I’m not old! You are

We are all the same age inside – Gertrude Stein

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that an old person does not feel their age. (with apologies to Jane Austen, who sadly did not live to an old age).

All of my friends refuse to see themselves as old, many declaring that they are not old farts, yet. Butt when push comes to shove, they see other contemporaries as old, over the hill and alte kakers as my friend fluent in Yiddish often declares. They don’t want to be labelled as old, treated as old and are generally fearful of being branded as decrepit. They have their own personal biases against the elderly despite being one. As you can see, there is a contradiction here and a fairly big bit of cognitive dissonance happening in their heads.

It seems that we have an inbuilt bias against others but not against ourselves. Was this always the case, or is it just a phenomenon of recent times, when many of us will now live into our nineties and hence there is a need for a paradigm shift?

The average age of death for a man in Australia in the past decade was 87 and for women 91, not a bad innings as they say. If they retired at 65 then men would have a total of 22 years to while away, while the women get an extra four on top of that, kind of like extra time on at the footy.

So, how are we going to fill those years and remain alert, sprightly and useful?  And redefine what being old means? Will you take up mahjong, do laps of the pool, learn how to play Bridge (be warned they all take this game seriously), enrol in cooking classes or art classes, yearning for that bit of creativity that had escaped you in your working life? Will we push for better retirement homes and nursing homes? The baby boomers will want better than their parents had and some can demand it even, being quite cashed up. I can see a demand for homes with Rolling Stones music playing loudly at happy hour.

Will we spend the remaining years seeing the world? Many of my friends now seem to be counting down their lives in decades. “I only have 10 good years left to travel” is a common catch cry, with most determined to squeeze in as many trips as possible into that time. They fear their energy levels will falter and, worse, that they will be denied travel insurance or that it will be prohibitive in cost. Many also realise that they will not be able to rent cars as they reach a certain age threshold, restricting the type of travel they desire and their sense of independence. Will we all en masse descend on the cruise ships in our eighties, a veritable tidal wave of grey nomads forced to pitch and roll on the high seas, or at least stagger to our cabin after gluttony has taken place over the all-enticing buffet?

Now, despite all our protestations that we are not old, just middlish aged, we constantly lament the following: Where did I park the car? Who put the red wine in the fridge? Where is my credit card? (this is my favourite – constantly finding my card hidden away in a pocket of the clothes I wore two days ago instead of being back in my wallet. A detective hunt worthy of Poirot ensues. The same happens with my railcard; you’d think I would learn.) Why did I put that top on inside out? Where are my glasses/hearing aids?  When did they move that bank? I was sure it was there last week!

So, not only is love blind, it appears that ageing is too. Where are those rose coloured glasses?

How old would you say you feel? Do you feel your contemporaries are the same age? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: What our grandparents can teach us baby boomers


  1. How do we rate what age we feel? After retiring many people find themselves busier than before as they now have the time to reach for and read the many books we missed earlier.(I for one regret not paying more attention to the works of William Shakespeare just over half a century ago at High School when instead of realising that he made many wise and very insightful observations on all aspects of human nature I saw the works as a tedious chore in the English subject.)
    When under 50 I looked at the advertising for the Over 50’s lifestyle resorts and saw them as stultifying and stereotyping aging. One of my aunts was still actively managing her extensive cattle properties when well into her 90’s. Another aunt (from the same gene pool) recently had her Drivers License renewed as she lives independently on her family cattle property at 99. My mother was still mowing her lawns and driving at 94 and really only stopped driving due to the significant increase in dodgy drivers in her suburb and shopping centre.
    I do enjoy occasionally lighting up a good friend of mine when I remind her that should the opportunity arise, I am still physically capable of starting another family (though one advantage of being a grandparent has always been the option of going home when the little ones have exhausted you).
    Ageism is present even in friends where you can see frowns of disapproval if any of the peers appear with a partner more than a decade different in age.
    Interesting to look at a group at my local aero club where there are several active owners/pilots who are into their 70’s and do not restrict their flying (and sky diving) to the local circuit and training area. As long as we still pass the medical every two years, we’re going up.

  2. I feel about 45. But as my son is about to turn 47, I guess I am actually older than that.

    Came across a great song clip about all this some years ago. Can’t remember all of it, but the first verse went like this:

    Looking for my wallet and my car keys
    I know they can’t be far
    And as soon as I find my glasses
    I’ll know just where they are.

  3. I am 74. Loving life as newly separated, sharing a different house with 2 other females, 30 and 37, they don’t treat me as. Mum either, -not ’pals’ but friendly, but great times, can be alone or not! Still working 2 days a week, my choice because I love it, haven’t found anyone changing as I age, -sorry Kids do, they think I will fall over anytime!!!

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