Mid forties. I am pushing sixty. I feel like a real grown up, one who is too old to have more kids and has big kids but is still physically vigorous and interested in trying new things. I don’t have the “who am I” questions of a twenty-something but am not looking at slowing down or doing those “last” things—finding a home to grow old in, for example, not yet.
I am 60 - I feel much younger - mid-40’s - I am in the best shape I have ever been in my life including weighing less than I did 30 years ago. I have a young face and have always been mistaken for younger than I am. However, lately I feel like my hands are an old person’s hands.
I am 73. I guess I feel like I am in my 60s–it was early 60s until recently (and what people of all ages who meet me would say) but it’s crawling up lately, both physically and esthetically. The pandemic hasn’t helped. I have an aunt who just turned 80, who I didn’t see for almost two years. When I saw her in July, she seemed to have aged quite a bit. Still active, still drives safely at night, still plays her cello but I think the social isolation got to her. Me too!
Depends on the time of day? Anywhere between about … er… if I really didn’t know, and I looked down at my hands, or in the mirror, I’d say 53. If I went just by feel?..maybe mid-40s, sometimes? And sometimes, especially when dealing with the casually murderous garbage from admin at my university and/or soc sci grad students who’ve been squashed hard by their parents and are now free and furiously wielding their swords of justice theory, probably around 62.
When trying to work while listening to the kid next door screaming as she plays, though, 108. Fortunately I think this is very much time-limited, since her French papa seems to take this age-of-reason thing seriously and his expectations of his son changed markedly when the boy turned 7. I think the age of the high-pitched screams as marker of discontent is rapidly drawing to a close. (She’s a very nice little girl. With very powerful lungs, though.)
I often run into trouble with boomers on age-related things, though. In general I think GenX just feels old. And like we earned it. It’s been a rough ride. But I’ve had many a boomer try to shut me down if I give my age or talk about getting old – it seems to step on a nerve I just don’t have. I don’t mind getting old: it means you lived, you got there. I already have a bunch of friends and lovers who didn’t. Cancer, suicide, addiction. And I very much loved the old people in my life when I was a kid – I’m their age now. It’s funny, I was watching the BBC’s 1940s House series, and it was like going home again – the parents were just like my grandparents, even though we were 20-30 years ahead. They weren’t that old really, still vigorous, but they weren’t young, which made them old to me. And they had all the authority and gravity of old people who were really in charge and knew things. Real adults. Old enough to sit in chairs, and you wouldn’t dare bother them if they told you that was enough now. There was nothing embarrassing about Grandma being a bit stout or Grandpa having a gray moustache: that was what old people looked like. I always figured that when I was old I’d look, you know, like an old lady: barrel middle, sticks for arms and legs. Because that’s what all the old ladies looked like, all my grandma’s friends. It didn’t happen for a long time, but this summer, I notice the transformation has begun! It’s really just about not feeling so much like running anymore, and the boobs do their own thing, and the beam broadens all by itself, you don’t have to gain weight for it to happen, and then you’re a little shorter than you were, and somehow the bellybutton and the boobs get closer together, and next thing you know, there’s the silhouette!
I’m also not really afraid of being disrespected. By the people maybe 15 years younger or so, maybe. But younger than that – I feel like so many of them grew up with grandparents or single parents that an old respect has returned, along with an old sort of relationship – there are many of them, few of us, and they’re used to turning to their peers for things of the moment but are much aware of what they don’t know about getting on in the world, and they want our advice, experience, assurance, stability. I think it’ll be very hard for them to move slowly enough for old people, and that the inclination will be to just manage us, move us along. But once they take a look they’ll notice that it’s disrespectful and, I think, figure it out, find a way to cope with their anxiety over going slowly. It’ll likely be up to us to help them do that, too.
So I don’t fear being old or see it as a bad thing except that – as I’ve already started to notice – you do lose function. Senses aren’t as sharp, reflexes aren’t as fast. In the next year or so I’ll start doing balance exercises – I’ve had a life of sports, but I’ve also had a couple of bad, uncoordinated falls in the last year or so while doing them. Luckily everything’s still tough enough to take it, but acquaintance with an aging body and how it’s changing will be important, I think.
My favorite thing: I get to call everybody sweetie and sweetheart. I’ll know I’m really old when “doll” comes out of my mouth.
I think this is so important, the balance piece.
I’ve been working out and losing weight for four years now, and that’s all good, but one thing that has made me so happy is that resulting strength and balance gains. I’ve tripped a couple of times and caught myself when I know I wouldn’t have been able to years ago. Broken hips often start with a loss of balance. You need to strengthen your ankles, and it helps to strengthen your core. YouTube has lots of five-minute balance videos. Lastly, no matter where you are on your fitness journey, join us in the health and fitness thread!
From my hero, Jane Brody.
Thanks for sharing. That was a nice read.
Yes, working out is awesome. I held a plank for 90 seconds today. When I started training in April, I couldn’t even do it for 10 seconds. The 90 seconds felt easier than the 10 seconds, too. I need to keep working on my balance. It’s tough!
Madonna and I are the same age. I don’t think I could pull off her MVA outfit.
Well, I am 6 weeks older than her so that must be it.
That’s a good column. I’ve been thinking about the hearing-aid thing, and when this covid wave passes, I really ought to go get a real test. I know I’m already suffering some hearing loss after a lifetime of not just aging but wearing headphones and enjoying loud noises (oh, how I miss the clubs), and it’s starting to get a little rough on the students. I should talk to a hearing specialist and find out what constitutes functional hearing loss, and then not delay about getting fitted while I’ve still got good health insurance. The only thing I’d worry about is listening to music – I don’t know how the amplifier flattens or distorts things – but I suppose I can always take it out.
Personally, I think that if Jane, at 80 and fragile, is going to go wandering difficult terrain on her own as an exercise, she should make sure someone knows where she’s going and when she ought to be back, and should be carrying ID. Similarly, a stepstool’s as easy to fall from as a chair is: just move things to lower shelves and/or use a grabber.
I’m also glad she’s not worried about looking old. Because that’s what happens when you get old! You look old. I think a good mark of reasonableness there is looking at how your family’s aged: in mine, people stay looking young for a very long time, and then overnight, they’re old. There’s no graceful aging. One week they look like they’re in marathon training, the next week, oh boy, they don’t look so good. As my mom put it, mournfully: “My neck fell down.” And it’s not very susceptible to control. The exception was my grandma, who was indestructibly beautiful. These days, I find it hard to be bothered even though it would’ve driven me crazy ten years ago. But now I’m like, listen, I was gorgeous for a very long time. I want to do something else now. If my rear end is mushy, so be it. Yes, I’ll still exercise, but not like a crazy person. My main fear right now is that I’ll wind up with Lebowitz syndrome, where your lower lip and chin were perfectly reasonable before and then one day they fall off your face. But I suspect that if it happens, by that time I won’t care all that much about that, either.
Haha, I knew that if I looked for “hearing aid” “audiophile” and “chicago” I’d get something. From comments on the blog below:
I’m approximately Paul’s age (70 next January) and have moderate high frequency hearing loss. My hearing starts rolling off above 1.5 kHz at a fairly rapid rate. A few of years ago I saw an audiologist for testing and ended up being fitted with a pair of Siemens Pure digital hearing aids which are fully programmable. These hearing aids retail for several thousand dollars each and are considered pretty much SOTA. One of the programs Siemens has is for listening to music. Unfortunately, IMHO digital hearing aids are totally unsuited for music. The frequency range is limited and they introduce digital artifact which are easy to hear and they’re subject to overload.
Fortunately, researching for a better solution I found an article about musicians in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with high frequency hearing loss and which hearing aids they use. It turns out that they pretty much universally use hearing aids made by General Hearing Instruments. These are analog hearing aids and use the K-amp signal processing technology developed by Mead C. Killion, founder of Etymotic Research. They boost high frequencies starting at approximately 1.5 kHz with a very smooth upward slope. They sound very natural compared to the Siemens digital aids and I use them exclusively. The Siemens have been relegated to the drawer for the last couple of years. Better yet, they cost a fraction of the price of the Siemens and are available through Walmart or for a couple of hundred dollars less, Sam’s Club, and an audiogram or prescription isn’t needed to purchase them.
Hearing loss is an insidious disease that sneaks up on us as we age. We don’t really realize how much we are missing until some of our hearing loss is corrected. I was unaware how much I was missing but I had lost a lot of the joy of listening to music before finding the Simplicity Hi Fi aids by General Instruments. Now, even though I can’t hear like at 20, the joy is back.
Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in General Instruments, Etymotic Research, Walmart or Sam’s Club other than spending my money with them.
I guess I feel my age (59). Before I retired last year I might have said younger, since I started a running hobby in 2017. But now that I’m not working no denying I feel “older”, especially since retired hubby is 66 and most of our friends in 60s and 70s. It is fun that at church, with very many people older or much older than me, I feel like the “young kid” mascot.