Are We Old Yet?

I took my mom with me to Calgary to visit my son and his family.  I hadn’t been to the Calgary Zoo for ages, so we decided that would be a fun day for us all.  As I was standing in line to pay I read the admission board and realized that my 89-year-old mother and I were in the same age category.  Whaaaat?  But, she’s so old!

Different generation – same age group

Everyone thinks of their parents and grandparents as old – whatever the age.  But, I don’t view myself as the same as my parents and grandparents when they were of a similar age as I am now.  I don’t think of myself as old.  After all, I can still do a handstand (when conditions are right, and I don’t feel a twinge in my shoulder).

I don’t think I’m alone.

Most boomers believe themselves to be very different than their elderly parents. While we’re no longer in our prime, we feel very much in an active point of our lives and don’t show any interest in settling into a quiet old age.

Instead of focusing on age, boomers are focusing on the stage they’re at in their lives.

Old as you feel, or old as you’re told

The term “old age” is a remnant of an archaic reality when aging was considered the equivalent of debilitation and the dreaded loss of independence.   “Old age” therefore is an out of date term that incorrectly uses your chronological age to describe the impact of your aging on your ability to function.  You’ve probably heard someone say, “She is young for her age.”

Likewise, “senior citizen” became a euphemism for “old person.”

That’s why we reject these terms.

Fully engaged, busy people don’t feel old.

Delusions of age

In a boomer survey done in the UK, the youngest boomers said a person becomes old at age 78 and the oldest boomers said at age 80.

Many people over 50 report feeling at least 10 years younger than their actual age, while a substantial percentage of 65 to 74-year-olds feel 15 years younger and those aged 75 plus feel 20 years younger! (Pew Research 2009)

This shows that even though the average 70-year-old is considered 5 to 10 years past “old age,” he or she in their own mind actually think they’ve got many years to go before they reach “old.”

Do you feel as old as you are?

When do you become a senior citizen?

Senior perks and discounts are plentiful – some kick in as early as age 50.

  • Government programs – municipal, provincial and federal – qualify individuals for certain benefits based on age.
  • Services such as home and auto insurance give discounts for anyone over age 65.
  • There a special senior discounts at restaurants, financial institutions, retail stores and attractions.

I take advantage of them when they are specifically offered – after all the age is right there on the sign.  However, I don’t especially ask for a senior discount at a store or restaurant, not because I’m embarrassed or want to seem younger – I just don’t think of it.  My mother, on the other hand, had no problem always asking for – and getting – a discount when she was my age

At what age do you become elderly?

In our youth-obsessed culture, old age is cast in a negative light.  People dread getting or feeling old, but old today is ninety – not sixty.

News item: “An elderly woman (62) was run over by a delivery van.”

Did she get runover because her creaky knees couldn’t get her across the street fast enough?

Have you noticed people treating you differently as you’ve grown older?

One thing I hate is when waiters and store clerks call me “hon” or “sweetie.”  I wonder if they think they’ll have to speak slowly and hold on to my arm in case I tip over.  When I was younger they called me “ma’am” which, now that I think of it, I also hated.

The bottom line

It’s wrong to classify all people into the same generational mindset because of age.  Age related labels don’t really fit anymore.

I tend to think senior and senior citizen describe people my parents’ age.  Likewise, elder.

Geezer, old fogey, and crone seem disrespectful.

Retiree doesn’t fit because not all of us are fully retired.

Gerontologists refer to the young-old, which is meh!

Do we just stick with boomer – the term we’ve always lived with (but it’s time to drop “baby” from the description)?

How would you describe yourself?



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2 Responses

  1. Russ says:

    I really have no issue with being thought of as old. In fact, I willingly adopted the term geezer years ago when I was barely 50. I do look forward to passing whatever age thresholds are required in order to qualify for various senior discounts.

    • Marie Engen says:

      Hi Russ. Thanks for dropping by. I think aging is viewed differently by men and women. Men become distinguished looking and wise. Women are more concerned with their attractiveness – wrinkles, jiggly butt and thickening waist. We don’t buy all those anti-aging creams for nothing!

      My husband has had white hair since his forties and has always been automatically given the senior discount – no questions asked. I don’t even think about it unless, as I said, there are actually ages given – Seniors (60+) $xx – and I see that’s where I fit.

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