Upfront disclaimer: This is all about me. When I talk about “old people” I’m using that term as a concept more than to denote actual individual people. I’m not passing judgment or trying to insult anyone but I’m sure someone could possibly take offense to what I’m about to write.
Yesterday, I turned to my fiancé and said, “I have no problem aging but I hope I never get old.” We had gone to a screening of a film that was released 40 years ago and we were probably the youngest people in the room. I have honestly never been to a film screening with that many wheelchairs and scooters in the theater before. I think it’s great they all came out and saw the film. It just brought this to mind.
To me being old is more of a state of being than an age or a physical embodiment. There’s something rigid, calcified and static about it. I’ve seen 100 year old people who I would never call old. Wizened, perhaps but never old. It also has nothing to do with diminished mental or physical capacity. That’s just going to happen as we go along and there’s very little we can do to stop the tide.
When someone feels old to me, they seem to have almost stopped living. They are just waiting for death. They appear to find little joy in anything, complain about everything and are scared of all kinds of things that don’t seem scary to me. I’ve met a lot of young old people by this definition too.
I am always empathetic but I am not always sensitive. I know this about me. I get irritated with older drivers who go slow and drive like they don’t know what they’re doing (even though they have probably been driving longer than I’ve been alive). I get irritated with older relatives who ask me to do things for them that I think they can do for themselves (like use the Google). I have no desire to be in a conversation with anyone who just tells me what’s wrong in their life (or life in general). I have no words to give back in that instance. It no longer feels like a conversation. I’m just a sounding board.
Being old and getting old are two entirely different things in my mind. And as I said before, I’m looking forward to getting old and seeing what that brings but I will do all I can to never let myself be old. I will wear my comfy clothes and sensible shoes, get all wrinkly and slow, and laugh about it all the way to the grave. Life is too important to be taken seriously.
“Just ’cause there’s snow on the roof doesn’t mean there’s not a fire inside.” –Bonnie Hunt, author