“I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.”   –  Francis Bacon

When do we become old? Is it when we have gray hair? Is it when we retire from work? Or is it a specific age; are we old when we reach 55? 65? 100?  The Pew Research asked this question back in 2009 to nearly 3,000 adults. This was the response:

  • 13% said you are old when you have gray hairturtles
  • 23% said you are old when you retire from work
  • 32% said you are old when you turn 65
  • 45% said you are old when you have trouble walking up stairs
  • 76% said you are old when you can’t live independently
  • 79% said you are old when you turn 85

So, when are we old? I remember being in the 7th grade and thinking that 30 year olds were old adults who had their lives all together.  Now, that I am hovering around 30 myself, I realize my middle school-self had no idea what she was talking about!  Besides feeling old every time I see a new gray hair, I usually feel like I’m still in my early 20s (until I am around young people of that age!)  It is all a matter of perspective.   If you don’t feel old, then you must not be old, right?  This seems to be consistent with the Pew study which states that, “Among 18-29 year-olds, about half say they feel their age, while about quarter say they feel older than their age and another quarter say they feel younger. By contrast, among adults 65 and older, fully 60% say they feel younger than their age, compared with 32% who say they feel exactly their age and just 3% who say they feel older than their age.”

I guess the wise old cliché “you are only as old as you feel” must be true, since “being old” is clearly not defined. After all, age is only a number.  There seem to be many more career changing adults now than ever.  This could be attributed to many factors including: opportunity, financial assistance, job market, economy, etc., but it’s also older adults not letting their age get in the way of wanting to learn something new and pursuing what makes them happy.  Age alone does not decide when your mind and body are old. Why do we need others to define what is or is not appropriate for our age? Take for example the list of people below:

Did you know that?

  • At 100, Grandma Moses was painting.
  • At 93, George Bernard Shaw wrote the play Farfetched Fables.
  • At 91, Adolph Zukor was chairman of Paramount Pictures.
  • At 90, Pablo Picasso was producing drawings and engravings.
  • At 89, Albert Schweitzer headed a hospital in Africa.
  • At 88, Michelangelo did architectural plans for the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
  • At 85, Coco Chanel was the head of a fashion design firm.
  • At 82, Leo Tolstoy wrote I Cannot Be Silent.
  • At 73, Peter Mark Roget published the Roget Thesaurus.
  • At 76, Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa.
  • At 65, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, Frank McCourt first began writing.
  • At 64 Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book Little House in the Big Woods.
  • At 48, Susan Boyle first appeared on Britain’s Got Talent and launched her singing career.

I guess somebody forgot to tell them that they were “old.”

Our Guest Blogger this week is Karen Brown, MAEd. Program Coordinator, Texas AHEC East – Waco Region

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions raised by this essay on Wednesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.