What Does ‘Old’ Even Mean?

I recently read an interesting survey, which gave the top 50 signs people were getting old.  Included were things like not being able to cross your legs anymore and saying things like ‘I’m gasping for a cup of tea’.

free fifty plus woman

If those two are accurate you should probably shoot me, because I’m done.  I’m gasping for tea by 7.30am and I haven’t been able to cross my legs since I was 13, despite twice-weekly yoga sessions meant to make me more flexible.

The survey of 2000 people, carried out by Future You, asked respondents to list the moments they realised their youth was gone. I agreed with some points – over half said that pain or physical aching was their first sign, but whilst that’s a sign of ageing, does it necessarily make you old?

I suppose it depends on what ‘old’ looks like to you, and what judgements you make of it. For me, old is white hair, no energy and a fierce love of prunes for breakfast.  It’s old from when I was young.

The truth is though that old age doesn’t really look like that anymore.  The fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in this country are 50+, but I didn’t see ‘sudden desire for complete career autonomy’ on the list.

‘Use of antiaging products and moisturisers’ made the list.  Back when I was ‘young’ we were advised to start an age-proofing programme no later than 26 – is 27 now over-the-hill?

Interestingly music choices regularly popped up on the list – not going to festivals, preferring radio two and not being aware of the charts apparently make you ancient.  In that case, my mother is clearly a spring chicken.  She loves Radio 1 and knows exactly who is in the charts at any point.

All those 2000 people had the idea that ageing or getting old meant a slow decline.  A loss of interest in the world, and indeed in the self.  Pain, routine and eventual death.  Great.

Grace Fodor, founder of Studio10 beauty has a lot to say about festivals and midsters – she wrote a great piece, saying:

“I go because I LOVE to dance, be free and laugh with my friends. I don’t want to be at home ready for bed at 10, purely because society says I should be. I work extremely hard  and there’s nothing more fun than getting my wellies on, getting outdoors and dancing ‘til 6 am, like I did last year in Ibiza.”

She is certainly onto something.  Eventbrite found that nearly 50% of festival attendees were over 40 – so it’s not even factually accurate.

What’s saddening about the list (shared below in full) is how depressing it is.  There’s no fun on there ‘I knew I was old when my first grandchild was born’ for example, or ‘the first time I went skinny dipping in Ibiza (56 for a friend if you’re interested).

All those 2000 people had the idea that ageing or getting old meant a slow decline.  A loss of interest in the world, and indeed in the self.  Pain, routine and eventual death.  Great.

We really need to re-address what old age looks like.  More of us than ever think getting older is the best thing that ever happened to us.  Good healthcare, a focused effort on finance and refusal to stop learning will keep us young.

I tell you one thing – if I ever assume that being old means being done with life, that’s the moment I’ll decide I’m past it.

Top 50 signs you’re old:

  1. Forgetting people’s names
  2. Losing hair
  3. Feeling stiff
  4. Talking a lot about your joints/ailments
  5. Groaning when you bend down
  6. Not knowing any songs in the top ten
  7. Misplacing your glasses/ bag/ car keys etc
  8. Getting more hairy – ears, eyebrows, nose, face etc.
  9. Avoid lifting heavy things due to back concerns
  10. Saying ‘in my day’
  11. Finding it tricky to sit cross-legged on the floor
  12. Hating noisy pubs
  13. Choosing clothes and shoes for comfort rather than style
  14. Falling asleep in front of the TV every night
  15. Thinking policemen/teachers/doctors look really young
  16. Falling ill more often
  17. Saying “it wasn’t like that when I was young”
  18. Complaining about more things
  19. Needing an afternoon nap
  20. Feeling tired the moment you wake up
  21. Struggling to use technology
  22. Finding you have no idea what ‘young people’ are talking about
  23. Having colleagues who are so young they don’t know what a cassette tape is
  24. Losing touch with everyday technology such as tablets and TVs
  25. Complaining about the rubbish on television these days
  26. Spending time comparing illnesses and injuries with friends
  27. Your friends are all ill more often
  28. Not knowing or remembering the name of any modern bands
  29. You consider going on a ‘no children’ cruise for a holiday
  30. You know your alcohol limit
  31. Struggling to think of anything worse than going to a music festival
  32. Never going out without your coat
  33. Putting everyday items in the wrong place
  34. You move from Radio1 to Radio2
  35. You start driving very slowly
  36. You struggle to lose weight easily
  37. Buying a smart phone but having no idea how to do anything other than make phone calls on it
  38. You say ‘I’m gasping for a cup of tea’
  39. Spending more money on face creams / anti-aging products
  40. Falling asleep after one glass of wine
  41. Feeling you have the right to tell people exactly what you are thinking, even if it isn’t polite
  42. You like getting asked for ID
  43. Paying by cash or cheque rather than using your card
  44. Preferring a night in with a board game than a night on the town
  45. Being told off for politically incorrect opinions
  46. Joining the National Trust
  47. Your ears are getting bigger
  48. Preferring a Sunday walk to a lie in
  49. You think, ‘maybe I’ll drive instead of drink’
  50. Drinking sherry



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