When does old age begin?

I don’t know the answer to that. What do you think? Is it a number, or an attitude, or a self-defined personal boundary?  Buck has rather recently begun to refer to himself as an old man, or the old man. I think the number 73, and some encroaching feeling of a lessening of stamina has caused him to put on this new suit of clothes: “I am getting old. I have gotten old. I am old.” At lunch the other day with me and a same-aged friend from his childhood, Buck made a casual reference to a certain type of development that may occur in the future. “We won’t see it in our lifetime,” he said to his friend, and then looked directly at me and pointed. “You may.”

Part of me wants to cry out and say, “You’re not old. You? Come on!”  But another part says, “Okay, so you’re old. If I’m lucky, I’ll get there, too. And if I’m really lucky, you’ll still be here, really old, pathfinder for me as you have always been, my love.”

6 thoughts on “When does old age begin?

  1. My Mom wasn’t old until she was in her eighties! She had quite a spirit, and a good constitution. My father didn’t look or act old until the day he died, at 71, despite being ravaged by heart disease. When he was in his fifties, I remember him saying of friends that they acted so OLD.

    Despite having such parents, I am not impressed with my genetics. At almost 56, I can feel old age trying to firm up its grip on me. And I have a rather dark outlook. So, for me, my work is the key. I agree with Freud: we have work and love in this life. Doing something one defines as productive, whether it is writing or painting or working as a greeter at Wal-Mart, seems so necessary to me to avoid getting old even if one’s body IS old.

    You seem too creative to ever get old, Beth.


    1. My dad died young. He had a fatal heart attack at 51. My mother survived until age 76, but she had been mentally and physically ill for decades. I recently learned that her seizures and dementia were due to lupus that was undiagnosed for many years.

      I’m not impressed by my own genetics, either, Richard, but not in the way you mean! There’s an old saying: “Pray to God, but row towards shore.” I work, love, eat for health, stay reasonably fit and hope for long life as long as I have a clear mind.

      Thanks for that last line!


  2. I have watched my mother get old at 72 and my father get younger at 75. It seems to be about movement and activity — and a certain imperviousness, too, I think.

    Although not yet fifty, I am starting to feel “older” — it’s a weird feeling that I don’t quite have a handle on, yet.


    1. Elizabeth, you hint at one of the conundrums of aging: sometimes it seems like a camera lens with the focus constantly changing. I’d love to explore your thoughts on that “imperviousness” you mention. Do you mean a certain “Teflon” quality or a freeing of himself or something else? I do think that movement and activity as you mention, plus lifelong learning and a sense of humor help a lot.


      1. Hmmm–I’m not sure exactly about the imperviousness of my father. As long as I can remember he’s been an exceptionally positive person. I think it’s a bit of an affectation, though, a way of acting and being that he intends. He told me once, long ago, when I was an adolescent (and a terribly awkward, dare I say “ugly” one) that he looks in the mirror each morning and declares himself to be beautiful. Somehow he doesn’t sound vain or conceited — just matter of fact. He approaches much of life that way, I think. Perhaps he decided long ago to be so —


  3. Hi Beth,

    My mom died at age 55 and I recently turned 52. It’s sometimes a challenge for me not to think of myself as old as I approach the age that Mom was when she passed away. We all think our parents are old, don’t we?! The more I advance in age the more I believe that “old” is a state of mind, and I’m not in that place. Goodness, in some ways I still feel like I’m in my twenties – that is until my inability to see things close up, or aches and pains in the morning remind me that I’m 52!

    You have a good think happening here – I like the conversation and I’ll be back!



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