Getting Old: What Does It Really Mean?

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 25 April 2012

“Wow, that makes me feel so old!”

“I must be getting older because I never cared about that before.”

However we say it and whatever the reason, people of all ages talk about getting old all the time. And half the time, we don’t even think about what we’re saying, what it really means.

Thanks to stars like Betty White and recent Oscar winner Christopher Plummer, and amazing individuals like Fauja Singh (a 100-year-old marathoner) and yet-to-retire-though-soon-to-turn-100, Olivia Neubauer, getting older means anything but slowing down or shutting up. In fact, these feisty folks (and others like them) are the living embodiment of “age is nothing but a number.” We should all aspire to continue achieving and believing, dreaming and scheming no matter how many candles are on the cake.

But can we all be as spunky as Betty White when we’re 90? Is it realistic to think of working until we’re 100+?

I found one possible answer in an article I discovered via StumbleUpon. Author Pat Jordan’s take on getting old balances aging with a dose of reality: to the point of getting old as a natural process, I imagine Pat Jordan would say, “it is what it is.” Which is not always a negative thing (nor is it all Betty White buoyancy and Singh stamina).

I recommend reading the entire thought-provoking piece, but for now, ponder these short excerpts from the poetically written, You Get Old, published on Men’s Journal.com:

“You get old, life gets small. Not meager, pinched, just small. You don’t buy groceries for a week anymore — two hours in the Publix, drenched with purpose, a grocery list that unrolls like the Dead Sea scrolls.

You get old, it’s not always about you. You no longer wait for an opening in a conversation to talk about yourself, your dreams, your accomplishments. It becomes second nature to draw other people into talking about their lives. You’re no longer the life of the party, making people laugh. You no longer have that neurotic compulsion to be known. Why should you? You get old, you know yourself.

You get old, you forget things, not because your mind is going, but because your memory box is filled. A name comes up and you find yourself mentally flipping through all those thousands of slides, trying to place the name with a face or an event. You forget trivial things — where you put the car keys, your glasses — because your mind is filled with more important things. Is the gate in the backyard secured so the dogs won’t get out into the street and get hit by a car? You never forget that.”

As I write this post, my mind is suddenly filled with images of the residents I served years ago, when I worked as an activities director in assisted living homes. I can hear their words just as clearly now as I did then: “Don’t ever get old. It’s terrible.”

All I could do, then at 23 and even now at 33 when I hear the same, is say, “I’ll see what I can do.”

Talk back: What does “getting old” mean to you?


There are 2 Comments about this post

  1. Tony Rovere says,

    More than anything, “getting old” is a state of mind. And what that means is this…

    If you think you are old…you ARE!

    I know people in their early 60′s in wheelchairs who want the world to cater to them, and I also knew a man in his early 60′s who could pick up a Volkswagon if he had to.

    The point is this. Getting old is a mindset. You can choose to age gracefully, keep your body and mind in shape and continue to be a productive member of society…or you can choose to get old and act that way.


    on 30 April 2012 / 12:11 PM

  2. Tony, well-said. Great examples too — I especially love the mental picture of your friend picking up a VW!

    I agree with your point — it’s totally a mindset, and I hope to age gracefully and continually contribute to society. I’m guessing you plan to do the same!

    Thanks for stopping by the blog. Always love your insights and comments!


    on 30 April 2012 / 2:29 PM


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