every day. I'm going to another friend's memorial service tomorrow.

I figure there is a tipping point. Before that point you don't spend much time thinking about being old. After that point you spend most of your time thinking about being old. Until it arrives in our own lives we never know when that point comes.

I did not think I had many "old behaviors" (which is unlikely) until I heard my grandson groan while getting up out of a chair. A fine mimic he.

Thanks for this topic ... looked at Celia's Blue Planet and her latest struck a cord as I have also wanted to be a kinder, more loving person and have had to repeatedly remind myself of this goal lately. I do not want to be a bitter, mean old need to be judgemental, or hostile when thinking of relatives or friends, or anyone in my life.

I think as parents we all did the best we could. I am extremely lucky to have three children and they seem to like me.

I remind myself of my mother getting up from a sitting position as I slowly shuffle and straighten up to get my old, arthritic bones and joints moving again.

I just started a book a few days ago, "Nothing to be Frightened of," by Julian Barnes. It is very much about mortality, his own and that of family members who have preceded him in shuffling off their own mortal coils. I see you have a book by him on your 'best books on aging' list, but I have not read anything of his before this. I picked it up because of the blurbs on the back, especially the one that mentions that there is a good joke on almost every page, and which also credits the author with, "keeping awe and flippancy in perfect balance." It sounded perfect for right now, and may, in fact, have been a gift from the universe, since I found it at a library sale for a quarter. It has provided just the right diversion recently, when what ever virus it is has been busy trying to kill us all. Laughing while recovering (like Joyce) from bronchitis may not always be the most pleasant, but it may still be the best medicine.

It is what it is. . . one of my all-time favorite sayings.

Seconds after boarding a public bus in Montreal, some college kid shoots out of a seat and begs me to sit down.

To him I am an apple doll?

Walking the beach in South Padre Island, Mister GPS said something kept tapping him on the butt. I said "maybe it's your a$$.

"Look who's talking," he cracked.

Well, we're still walking upright.

I'm now shy about saying that this year I will be 80, but I can be a bit coy about it too. Since the story telling place is closed, I hope you don't mind a short poem :
How Old Am I?

As young and ignorantly hopeful as the crocus
the first warm day of March

As old as a Ford Thunderbird with 200,000 miles,
dents and rust, bald tires and a rattling muffler

As frisky as a calico kitten chasing dust motes
spooked by her own shadow on the floor

As ancient as a shaman woman who talks
to the stars and cloud gods knowing
they will neither listen nor answer

As old as the murmur in my heart with it’s odd
bit of titanium, as the crowns of my teeth,
the brown spots on my hands,
the white hair on my head

The age on my driver’s license is a lie,
everything I’ve said is true
except the parts that are wishful thinking.

I am as young as this minute and as old as
all the minutes I have lived.

Thank you yet again!

TGB and reader comments help me make it through the day, as well as the night.

Two more age-related sayings I love:

"Inside, we are all seventeen, with red lips." Laurence Olivier

"Being seventy is no sin but its no joke either." Golda Meir


The author of "A Wrinkle in Time" once wrote:

~ The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been. ~ Madeleine L'Engle

I love all these great comments and went a-searching to find one to share. That's it! :-)

Actually I thought being young was harder. Growing up in the Thirties was no fun.

Dear Ronnie -- I appreciate your willingness to say you were over optimistic,
and I hate the fact that someone with your energy and zest for life has to deal with such a heavy diagnosis. Since you started this blog at age 62, you were at most "late middle aged"-- I am 71 and still don't "feel old" but I know that despite the expensive foils and thinking I "don't look that old," I am getting to the point where I need to start thinking about retiring. Still a very scary idea for me in terms of personal identity and finances, plus the idea of staying home with my Alzheimer's husband, whom I love, but still whose conversation consists of repeated questions, which I have finally learned to just answer again and again... Here's my favorite quote from Samuel Beckett, "Life will bury you, but there's no use whining." You never whine, Ronnie. Your voice is always just right, whether crabby or not : )

Absolutely, Ronnie. We need to keep a sense of humor in life.

I know I'm late commenting but I have to say I'm tired of waking up every morning feeling like I'm coming down with something.

I don't want to live long. Would like to stay healthy, out of pain and on a far distant galaxy. I am no longer interested in this place.

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