Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.
But! But! But! Many say......
"We must have a specific number for what age is labeled old age!"
I guess we need to know people's ages like we know the ages of Old Ironsides, the Acropolis, museum art, etc.?
When is old age? What is old age?
But a better question for me is....
Why are we obsessed with people's ages?
A Random Age Thought I Had
During the last several years, when doing activities with friends, I’ve found myself wondering aloud like this:
[Skiing with a friend on the glacier at Timberline [Mt. Hood] and gazing out at the great view....]
Me: “Do you think we’ll still be doing this when we’re old?” [She’s my age]
Her [while laughing:] “Lynn – most people think we are already old.”
Duh! I really really had not thought that of the two of us!
Even though we no longer live near each other, we ski, bike, hike, kayak, play squash, etc. when she visits her son.
Just like we have been doing for decades.
Why should time have changed anything?
Myths, Biases, and Stereotypes
Over my professional career I have written and taught about myths, biases, and stereotypes in our understanding of human development. But until recently I'd never given much thought to my own biases or ideas of when and what is "old age."
We can't escape biases as they are part and parcel of our culture[s] - but we can be aware of them and not act on them as if they were "truth" for all peoples. Not going into this here as it's a whole other topic [as I am prone to say.]
I've also lamented over my teaching/research career, that we need better ways to categorize age groups.
Groupings are a sort of necessity as we do research, write, and teach about the human lifespan because we want to talk of clusters or groups of persons, not individuals.
Breaking the lifespan into researchable units is a good idea - but labeling each of them with what I see as an "indelible marker" or "permanent ink" leads to more stereotyping and biases which then seem never to go away.
Like "old age."
Lately it seems that people are more obsessed with knowing everyone's and anyone's age. If you go over to Quora you will see questions like "How old are you? How old is X personality. When did first see yourself as old? Is 21 old?
Hmm – and so I began to think about my own ideas or stereotypes of “old" and "old age."
Physical activity in any animal, including humans, has always been of interest to me. I love watching and doing many sports. While watching Tom Brady play football I came to the conclusion that, for me, “old” means when your physical abilities decline. [Brady's obviously have not!]
I’m not sure how much mine or anyone’s physical abilities have to decline to be considered “old” but it became clear to me that my measurement of old is almost purely physical. Like the skiing example.It's usually the thought behind my own "when I'm old" kind of thoughts.
But this is probably not the case for everyone.....
This is now a question I will keep pondering:
When am I old?
And when/if I figure it out, I'll let you all know. As I keep pondering the question,
I will most certainly keep writing about that here.
What are your thoughts about "when are you old?" Thank you for your ideas....
In the interim, I'm developing a course on aging...and if you want to know more go the Aging Course page at my online school.
Or you can sign up below for more info on healthier aging.