Monday, January 17, 2011

TIME GOES BY | When Does Old Age Begin?

by Ronni Bennett

Last week, on a post titled, A Day in an Elder's Life, reader Flora Davis posted this comment:
“You know, I was shocked to hear that you're 69. I'm 76, and to me 69 seems like a kid. I'm still waiting to feel 'old,' whatever that means.

“Seriously, when would you say old age begins? Are we simply as old as we feel? And what would that mean since it changes from day to day?”
That oft-repeated adage we've heard all our lives - you're only as old as you feel – is nonsensical. Since no one has before been the age they are, that's how that age feels. How could it be otherwise?

Further, is it possible for anyone to feel the same at 75 as they did at 60, 50, 40 or 30? I hope not. That would imply no change, no learning, no new knowledge over all those years. Events, experience, joys, tragedies, successes and failures (taking into account individual degrees of self-awareness) should and do change us, teach us and, sometimes, make us a little wiser. It happens only with the passage of time.

Now and then throughout most people's lives, someone, on being told our age, is bound to say, “Oh, you don't look that old,” and it is invariably taken as a compliment because to look old is the ultimate sin in American culture.

The pressure to look young surrounds us every day of our lives in newspaper and magazine advertisements, television commercials and such shows as Nip/Tuck, comedians' jokes and job-seeking advice. Oprah Winfrey has made the pursuit of youthful appearance a fetish for 20 years.

A lot of the cultural abhorrence of old age is the word “old” itself. Here is a list of synonyms for “old” from one online thesaurus:
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