I’ve never wanted to get old, and always dismissed it as something that would happen one day in the future, but a future too far away to even think about.
That future is looming, a little close for comfort, metaphorically a bit of a dark cape covering up my usual neon pink pashmina.
Being fifty-something isn’t really old – and I’m not quite sure at which exact date I’ll consider myself certifiably ancient, if ever.
Are we considered old perhaps when we get our pension, or our bus pass? I don’t know.
When I overheard my son refer to having spotted two old people walking along the beach, I realised he was referring to his dad and me. It came as a bit of a shock. So it’s quite obvious that our kids see us as old no matter how much we refute it or repeat, “fifty is the new 40” over and over again.
So is 50 really old? Or is it 60 or 70 or even 80?
The octogenarians that I know are lovely. They are independent, confident and dismissive of their aches and pains. These days they do what they want to, and most of them are not short of hobbies, creative pursuits or voluntary work that inspires them.
I don’t look at them as old.
I wonder if ‘old’ is all in the mind? Or is it our physical stamina and health which dictates how we feel about ageing?
1. You don’t necessarily feel as old as your years
On my 50th birthday I expected to feel different. I’d reached the half way mark to 100, if I ever lived that long, and had more probably reached about the three quarter mark of my life.
The thought of the lack of days left to live was sobering, quelled quickly with a few glasses of good wine as I celebrated my half century, but did I feel any different – Nah. I didn’t feel different at all.
But, oh crikey, that birthday is now long gone 😉
Author, Liz Byrski whose books I adore as they deal with the challenges and decisions facing women of a certain age, had this to say about getting old in a recent article in The Age …
2. You Do Get Set in Your Ways even if you think you don’t
We recently had friends to stay who have two gorgeous girls, aged 3 and 6 and probably as I watched them with their children I realised how set in our ways we’ve become and how we either lack the stamina, or have just become unused to being able to keep up with busy young children. I suddenly felt more like a grandparent than a parent, which was a very new feeling for me.
3. Ageing can’t be stopped (even if you’re a celebrity)
And I think facing the truth is necessary. Aging isn’t just something that happens without consequence. It’s not for wimps. Energy levels are depleted no matter how many green smoothies you consume. Your joints begin to ache and groan no matter how much yoga you commit to.
When I bend to squat down and pick up something, my knees complain royally and I realise that these sort of motions should not be sudden. I used to be able to jump straight out of a knee bend instead of examining the floor for a few moments as if looking for some lost treasure, before rising gently.
You might also like this post by my blogging friend Kathy Maris : The Ugly Truth about being 50+
4. Priorities change as you get older
Liz Byrski quoted the poet May Sarton who wrote at 70 that old age is life-enhancing. “Now I wear the inside person outside and I am more comfortable with myself. In some ways I am younger because I can admit vulnerability, and more innocent because I do not have to pretend.”
“Once we live as if we are dying, priorities are thrown into sharp relief.”
5. Our time becomes our own
And that’s true isn’t it? Once the children are independent (f we have them) and we’ve got over the empty nest syndrome, the focus is on us and how we shall live out our remaining years because as parents we are past our sell by date, and not needed on a day to day basis anymore.
We begin to realise that we have a limited time on this earth, and decisions are there for the making and the taking.
How are you going to embrace the precious gift of the time you have left?
You might also enjoy: 20 Tips for Living The Good Life after 50
I am 60 this year. I never thought of it happening. I mean I hoped I would live to a grand old age like my mother (currently 90) and maternal grandmother (died 6 months before her 100th), but it seemed so very far in the future that it really didn’t seem worth even considering. But here I am contemplating turning 60 and I realize that there never is the perfect age (although this one is pretty damn good). Now that I need not worry about children I find myself worrying about parents. (Remember when your mum got sick when you were away Jo). Every time I plan an extended trip I start thinking of the What If’s. However I realize that I must do my overseas travelling now while I feel capable of it. We have also ordered a caravan and look forward to more Aussie exploring in that in the future. Cheers to getting old.
Hello Jan, I so ‘get’ what you’re saying. It does sort of creep up on you and you just didn’t see it coming. Yes, when I went away and Mum got sick it was the most awful feeling – more so because I was on holiday myself, so I know exactly what you must go through each time. But as you say, health and energy are not ours for the keeping, so we must do things while we still have a fair modicum of both.
LOL, very funny. I’m not set in my ways, I just don’t want to do it any other way :-).
You forgot about just aching for no apparent reason :-).
See, I live each day like its the last one, so I never worry about it. When our time comes, we have to go, just ensure you’re having fun each day and living life to the fullest. Its interesting to listen to young people whine and be quite weird, my grandmother always said “wait, you are growing up, you will see.”
BTW, 50 something is not old, just as a point of clarification :-). I turn 50 this year.
I like your take on ‘set in our ways’ Kerwin. So true – a stubborn generation. Yes, aching and not knowing why – so true 😉 happy Big 50 to you this year 🙂
Life Images by Jill
great post and very timely as I consider retirement and the next zero birthday looming later this year. Having lost 2 parents in 2014 I definitely know that life goes oh so quickly and you never know when the end is going to come, so live your life to the fullest. In fact I hate to even contemplate the number of healthy years I have left. I think I do care less now about what other people think of me, perhaps I am finally happy in my own skin. Being parentless, however painful it is at the time, brings with it a certain freedom that I haven’t felt for a long time. It’s liberating really. Of course, I still have one of our children living with us, so I don’t think I will ever have the empty-nest syndrome. But grandchildren bring joys even though we don’t keep up like we did when our children were young. I always make sure I sit on the floor with them and crouch down to their level – its’ good for the knees! Keep learning something new, join groups, keep active!
Thanks for another great post Jo.
Ahh love what you have to say here, Jill. Yes time is not ours to be sure of, and perhaps living life to the fullest is as Marlize pointed out slowing down and smelling the roses too. So glad that you are doing your exercises – thank goodness for having the motivation of sweet rug-rats to pull you down on your knees 😉
I find that I want to slow down and smell the roses more:)
I think that in itself is a very fine aspiration Marlize. Being too busy inflicts a heavy price.
Now that we are mature it has its good points and it’s bad ones. I value the time I have left. I hope I am able to pass on my wisdom to my children. I will be even more grateful if they listen to me x
Ha ha Rae 😉 Now there’s a thought!
Hello Jo, from the point of view of someone about half way to 50 this was an interesting read. My perception of age at the moment is that having kids can make young adults seem much older, and that aging has a huge amount to do with attitude, but also physical health and fitness play a part and a lot of that is down to good or bad luck.
But perception of what it means to be old or young is another thing entirely. Like you, it seems for me that the older I get, the older my perception of “old” becomes. For instance, I find it weird seeing teenagers and thinking they look like tiny spring chickens, when I remember in early highschool thinking the year 12’s were soooo old and mature. My aunt and mum in the early 60’s and mid-late 50’s whom I don’t consider old at all are older than I remember my grandmas being when I was little, but I’m sure my grandmas were always really old even when they were actually closer to being middle-aged.
Love your take on ageing Bonny. And yes it’s funny isn’t it, I can remember my Grandma seeming old and quite set in her ways in her early sixties whereas my Mum at the same age came on her first ever camping trip, around South Africa for three months 🙂
Did we really write about the same subject today? How funny. I agree with everything you say, particularly the not feeling old bit. Except for when I am challenged by technology or can’t keep up with my ‘speed shopper’ daughter – then I do feel a little old. There are some aspects of being older however that I am definitely enjoying, like having my ‘me’ time and not being so focused on trying to impress people anymore.
Great minds think alike Kathy 😉 I think the points you raised about having ‘me’ time and not trying to impress anymore are spot on.