What is old age?

by Irwin Lengel
(Lakeland, FL)

What is old age? Here I am almost 73 years of age and to some individuals I am considered old. In today’s world I guess that means I am a “senior citizen”. But what does that mean?


Aging is something we all face and decide, hopefully gracefully, how to react to it. If I were say 50 or 60, these questions might, in today’s world, seem academic. But in my seventies, they are no longer academic.

When I was a teenager or perhaps even a bit younger, I thought that people in their fifties were old (I can still picture my grandmother and grandfather when we used to visit them on Sunday afternoons). They appeared to move slower and had either white hair or gray at best. However, today, at this stage of my life, a fifty-year-old seems relatively youthful. Especially so, since my oldest son has already reached 52 and the other son will be 49 later this year. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said:

“To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.”

Isn’t it funny how we tend to think that other people are the ones that grow older until one day we look in the mirror and say to ourselves, “When did I get so old?” It is only then that we finally realize that we ourselves have also aged. Aging can be compared to various events that occur in life. For instance, isn’t the bearing of fruit from various trees and then eventually those same trees lose their leaves and appear much older, a form of aging? I tend not to think about aging and instead think of all the things I am and can still do without any assistance from others. It is only when I realize that there are certain things that I either no longer care to do or no longer feel that I could do (without some type of assistance from others) that I truly recognize that – yes – I am, in fact, getting older.

Dependent upon one’s current age, there are various schools of thought as to what is considered old in today’s world. If one were to ask individuals aging from say 18 to 29 when a person becomes old, chances are the response would be at age 60.

But looking at a different demographic group, let us say – those individuals looked upon as middle-aged, and the response would be that one does not become old until they reach age 70. Taking it one step further, should you ask someone that has reached age 67 or even 70 - chances are that their response would be that the average person does not become old until they reach 74 or 75 (Hmmmm – looks like I am not old yet although there are days my body may tend to differ with my mind on that particular subject).

What follows are a few thoughts about aging by some people you may recognize:

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
--Mark Twain

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
--Henry Ford

First you are young; then you are middle-aged; then you are old; then you are wonderful.
--LADY DIANA COOPER

And for my last quote which I purposely saved for last due to the way it is worded:

How does one keep from "growing old inside"? Surely only in community. The only way to make friends with time is to stay friends with people…. Taking community seriously not only gives us the companionship we need, it also relieves us of the notion that we are indispensable.
--ROBERT MCAFEE BROWN

How about you? How do you measure how old you are?

My own thought process relates to that age – old - adage, “age is merely a number”. You are as old as you say you are in your mind.

If anyone would have told me years ago that I would be doing what I do now, day in and day out, I would have laughed at them. Lately we started going to a gym and so we hit the gym three days a week and line dance three days a week.

When not doing that we are usually on the street running errands or traveling either to see family or just to see this magnificent country of ours. While we do have our moments when we sit down to watch some TV and unwind, never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought I would be as active as we are in our mid-seventies. What about you? How active are you during your retirement years?

Until next time!

Comments for What is old age?

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The myth of old age
by: Elna Nugent, Lenox, MA

Irwin: You bring up an important subject.
Dr. Christine Northrup's serious research tells us that getting older is inevitable but aging is purely optional.

She says health is contagious. Be around healthy people who are curious and still like to learn. Have photos or yourself around the house that reflect you at your most vigorous and best.. Put one on the refrigerator so you see it every day. You are still that person.

She says we become what we believe and what the culture tells us- both of which are Myths. Society doesn't remind us that our cells change all the time and new ones form regularly. Our cells stay young and so are we, but we don't know it. She says there is a part of every one of us that is eternal and it is time we "step out of the cage of age".

You touched on the fact that we have confidence in our 70's and 80's that we never had as insecure youngsters. We become more competent as we get older because of the wisdom of experience. It is worth millions.

I love this wonderful time of my life and I am much older than you. Blessings.


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