Skip

Ever wonder what it feels like to be old?
July 24, 2014 10:10 PM   Subscribe

Ever wonder what it feels like to be old? "I am the same age as Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood. In Dog-years that is really really ancient..."
posted by banished (45 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Stay on my lawn and listen.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 10:24 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


So, what does it feel like to be old?
It's a bit like this, with a cat that has luminous eyes and sleeps on its back.

From time to time something reminds you of the past.

You remember things.
Mostly nice things.
There is a tendency to reminisce, meander, and ramble when talking and writing about the past, and I wonder if anyone is listening, reading, or caring much.

But that is not feeling old, it's more like wondering if there isn't something better I could be doing.

Nawp, that seems about right. That was some excellent meandering reminiscence.
posted by carsonb at 10:26 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


Heh. Yep, you start to care less and less what other people think.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:41 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


(That was in response of a couple of the comments)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:42 PM on July 24


That was the most wonderful thing. Thanks for posting it.
posted by dejah420 at 10:52 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


I don't have to wonder; I'm living it. It isn't any fun.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:21 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


So I tied an onion to my belt which was the style at the time.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:26 AM on July 25 [6 favorites]


There are very few new problems. This is the value older people have to offer the young. We've experienced a lot of stuff. It is also the Achilles heel of the aging. When an actual new problem appears, we may not recognize it.
I can't make up my mind whether this is insightful or trite. Which probably means I'm middle-aged.
posted by brokkr at 1:53 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


Half of the responses are from people in their forties.
posted by octothorpe at 3:42 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I like to be reminded of the people who exist within their aging bodies.
posted by h00py at 3:44 AM on July 25


Like the project from yesterday where homeless people tell you a fact about themselves, I would like to see a project where very old people do the same thing. It's sad that we need reminding not to glance at someone and put them in a box, but there it is.

Every year or so I have occasion to visit a - eldercare facility? Not even sure what the name is for them. They used to be called nursing homes. Old people, varying degrees of dementia, funky smells, lots of TV and wheelchairs. But also a shitload of really, really interesting stories behind those hollow ancient eyes.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:14 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Aging is weird. Some mornings I creak out of bed and wonder what the Hell happened.

Then I think of a friend who died at 30, and realize I've lived nearly two of his lifetimes, and I feel confused over whether I should feel angry or grateful for my aches and pains.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:27 AM on July 25 [7 favorites]


It feels calm (so far).
posted by srboisvert at 4:41 AM on July 25


I am 50 and at my regular job I work with people who are mostly 30s and younger. By the time I get to the end of the day, I feel very old. Then I go visit my private clients, almost all of whom are in their mid-to-late 80s, and I feel younger again. It's kind of weird.
posted by briank at 4:50 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]


"I have sent a telepathy to you all" is going in the file for later use.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:18 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]


So is "check your junk telepathy folder."
posted by oneironaut at 6:08 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


I like to be reminded of the people who exist within their aging bodies.

That would be every one of us, whether we realize it at the moment or not.
posted by aught at 6:19 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Roger Angell, a New Yorker writer in his 90s, recently wrote a gorgeous meditation on the same subject that I heartily recommend: This Old Man. (Previously.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:21 AM on July 25 [9 favorites]


Half of the responses are from people in their forties.

Speaking as someone in his early fifties, the forties are when many people start to notice the aging process on a daily level (decrease in stamina, eyesight decline, minor health issues cropping up left and right, more frequent deaths of loved ones in the previous generation) and freak out about the process of getting old, even though they are not obviously old yet.
posted by aught at 6:27 AM on July 25 [5 favorites]


"Old age: it's the one disease you don't look forward to being cured of."
Bernstein, Citizen Kane
posted by dbiedny at 6:52 AM on July 25


I used to know the word for ice cream in eleven different languages, but not Chinese, but I never went there anyway.

I love this.
posted by spinturtle at 7:16 AM on July 25


Speaking as someone in his early fifties, the forties are when many people start to notice the aging process on a daily level (decrease in stamina, eyesight decline, minor health issues cropping up left and right, more frequent deaths of loved ones in the previous generation) and freak out about the process of getting old, even though they are not obviously old yet.

Amusingly, my parents have been obsessed by telling me that I am aging, that I am "too old" for things...since I was twelve, which was when I became "too old" for Halloween. "Too old" in high school to dress in any but the most conformist way, "too old" to get artsy glasses at 18, etc. I will never forget my father's anguished wail that I would be....twenty-six, when I finally had the certification for the career I thought I'd pursue at the time. I don't know what it is with them, but it's really done a number on me, since I settled for a lot of stuff because I was "too old" to do anything different - "too old" to go back to school, "too old" to leave a relationship because I'm "too old" to start over, etc. I'll be forty this year, but I've had the real, entrenched, always-with-me feeling that I was "too old" for most of the things I wanted to do since I was about twenty-three.

In terms of noticing the aging process, I bet women notice a lot earlier than men do - I remember noticing a sort of wrinkle beneath my eyes the year I was twenty-six.
posted by Frowner at 7:45 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Came here to recommend Roger Angell's This Old Man. Saw that it was already mentioned, but I'm recommending it again.

Just went to look for a quote, but any single paragraph would be misleading, as parts are sentimental, others brutally and somewhat cruelly honest, others funny.

Read the whole thing. Then read it again.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:03 AM on July 25


the forties are when many people start to notice the aging process on a daily level (decrease in stamina, eyesight decline, minor health issues cropping up left and right, more frequent deaths of loved ones in the previous generation) and freak out about the process of getting old, even though they are not obviously old yet.

Heh, my mid-40s have so far been one long exercise in proving this point. I guess I'm glad I'm not the only one...?
posted by scody at 8:23 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


I'll be forty this year, but I've had the real, entrenched, always-with-me feeling that I was "too old" for most of the things I wanted to do since I was about twenty-three.
Then you're too old not to do all the stuff you wanted, but put off doing because you thought you were too old. Better get on it.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:24 AM on July 25


Recently turned 43, and I feel old and salty as hell.

Boy howdy I wasted my 20's.
posted by Sphinx at 8:25 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I like to be reminded of the people who exist within their aging bodies.

Most don't. I'm finding that I don't mind getting older like I thought I might, but everyone around me sure has issues with it. Big massive gargantuan ones.

The other day I'm at a grocery store and the women ahead of me a waif of a thing with her shock of white hair and slightly hunched back is being talked to in that way. "just the buns for you, dear?" the cashier said loudly and finished with, "that'll be seventy eight cents, hun." In a tone that suggests that the cashier thinks she's not merely hard of hearing, but hard of thought too. The cashier, who is my age, spared me the dears and huns.

Part of me gets enraged at seeing/being badly treated merely for having the temerity to get older, but I try to remind myself they're trapped in an internal hellscape of self hatred.

I bet women notice a lot earlier than men do

When I was 7 my uncle made of a point of commenting on my "really large pores" as he was slathering my face in cold cream before putting on some clown make up for hallowe'en. In my last year of high school I developed a lump on the side of my nose that had some of the girls freaking out, I just shrugged it off. I had a friend in that same time frame that had a vein on her temple that she hid with a careful sweep of hair because she was utterly convinced the universe could see it and would think less of her for it. "What vein!?" I said to her. I couldn't convince her that no one would notice, or care. It started to bother me when I developed creases from squinting and furrowing. I stopped doing that, but that lead to a singular forehead line that I wish would develop a sibling because it looks a bit odd with only the one. More than anything else it's the near constant barrage of good and services that want to make me feel like less of a person because I'm not fighting the seven signs of ageing.


(I'm in my 40's too)
posted by redindiaink at 9:56 AM on July 25


Forty-four here. I think one's forties are when folks learn for real about whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. The forties are the time for first harvests. For example, I smoked for twenty years, heavily, quit eleven years ago. As a result, my teeth are falling out and I have bone loss in my jaw. This kinda sucks, but I try to look at it from the perspective of Well, at least it's not Stage 4 lung cancer. I figure perspective is something you have more of in your forties, might as well use it.
posted by which_chick at 10:55 AM on July 25


43; had a disc in my neck go for no apparent reason a few weeks ago. Just had it removed last Thursday; still don't have all the feeling in my hands or . . . other places . . . and walking is still a challenge.

Getting old sucks.
posted by Ickster at 11:02 AM on July 25


"...Every year or so I have occasion to visit a - eldercare facility? Not even sure what the name is for them. They used to be called nursing homes..."

Well, some of them are called "Assisted Living" facilities, or some such, and they all have names that sound like country estates. Some of them are like hotels that cater to the elderly among us...well, the elderly who used to live among us. Some of them are more like hostels that cater to those folks who are in need of palliative care as they speed toward their end of life experience. They all offer some sort of emergency medical care, with in-house doctors and nurses. They range from the mundane to the truly ritzy. Most of these plants have huge main buildings, shaped in a sort of italicized X, and they occupy about five acres of city land. Many of them have elaborate gardens and courtyards.

This area in Oregon is home for perhaps a hundred of these outfits. I play with two groups that contract with many of them: Old Time Fiddlers, and a Three-piece string band which shall remain nameless. Not all these places are warehouses where people go to wait for death, but you can't help but see that some of them make no bones about being the last stop for the residents.

We bring live music to these folks. We are all amateur musicians, and any fees from our performances go toward music scholarships and such. We don't charge certain of these outfits. The residents tap their feet and slap their thighs in time with the rags and foxtrots, and some of the get up to dance. Now and then we pull out swings, and some of the old waltzes. One lady, the wife of one of our guitar players, sometimes dons her old fringed sheath and does a spiffy Charleston to "Five-foot Two." She is in her late 80's, spry, and thin as a rail. When she dances I can see the girl she was when first she wore those flapper styles. At one gig, a man asked if anyone knew how to play Red Wing, and I did, so after the gig one of the fiddler ladies and I went over to where he was sitting, and we cranked it out for him. I swear that tears ran down his cheeks. When we were done he said that he hadn't heard that song in 30 years...it was his wife's favorite.

I will be that old soon. Some of you will be, too. It would be prudent to create some memories for your comfort, as you adjust the blanket over your lap, sitting in your rocker on the porch, enjoying the morning sun. People will wonder what the smile is all about, but, as you know, you sort of had to have been there. And you were.
posted by mule98J at 11:45 AM on July 25 [8 favorites]


Quora isn't login-walling their content anymore?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:53 AM on July 25


aught: Speaking as someone in his early fifties, the forties are when many people start to notice the aging process on a daily level (decrease in stamina, eyesight decline, minor health issues cropping up left and right, more frequent deaths of loved ones in the previous generation) and freak out about the process of getting old, even though they are not obviously old yet.

That happened for me at 48. I had just picked up stakes and moved to the other coast on a shoestring, most of my household given away or donated leaving me with only a fraction of my belongings. I had no family or friends here and no prospects beyond a cheap place to stay short-term and enough money to see me through a month or two. I got here and within a few months had found a job, moved my meager belongings to a more permanent place, bought some furniture, met new friends (thanks, Metafilter!!)...and that's when I really started to feel my age. Since then I haven't had quite the same endurance and speedy rejuvenation time I once did. I'm not sure I could cope with the exertion of another major life upheaval like that so I reckon I'm here for the duration. Fortunately I think I picked my final location well.

But I look around and see people my age who are worse off, and I've inherited a decent constitution - as long as I avoid my family's frequent heart disease from alcohol abuse / lousy diet. I count my blessings. There's life in the old coot yet.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:10 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I just turned 45 two weeks ago. To be honest, I'm lucky I made it to 4, so these 41 years have been rather a bonus!

The only sign noticeable to me of my aging is that I need multifocal lenses now. I've worn glasses almost my entire life for nearsightedness and astigmatism, and a couple of months ago I found I had to hold the menu at a restaurant a little farther back than before. Hi-ho.

I did have a bunion operation that kept me off my usual exercise routine for a year, so my endo and I are working to get back down to my "age 43" weight in order to stave off diabetes, of which my family has a history. I didn't even gain that much, but I'm short, so there it is. Otherwise I am healthy - and grateful for it! My dentist this week said she likes seeing me because my teeth are so "awesome". By the time my grandparents were my age, they both had full fledged Type 2 diabetes, both wore dentures, had heart troubles, were pretty badly overweight and had other health issues, so I'm glad I'm not at that point. They definitely looked and carried themselves like "old people".

I realize I am extremely lucky, physically, and I also realize that while time might be a little farther behind me than it is for some people, it will catch up to me eventually. I'm OK with that.

The main thing I would tell young people is to get out there and do you. You are OK. Really. No one gives a crap. No one is lying in wait to reject you or laugh at you when you try and "fail" - and those who are can safely be ignored. Much like Frowner, my aunt/guardian had the whole age panic thing going on, and it's been a lot of work to overcome that mode of thinking. She may have felt that her life was over at 35(!), but I'm realizing that I'm not too old for anything I'm still physically and mentally capable of doing, so screw that noise. For example, I've decided that I will actually honestly try now to put my writing out there, even if I get told that it's the shittiest shit that ever shat, because it's a big universe, and who cares? Knowing that the work Shakespeare and Miles Davis did will burn away with my own as well as the rest of this old dirt ball in a few is oddly comforting. I didn't think about that or connect that together at 25, and trembled in fear of "not being good enough", whatever the hell that means. And knowing that there's only so much time for anything is helping me to better live in the now.

No matter how old you are, all you have is now, so don't sweat it.
posted by droplet at 12:52 PM on July 25 [3 favorites]


Boy howdy I wasted my 20's.

Me too. It was glorious.
posted by Twang at 1:57 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age. ---Victor Hugo
posted by marmot at 3:46 PM on July 25 [6 favorites]


She is in her late 80's, spry, and thin as a rail. When she dances I can see the girl she was when first she wore those flapper styles.

If she is in her late eighties, should would only have been born at the end of the 20s? So her flapper styles would have been children's ones.

Not to snark, but I have noticed this before-- a tendency to believe that old people come from a generation earlier than they actually have. Those hippies dancing at Woodstock are now pushing 70. My mother, who is 81, remembers WWII but only from a child's-eye view. The flapper of the 20s--say an 18 year old girl in 1925-- would now be 107.

I am 55, and the feeling of old age really began for me two years ago when I had some major surgery. It feels as if a kind of switch happened; my energy is lower, my muscle strength weakened, my hair nearly completely gray. Photographs are a bit of a shock, these days. I've gone through various feelings but I've recently settled on resignation and a fierce belief that there are going to be suprising rewards upon rewards revealed in the next stage of life. I'm going through the cancer years with my friends and peers, and many of us are falling, and that is hard. It's also an experience of appreciation that's very rich. There's freedom from many pressures that bedevil the young around career and achievement, not to mention the whole "unshackled from a madman" relief of the loosening libido. Life is good. You're going to make mistakes, which I've decided to no longer view as mistakes but just the substance of life. I spend a lot of time around young people (I work at a university) and they are alive in a different country than I, and I watch with something close to tenderness. All the colours were so vivid then; life now has an endlessly subtle palette.

I read the FPP and was glad that this man had so many adventures, but in all the shark-fishing and painting there was very little mention of his relationships, and only one late mention of a daughter. It's lovely to have anecdotes about diving to ancient wrecks and so on, but someone who lived a quieter life, or a woman who was mainly a housewife and mother, would also have had a complex life, if one less marked with obvious event. Anyway, older people are people, which should be obvious but isn't necessarily. When I've experienced contempt, or invisibility, I mostly shrug my shoulders. Time comes for us all, in the end.
posted by jokeefe at 4:03 PM on July 25 [6 favorites]


Boy howdy I wasted my 20's.

They say wasted time that you enjoyed isn't wasted at all.
posted by carsonb at 4:55 PM on July 25


If she is in her late eighties, should would only have been born at the end of the 20s? So her flapper styles would have been children's ones.

Perhaps so. I never asked her where or why. She may have gotten bitten by the Charleston bug in the late 1930's or early -40's, as a teen, out gallivanting and carousing when the big bands really swung, and new dances evolved from older ones: Lindy Hop, and all that. Or else, maybe she just likes costumes. Anyhow, she sure can cut a rug, and I believe it to be a safe bet that she didn't pick up dancing after she started collecting her pensions. Watching her perform I sometimes have the most alarming notion that she might expire right there on the dance floor, and I'm of a split mind whether that would be tragic or just sweet.

I had imagined that my dotage would have been much more incremental than has been the case. It seems like one day I was chasing loose horses, heaving 80 lb pack bags to the withers of tall mules, and the next I was measuring the energy I would have to accumulate in order to overcome stiff joints and heave myself out of the living-room chair. Middle age was far, far too brief. Old age is much more painful than I realized it would be. On the other hand--at least so far--it's a lot more fun than I ever imagined. I have developed great faith in my ability to cope with the evolution: sooner or later I'll probably be reduced to inactivity, the last phase, and I intend to enjoy it as much as is possible. I imagine I'll still be curious about the transition from living--to whatever, or oblivion--until the last spark of awareness flickers out.

You make a good point about the events in one's life. Sometimes what you've seen is more significant than what you've done: sort of the difference between tooting one's own horn and describing the effect of a symphony.
posted by mule98J at 7:32 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Not to snark, but I have noticed this before-- a tendency to believe that old people come from a generation earlier than they actually have. Those hippies dancing at Woodstock are now pushing 70.

My freshman roommate, who turns fifty next month, had one of his students ask him if he was at Woodstock. He said, "dude, I was five years old in 1969".
posted by octothorpe at 7:38 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the older I get the less patience I have with brazenly ignorant young twits who seem to assume that "before they were born" happened more or less all at once, and that anyone noticeably older than them is the same "ancient" age. Now I've gotten to the point where I deliberately just mess with their heads...I figure it's one of the few perks of age.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:03 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


And just to be clear, there were brazenly ignorant young twits around when I was young too...couldn't stand'em then, either.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:05 PM on July 25


When I say I wasted my 20's, I'm not saying I partied them away, I wage-slaved them away.
posted by Sphinx at 10:21 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


In my 20's I did plays and avoided eye contact (except in character) and didn't follow up on anything I should have. I'll never have enough interesting things to talk about on my great-grandchildren's memory clang that they'll share with everyone on SloopMock but what was my experience might make someone's nostalgic day one day. Presuming I live long enough to become interesting again.
posted by h00py at 7:15 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


One thing I notice about getting older is that you get very conscious about how much, or little, time you have left. I'm fifty now and unless medical science makes some serious breakthroughs between now and then, at best case I've probably got 35 years to go. I have a lot to do and there's no way that I'll get it all done by then.
posted by octothorpe at 9:16 AM on July 26


My struggle is that I have to fight against that "time getting shorter" (not to mention it seems to be speeding up as well) attitude, to prevent it discouraging me from pursuing otherwise fun and worthwhile goals. I have to remember that not only might I still have adequate time after all to work on those goals to some useful degree, but that even if I don't actually have that much time, it's the joy I get from doing it in the first place that's important.

For me, despair and apathy are the enemy much more so than death itself.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:43 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


« Older Jeff VanderMeer interviews Bronson Pinchot about...   |   Mid-climb. What of it? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post