What age is old?

When does a person become old? Funny how the age shifts over time. When you are young, thirty seems ancient. When you hit fifty, thirty seems young. Back when life was tough, people didn’t see much past fifty but now sixty is still relatively young. People often get close to eighty and beyond. If that is the case 60 is the new forty.

What is old? Is it so many years from birth or is it becoming frail in body and mind? Or is it a type of thinking that thinks more of the past than the future.

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33 thoughts on “What age is old?”

  1. When your thinking changes, that’s maturity. When your body ages, that’s old. I’ve noted that “old” people don’t look old like they used to. Go compare how a 60-year old person dressed in the 1950s to today. They dressed and looked old.

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  2. I don’t agree that age thinks more about the past than the future.  I think age thinks more of the (increasingly unenticing)  future than about the present.

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  3. The Sinistral Bassist:
    When your thinking changes, that’s maturity. When your body ages, that’s old. I’ve noted that “old” people don’t look old like they used to. Go compare how a 60-year old person dressed in the 1950s to today. They dressed and looked old.

    Yes, it’s like Brave New World,  where everybody artificially maintains their youthful exterior, as their mentation and internal organs fail.

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  4. The Sinistral Bassist:
    I’ve noted that “old” people don’t look old like they used to. Go compare how a 60-year old person dressed in the 1950s to today. They dressed and looked old.

    For some women (and men as well) it’s the irresistible combination of hair dye and plastic surgery. Just ask Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, etc.  (They always neglect the neck and the hands.)  But having a certain appearance doesn’t mean you’re young.  I’d say that the 60 year old from the ’50s (leaving aside life expectancy and health concerns from 60-70 years ago) probably had more wisdom and maturity than today’s carefully preserved active lifestyle community member.

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  5. Hypatia:
    I don’t agree that age thinks more about the past than the future.  I think age thinks more of the (increasingly unenticing)  future than about the present.

    I have found that some people’s conversation is stuck on how things were than on how things will become.

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  6. 9thDistrictNeighbor:

    The Sinistral Bassist:
    I’ve noted that “old” people don’t look old like they used to. Go compare how a 60-year old person dressed in the 1950s to today. They dressed and looked old.

    For some women (and men as well) it’s the irresistible combination of hair dye and plastic surgery. Just ask Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, etc.  (They always neglect the neck and the hands.)  But having a certain appearance doesn’t mean you’re young.  I’d say that the 60 year old from the ’50s (leaving aside life expectancy and health concerns from 60-70 years ago) probably had more wisdom and maturity than today’s carefully preserved active lifestyle community member.

    What is wrong with a few wrinkles?

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  7. Also, what I’d like to add about aging is that it used to be a game changer regarding one’s appearance. My mom is in her nineties now, but she passed for 70 until recently.

    Has her hair colored its natural blonde, weekly manicures, doesn’t go to the bathroom without make-up on and makes a real effort with her clothes. She appeared at Christmas dinner in a black Chanel number that blew my socks off.

    My father was always proud of her appearance but as the French would say, ” It’s nice for other people to look at as well.”  🙂

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  8. It is when thinking of your future becomes – as it did with my Father in Law – a decision to not buy more than 2 bananas at a time so you wouldn’t leave any to rot when you died.

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  9. WillowSpring:
    It is when thinking of your future becomes – as it did with my Father in Law – a decision to not buy more than 2 bananas at a time so you wouldn’t leave any to rot when you died.

    Boy, that is a exact way to put it.

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  10. 10 Cents:

    Hypatia:
    I don’t agree that age thinks more about the past than the future.  I think age thinks more of the (increasingly unenticing)  future than about the present.

    I have found that some people’s conversation is stuck on how things were than on how things will become.

    That’s the conventional wisdom.  But, living here on the property that has been my family’s home for 3 generations, I have always talked a lot about my parents and grandparents and the history of our homestead.  Yet lately, I try to avoid it.  I’m insecure about it: are people seeing me as an old coot ( I can’t bring myself to say “crone”) droning on about the past…?

    It’s the beginning, I reckon, of the terrible, inexorable loss of confidence everyone experiences with encroaching senescence.

    Courage! Warren, Clinton, Biden, Sanders, all want to rule the world, and they’re older than I am. ( Of course so is Trump,  but he’s a special case.)  I mean, imagine what it was like turning 30 in 1968!   No: “Now praised be God  Who has matched us with His hour!” As Rupert Brooke put it.

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  11. 10 Cents:
    I have found that some people’s conversation is stuck on how things were than on how things will become.

    Some people wish for the decades when things worked both socially and economically and Donald Trump wasn’t about to be impeached.

    Watch what you say- you don’t live here. You live in a homogeneous society entirely obsessed with being like everyone else. I wouldn’t be proud of that.

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  12. Hypatia:

    10 Cents:

    Hypatia:
    I don’t agree that age thinks more about the past than the future.  I think age thinks more of the (increasingly unenticing)  future than about the present.

    I have found that some people’s conversation is stuck on how things were than on how things will become.

    That’s the conventional wisdom.  But, living here on the property that has been my family’s home for 3 generations, I have always talked a lot about my parents and grandparents and the history of our homestead.  Yet lately, I try to avoid it.  I’m insecure about it: are people seeing me as an old coot ( I can’t bring myself to say “crone”) droning on about the past…?

    It’s the beginning, I reckon, of the terrible, inexorable loss of confidence everyone experiences with encroaching senescence.

    Courage! Warren, Clinton, Biden, Sanders, all want to rule the world, and they’re older than I am. ( Of course so is Trump,  but he’s a special case.)  I mean, imagine what it was like turning 30 in 1968!   No: “Now praised be God  Who has matched us with His hour!” As Rupert Brooke put it.

    Bringing up history is not bad. Trying to relive it is. It is natural to add something “new” to the conversation by bringing up the past to those who don’t know about it.

    It is hard to get the balance right. The past can help us in the future but it can also hinder us. It is like friends. They can either be anchors or motors.

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  13. EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    I have found that some people’s conversation is stuck on how things were than on how things will become.

    Some people wish for the decades when things worked both socially and economically and Donald Trump wasn’t about to be impeached.

    Watch what you say- you don’t live here. You live in a homogeneous society entirely obsessed with being like everyone else. I wouldn’t be proud of that.

    Detroit. 😉

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  14. 9thDistrictNeighbor:

    The Sinistral Bassist:
    I’ve noted that “old” people don’t look old like they used to. Go compare how a 60-year old person dressed in the 1950s to today. They dressed and looked old.

    For some women (and men as well) it’s the irresistible combination of hair dye and plastic surgery. Just ask Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, etc.  (They always neglect the neck and the hands.)  But having a certain appearance doesn’t mean you’re young.  I’d say that the 60 year old from the ’50s (leaving aside life expectancy and health concerns from 60-70 years ago) probably had more wisdom and maturity than today’s carefully preserved active lifestyle community member.

    There is some truth to this. When I was younger, it was almost scandalous for a woman to color her hair, a kind of vanity that respectable women didn’t indulge in, if you will. That way of thinking is long gone. So fashion does play some part of it. I wonder how much moving from manual labor to automated labor has impacted people’s appearances, too. Were they simply “used up” by the time they were 60 or 70 in the past?

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  15. The Sinistral Bassist:

    9thDistrictNeighbor:

    The Sinistral Bassist:
    I’ve noted that “old” people don’t look old like they used to. Go compare how a 60-year old person dressed in the 1950s to today. They dressed and looked old.

    For some women (and men as well) it’s the irresistible combination of hair dye and plastic surgery. Just ask Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, etc.  (They always neglect the neck and the hands.)  But having a certain appearance doesn’t mean you’re young.  I’d say that the 60 year old from the ’50s (leaving aside life expectancy and health concerns from 60-70 years ago) probably had more wisdom and maturity than today’s carefully preserved active lifestyle community member.

    There is some truth to this. When I was younger, it was almost scandalous for a woman to color her hair, a kind of vanity that respectable women didn’t indulge in, if you will. That way of thinking is long gone. So fashion does play some part of it. I wonder how much moving from manual labor to automated labor has impacted people’s appearances, too. Were they simply “used up” by the time they were 60 or 70 in the past?

    I think being richer with a better diet changed things. Medicine also came a long way. The lean years can be hard on a person’s life.

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  16. The Sinistral Bassist:
    When I was younger, it was almost scandalous for a woman to color her hair, a kind of vanity that respectable women didn’t indulge in, if you will.

    Certainly when I was younger, plastic surgery was scandalous. Now it’s de rigueur and although I think plastic below the neck is silly, I wholeheartedly approve of face and eye lifts and eyelash extensions.

    Now if I only had the down time …

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  17. 10 Cents:
    Bringing up history is not bad. Trying to relive it is. It is natural to add something “new” to the conversation by bringing up the past to those who don’t know about it. It is hard to get the balance right. The past can help us in the future but it can also hinder us.

    Recall the lyrics to the great Anglican hymn “Abide with Me”:

    Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
    Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see;
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

    Engineers and the better kind of historians know that most innovations and new ideas are bad (indeed, very few “new ideas” are actually new—most have been tried and found to fail over and over, but people have forgotten and, besides, it sounds so cool and noble!).

    This is due to the Lindy effect.  Reality selects out bad ideas because they eliminate those who adopt them.  The longer you live, the more bad ideas you’ve seen pop up, cause damage, and then be rejected.  As you live even longer, you see the same bad ideas come around again on the guitar, advocated by those too young (and/or clueless) to be unaware what happened the last time they were tried.

    The main reason to study history is not to learn good things which have worked but rather bad things that didn’t.  When you have somebody like bug-eyed Occasional-Cortex who is completely unmoored from anything that happened before she started to read Twitter, being taken seriously, you begin to hope that life extension will result in an electorate with an average age old enough to have seen various kinds of folly and wise enough to avoid it the next time.

    There seem to be some things you can’t learn by reading about them in a book: you have to live through them to really get it.  One example of this is financial bubbles.  I’m old enough to have lived through several: the stock market boom in the late 1960s, the hard asset bubble in the 1970s, the first and second PC bubbles in the 1980s, the Internet bubble in the 1990s, and the housing bubble in the 2000s.  People who have lived through a bubble don’t seem able to communicate to those who haven’t just what it feels like at each stage of the process.  In fact, it’s all you can do not to be swept up in the next one when it happens.

    A great deal of what we call “wisdom” is simply having seen it before and learned the lessons from a painful experience.

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  18. John Walker:
    As you live even longer, you see the same bad ideas come around again on the guitar, advocated by those too young (and/or clueless) to be unaware what happened the last time they were tried.

    John Walker:
    have seen various kinds of folly and wise enough to avoid it the next time.

    Honor thy father and thy mother just sounds like an imperious command, whereas

    Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days shall be long in the land the LORD hath given thee sounds like exceedingly valuable advice for not losing the farm.

    This would be true for ancient Israelites determining to care for and listen to the elders; for ranch hands paying attention to the old guys sitting on the corral fence who quietly speak up; for all those situations in between. Of course young people do what young people must and should do: experiment and venture forth and take chances on innovation.  At the same time, deliberately to decide to ignore what those who have gone before have to say is hubristic folly.

    So, @10 Cents, what age is old? Suppose old is defined as having learned something worth knowing and passing on.  That can be any age, and for those people who never learn anything worth knowing, it is no attainable age at all.

    Have you heard the term of praise old soul,  as in the compliment He’s an old soul  ?

    It refers to that certain quality, a combination of perception, experience, a cozy, reliable goodness, and benevolence, that we sometimes in certain children, as well as people at various  other stages of life.

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  19. John Walker:

    10 Cents:
    Bringing up history is not bad. Trying to relive it is. It is natural to add something “new” to the conversation by bringing up the past to those who don’t know about it. It is hard to get the balance right. The past can help us in the future but it can also hinder us.

    Recall the lyrics to the great Anglican hymn “Abide with Me”:

    Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
    Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see;
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

    Engineers and the better kind of historians know that most innovations and new ideas are bad (indeed, very few “new ideas” are actually new—most have been tried and found to fail over and over, but people have forgotten and, besides, it sounds so cool and noble!).

    This is due to the Lindy effect.  Reality selects out bad ideas because they eliminate those who adopt them.  The longer you live, the more bad ideas you’ve seen pop up, cause damage, and then be rejected.  As you live even longer, you see the same bad ideas come around again on the guitar, advocated by those too young (and/or clueless) to be unaware what happened the last time they were tried.

    The main reason to study history is not to learn good things which have worked but rather bad things that didn’t.  When you have somebody like bug-eyed Occasional-Cortex who is completely unmoored from anything that happened before she started to read Twitter, being taken seriously, you begin to hope that life extension will result in an electorate with an average age old enough to have seen various kinds of folly and wise enough to avoid it the next time.

    There seem to be some things you can’t learn by reading about them in a book: you have to live through them to really get it.  One example of this is financial bubbles.  I’m old enough to have lived through several: the stock market boom in the late 1960s, the hard asset bubble in the 1970s, the first and second PC bubbles in the 1980s, the Internet bubble in the 1990s, and the housing bubble in the 2000s.  People who have lived through a bubble don’t seem able to communicate to those who haven’t just what it feels like at each stage of the process.  In fact, it’s all you can do not to be swept up in the next one when it happens.

    A great deal of what we call “wisdom” is simply having seen it before and learned the lessons from a painful experience.

    How does one tell the difference between something new that is good and something new that is foolish?

    I agree that most “new ideas” fail. There is an arrogance of some who think they know so much better than those before. It last for a while but usually ends in disaster. IYI are good at these.

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  20. 10 Cents:
    I agree that most “new ideas” fail.

    Gee whiz; I bet Sam Walton, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg would all agree.

    And just for the record, that remark is so un-American it inspired me to comment.

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  21. EThompson:
    Gee whiz; I bet Sam Walton, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg would all agree.

    Most of them will be forgotten fifty years hence.

    I would put the odds that any of them will be remembered to the extent we recall Robert Fulton or Thomas Edison as one in a hundred.

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  22. 10 Cents:
    How does one tell the difference between something new that is good and something new that is foolish?

    “Only time will tell”.  If they’re still using it a hundred years later, it’s probably good.  Fifty years: it’s looking promising.  Thirty-five: who knows?  My own is now at thirty-seven.

    You’ll hardly every read a bad book that was published 200 years ago.  Why?  Because if it’s still in print after two centuries, generations have decided it’s worth reading.

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  23. EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    I agree that most “new ideas” fail.

    Gee whiz; I bet Sam Walton, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg would all agree.

    And just for the record, that remark is so un-American it inspired me to comment.

    Did you mean to write in the first paragraph those entrepreneurs would not agree? It makes more sense then.

    John made the point far more cogently than I did. I was just agreeing with his “so un-American” idea. (grin)

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  24. John Walker:

    10 Cents:
    How does one tell the difference between something new that is good and something new that is foolish?

    “Only time will tell”.  If they’re still using it a hundred years later, it’s probably good.  Fifty years: it’s looking promising.  Thirty-five: who knows?  My own is not at thirty-seven.

    You’ll hardly every read a bad book that was published 200 years ago.  Why?  Because if it’s still in print after two centuries, generations have decided it’s worth reading.

    I get it. Never trust an idea under thirty. 🙂

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