What’s in a word?

I consider myself anchored in reality. Maybe. Most of the time. My age starts with a 7 followed by another digit. (Yeah I know. I can’t believe it either. Such a perky thing like me!). I can’t in all honesty call myself middle-aged anymore. Not unless I intend to live to 140. I avoid calling attention to my age but once in a while I use it to set expectations and for the occasional senior discount.

The other day I was talking with a person who wasn’t understanding what I was willing to do or what my limitations are. I am healthy but I lack the energy I had in my youth and I do not do risky things. That includes anything I don’t want to do along with high ladders, heavy lifting or activities that may break a bone. I also don’t want to do a lot of consecutive hours of intense work.

She spent time telling me I’m not old (do I need a birth certificate?) She did all those stupid platitudes. “You’re only as old as you feel!” “You are (fill in the blank) years YOUNG.” “It’s only a number!” Gawd, gag me with a spoon! (Does that date me?)

The reality is that people age. It’s okay. It’s better than the alternative (which I told her). I’m not embarrassed about my age but I don’t like people freaking out about it so I keep it on the down low. One problem (if you can call it that) is that I don’t look my age so people assume I am much younger. They expect things from me that I just don’t want to do.

Part is my gene pool. My brother is 91 and he looks about 70. If he could hear better he would pass for even younger (that’s a different post). His wife is 92 and she looks younger than many of my contemporary friends who have decided aging is an excuse to loosen up the grooming habits.

How I look is a result of things I have no control over like health, access to good foods and the gene pool. Pick your parents carefully!

Back to my theme. It’s okay to say you are old. It’s not an excuse to get out of things (well, maybe sometimes) but to let people understand that I am not 50 so no, I don’t want to sit in bleacher seats for a concert. Nor do I want to sky-dive. That’s just me though. I know there are 90-year-olds jumping out of planes. I wouldn’t do it at 30.

There are house projects I wouldn’t do at this point that I would have done twenty years ago. They are too hard, too exhausting or would take me so long the project would outlive me.

Please stop telling people to not say “old” or try to sugar coat with silly platitudes that no one believes. It’s not a bad word. Many people don’t live long enough to call themselves “old” so buck up buttercup and wear it with pride!

Words like “frail” and “ancient” are the ones you want to avoid. They imply something worse than years of life. Ancient will always be 20 years older than I am. Always!

75 thoughts on “What’s in a word?

  1. I loved your last line “Ancient will always be 20 years older than I am. Always!” I always told everyone my age but now, not so much. My mom would say to me “Linda, a lady doesn’t say her age – why do you want to advertise it?” I turned 65 last month and that was a milestone that made me feel my age. I’m not so apt to run around telling my age, nor asking “are you sure you don’t need to see my driver’s license because I have it right here.” I used to be so vain back in the day. I didn’t realize you were 70+ – thought you were a couple of years older than this (now) senior citizen.

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      • Yes it is! I met my friend Ann Marie while walking at Council Point Park about 7-8 years ago. She has since moved to an apartment, so we don’t see each other, but otherwise keep in touch. She sent me an e-mail that said “now you’re a senior citizen but that’s okay because I won’t consider myself old until I turn 80.” She is 78 but you’d never know it – she has more energy than I had when I was young.

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    • They ARE annoying. This week as I was getting down on the floor to divvy out treats, Sasha started yelling. I wasn’t fast enough. I gave them all a lecture on how I’m an old peep and they have to be patient. They said, “yeah, yeah, get out the treats!”

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  2. So well said! I have much the same thoughts and impressions about age, Kate. I don’t have any interest in pretending I’m younger than I am, nor do I want to pretend that age doesn’t matter. I have more limits than I once did, in energy, for sure, but I also feel blessed with good health and a body that serves me well. I struggle with friends who reference age at every turn as though it’s uppermost and primary on their minds. i don’t think about it much. I am just grateful to be here!

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  3. Love this post. Well, I am now 90-1/2 and I definitely don’t feel like it other than I don’t push myself very hard. Like I don’t want to jump out of planes or even go up in a hot air balloon. I know and appreciate my limitations. I still do lots of what I once did; just cautious.
    I had a doctor’s appointment last week and while I was waiting a tall, slim guy sat 6′ from me (socially distancing you know); he was sunk down in his chair and breathing hard. I asked if he was okay and he replied he was just sooo tired and exhausted. I asked his age; he replied 72. I told him I was 90…he said I had to be kidding – I said I surely was 90. He said, “Well, God has sure blest you, lady. You don’t look your age.” I give God all the credit but I also have good genes.
    Bette Davis said, “Old age isn’t for sissies.” Stay strong, Kate.

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      • I’m thinkin’ you will have the same genes as your brother has. Shoot for it – won’t get there if you don’t try for it. I love my age! Bet your brother loves his as well.

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    • Thanks! I really did have a “ta-do” with this person who kept saying the old platitudes as if that would magically change anything. Then I read on obit which announced the deceased was 93 years young. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out the big deal with being honest. It is what it is and it’s not a bad thing considering the alternative.

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  4. This was a really great post, Kate … certainly a topic we could all relate to in our own ways.

    In many ways, I think I’ve been ‘old’ for most of my life and only now is the calendar starting to catch up with me. Yet in other ways, I’m still as immature and irresponsible as a 5-year old, but the reluctance of this 65-year old body causes me to rethink most of my shenanigans now. I used to think I was limited only by time and money, but recently I had to add ‘energy’ into that mix 😏

    We have all approached life in different ways to suit our personality and interests, so it’s no surprise then that we approach this chapter of our lives the same way. This is definitely not a one-size-fits-all world.

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  5. I’m working on a new ‘comeback’ so that it becomes natural for me to say in response to things like “You’re not that old” (I’m turning 65 in 2 months). My response will be “Maybe I’m not too old to do that…but why would I even want to do it?”. I WOULD jump out of a plane, take a bungee cord jump, etc. but only if I have a neck brace on beforehand. I can’t help but imagine my head snapping back and my neck breaking!

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  6. Aw, you age well, like a good wine. Tuna, well, that doesn’t age so well so I eat it as soon as I get it. It’s the only right thing to do. Good for you not jumping out of planes. That’s just crazy talk.

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  7. You make some excellent points! It’s not a terrible thing to be older , but your capabilities change, and also your tolerance for things. I’m not quite to your age, but already I’m not prepared to do a lot of things I would have when I was younger 🙂

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  8. As a person who is also 7 and another digit, I find I can’t do as much as I used to do. Sometimes my kids have a hard understanding that.

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  9. Well said Kate! I lack stamina now that I’m older, so have learned to pace myself, but some people don’t understand that and it can be annoying, as they are always encouraging you to do stuff you know you can’t do. I was always a fairly low energy person anyway, so I’m not sure what they would be expecting from my retirement, that I’d take up mountain climbing or running marathons? I walk, that’s all I can handle with my heart valve problem (not bad enough to need fixing yet but some day). I look younger than I am, (good gene pool here too, and you should see my mother at 95, often mistaken for someone in her 80’s, today the eye doctor told her she looked well but he’s probably used to seeing frail elderly), and people make assumptions based on your looks when they know nothing about your age or your health. When I told some of my patients I was retiring, as I’d worked for 40 years, I would get the strangest looks, and I was 59 at the time.

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  10. I was up on a ladder getting some boards yesterday, and thought to myself, what the heck are you doing. The answer was I’m younger than my husband, so I got the short straw. 🙂 Back when I was in Corporate America, I was the company rep at age related law suit. One of the execs was testifying when the lawyer asked him if he recognized that I was ‘relatively youthful.’ Every once in a while my husband will ask me if I’m still ‘relatively youthful,’ and we have ourselves a good laugh because I’m definitely not. 🙂 Love this post. 🙂

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  11. I have a precedent for not calling myself old. It goes like this. John repeated a saying to his mother, “Old age is a terrible thing.”

    She replied, “I wouldn’t know about that.” She was 91 at the time, so he asked her what she would call her age. Her answer was priceless, “Advanced middle age.”

    We still laugh about it.

    You are welcome to borrow that label if it would help.

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  12. I’ve been told I don’t look my age, and one of the darts team knocked 15 years off (gotta love that girl!) Do I feel my age? Sometimes, but mostly not. I act my shoe size as that doesn’t change any more. I’m not as young as I was, but then I’m not as old as I will be (all being well!).

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  13. Maybe your friend was just trying to convince herself that she is not old. You can be grateful for your good genes! I hear “…as you age…” from my doctor more often as if that is an excuse for any complaint. Oh, well, grateful to be as healthy as I am at this age.

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    • I hear it too. So far I’ve been fortunate that it’s mostly annoying things rather than live threatening. I get tinnitus and my hearing has gotten worse. Yes, I need aids. I’ll get them one of these days.

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  14. I am old and proud of it. I am told I don’t look my age, but I think my age is younger these days than it used to be. Does that make sense? New challenges come with age, but challenges are part of life, no matter what age we are. The only way to avoid being old is to die young. That’s not a good option in my opinion.

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    • Makes absolute sense to me. I’m not embarrassed by it at all. Sometimes I say it because people think I’m younger and expect something different. People in general are younger these days. My grandmother had a hard life. Her husband died young and left her with 9 kids to feed. Back then there were no programs to help. It took it’s toll.

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    • I sensed a dose of age bias in her platitudes ~ the unspoken message that continuing to “live like [our] younger selves” should be the goal of our golden years. Why? Wasn’t that the job of our younger selves?

      I am delighted I no longer have the mindset of a twenty-something. At that age, I was not nearly as content as I am these days. The daily decisions I face are made with accumulated wisdom. I can’t think of a single one my present self would defer to my twenty-something self . . . not on matters of fashion, food, movies, books, bars, clubs, or how to spend my leisure time.

      That said, having the physical stamina of a twenty-something would rock!

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      • Energy level is all I envy from those days. I’m not sure what her point was. If calling myself old doesn’t bother me, why should it bother anyone else. I agree with you. I make better decisions these days.

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  15. I think our generation has redefined the aging process. When I look at photos of my mother, and especially my grandmother, at my age, they look a lot older than me and my similar-aged friends. And, I think it goes way beyond looks. I thing – in general – we are a lot more active too. That being said, I do find myself being a lot more careful, especially when there is danger of a fall.

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    • Physically I’m not a risk taker. You won’t catch me doing somersaults even though I probably could. I’m lucky to not have any bone or joint issues. No arthritis or bad knees or hips. (Excuse me while I knock on wood!) As for looking younger, yep. My grandmother died at 75. There is a picture of her when she was in her 60s. Graying hair in braids wrapped around her head, long dress with a pinafore apron and sturdy black tie-up shoes. Also looks like she’s missing some teeth. I’m not sure I’ll look like that at 90. My brother doesn’t. They had a different life back then and we are lucky to have it much easier.

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  16. When I turned 30 a disc ruptured in my back for no known reason. I went to bed feeling fine one night and the next morning I was paralyzed. I honestly couldn’t get out of the bed, not because of the pain, I just couldn’t move. When I asked why this happened, the surgeon told me
    “As we age, our discs lose their fluid and become more brittle.” After that, I stopped paying attention to the number.

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  17. We live in such a youth-worshipping culture. And a death-phobic one. Any mention of being old or aging, and it stirs up peoples’ realization that they too are going to die. Hence the reaction to the word “old” or frantic denial of any limitations that come with aging, even if it applies to someone else. At least, that is what I think is behind what is happening. It happens to me too. OTOH, I have a relation (by marriage) who seems to think I should spend my remaining years locked in my house encased in bubble wrap. I can’t win. You’ve got the right attitude, Kate.

    Deb

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  18. I think Jake snuck in this post, Buttercup! I could have written this post but not as eloquently. You are so much like me… or I am so much like you. I am old, will be 70 in September. But I don’t feel 70. I do have days where the energy and motivation are shot. I have some real cranky and blah going on some days and I just allow myself to have the cranky and blahs. I don’t look 69 or act like it… so I am told. And family, friends and peeps do expect things from me that I am not willing to do or not able to do physically. Great post, Kate! I am old and happy to have made it this far and to be able to hop on my red bike… Ha!

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  19. When I worked in a nursing home we once admitted a very frail man in his seventies. He explained that his mother would be visiting and I am afraid we took it with a pinch of salt. Imagine our faces when she turned up wearing red high heeled shoes.

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  20. Oh I’m 7 plus another number and remain like I have always been – young at heart. That’s all that matters to me. I can’t begin to do stuff I could do even five years ago when I didn’t have arthritis and a hip needing to be replaced and heart meds to take but oh baby in my brain/heart I am in my 20s and I hope to heck I stay that way. I used to say “you’re as old as you feel” but I really don’t think that works for me any longer – I say “you’re as old as you think”. I think I’m really lucky to be here – period!

    Hugs, Pam

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  21. You do not look 7 plus another digit at all, Kate, especially with your spunky, witty attitude…..not a platitude….for real! I find I use my “age card” at my convenience. At times, I totally forget how old I am and regret some of my adventures. Overall, lucky to be upright and breathing and somewhat with it. Thank you for sharing a fun and interesting post.

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