Still getting older

I have written about growing older before on this blog. Since the last time, I am of course a little older, so consider this an update. I was recently reminded by an old and close friend, that I had never expected to see sixty. After decades of shift work, stressful jobs, heavy smoking, and a bad diet, I felt sure that I would be carried off by one illness or another, by my late fifties. I imagined my sudden departure being spoken about by friends and colleagues, in the way that these things are discussed. “Did you hear about Pete?” “No, really? And he was only 57.” “Yes, that’s no age these days.” But it didn’t happen. I woke up on my sixtieth birthday, and every day since. I had to learn to cope with getting older, which came as a complete surprise, not least to me.

There are the usual things that come with age. Looking for reading glasses for ages, then discovering that they were on your head all the time. Ransacking the entire house for door-keys, only to find them hanging in the lock, an hour later. The old favourite; walking into a different room, then forgetting why you went in there in the first place, and taking just that little bit longer to remember names, faces, and places. You soon realise that you don’t need to watch the weather forecast, to know when it’s going to rain. Your joints will burn and ache for no good reason, long before the dark clouds appear. It is as if your body has become a barometer, and the falling pressure is registered in your very bones.

When you are young, you always think that it will be different for you. You won’t be like the old people of your youth, or talk or behave anything like your own parents. But you will, to some degree at least. You will hear yourself saying things that echo from the past, catching yourself momentarily, thinking you might have already said this or that before. Then the realisation sets in. It was what old people used to say, and now you are saying it. Most young people begin to seem either lazy, or impatient. Their attention span is limited, their desire to learn absent, and their ambition minimal. This cannot be true of all of them of course, it is just how you see it. But sweeping generalisations are a comfort of being older. You can state them, and leave them hanging to be challenged.

And everything was better ‘back then’. Food was tastier, families were closer, everyone felt safer, and you could walk in and out of jobs at will. Even the summers were sunnier, and it seemed that you never had to worry about anything. It’s not true of course, at least not for everyone. But your mind helps you to come to terms with the inadequacies of ageing, by reminding you that you once had it good, very good. Of course, the ‘now’ can be even better. No work to go to, time on your hands, places to explore, thoughts to dwell on, and pleasures to pursue. It seems, at least to me, that the key is to forget about the numbers, and to stop seeing age as a definition of yourself. You wake up, do what you can do, and make the most of it. Enjoy the freedom, and take advantage of the wisdom and experience.

But it’s not that easy, is it?

Everyday life defines you by age. Fill in a form, and you will see a place for age. I am currently in the 55-64 category. The next one up is 65+, the upper figure undefined. Concessions are given once you exceed a certain age, and you begin to wish away some precious years, waiting for that state pension that you paid into for so long, or frustratingly anticipating a bus pass that you haven’t even used. Whether you like it or not, you become very interested in age. The news seems to be full of people dying. Actors, celebrities, politicians, all mentioned for their contributions. If their age is not mentioned, I immediately look them up, to see when they were born. Quickly working out whether or not they were older than me when they died. This strange behaviour extends to the living as well. Seeing someone pop up in a film, or TV interview, I will exclaim “Are they still alive? I thought they would be dead by now.” Without hesitation, I will look up their age on the Internet, and make some pointless comment about how well they have aged, or not, as the case may be. One of the things about getting older, is that you can develop an unhealthy interest in the ages of everyone around you.

Then there is the perception of others. Something that I heard a lot in the past, especially from my Mum, was that you don’t really age inside, and still believe yourself to be young at heart. I am not so sure that’s always true, but it does come as a shock, the first time someone thinks that you are older than you are. Even if they say that they think you are younger, often by a good few years, your first instinct is to think that they are being kind. But when they add a few years, you can be shocked, and begin to wonder how they came to that conclusion. At the windmill recently, I was happily chatting to an older lady, a fellow volunteer, for a while. When the subject of pensions came up, she expressed surprise that I wasn’t yet old enough to receive my state pension. (It is paid when I am 65) I told her that I was still only 63, and asked her how old she thought I was. She casually remarked, “about 67.”
That is only four years older than I am now, but it is a huge difference in perception, at least from where I was standing!

So there are lots of things to consider about getting older; a lot more than I ever thought there would be, as I didn’t still expect to be here. I might make this an occasional series, I’m not sure. Younger readers might rightly consider that there is little of interest for them here, but I have a suggestion. Print it off, seal it in an envelope, and write ‘To be opened on… (add date of your 60th birthday).’
You can then use it like an instruction manual.

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34 thoughts on “Still getting older

  1. Pete, hitting age 60 was a bit traumatic for me because of its mortal implications, and for that reason I dread every digit on the odometer that rolls up to the right of the 6, as I have so many destinations in life towards which I am driving and hope to reach before the car breaks down or is run off the road by the Grim Reaper.

    I hope to live a good many years. In fact, I have a little poem I’ve been reciting to myself for a few decades: “I plan to be alive in 2045, and ride the silver swan in 2061.” I have no idea what the “silver swan” is in my poem, but I’m really curious to find out, so…!

    I could identify with most, but not all, of the points raised in your essay. But ask me again next year….

    Great writing, Pete!

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    1. Thanks David. You need a couple more years yet, for all this stuff to kick in, but have no doubt, it will come. If I am ‘alive in 2045’, I will be 93. That Silver Swan ride in 2061 is somewhat beyond my expectations.
      I am now reminded of the Zager and Evans hit record, ‘In The Year 2525’. Do you know it?

      Best wishes as always, Pete.

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      1. Pete, that’s one of my old faves! I think, though, that the words will apply to mankind a lot sooner than the years cited in the song. In 2045, let’s get together and party, eh? We can sing this song….

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  2. If this post isn’t Freshly Pressed then I don’t know what. 🙂 Pete, I thought I had new verve and energy to blog and was looking forward to it but life gets in the way and I can’t shake off the listlessness and melancholy. Then I click on your blog and remember why it’s worth sticking around. You know I adore your writing, I’ve been a keen follower for three years now. Your observations and anecdotes are simply wonderful and I always find much warmth and wisdom in every little thing you share with us.

    As for growing old, I have long held that it is (mostly, not entirely!) a state of mind. I have always felt generations older. I was 16 going on 66 and now, as a thirtysomething, I am beginning to catch up with myself if that makes sense. Please, do continue writing this theme. Your captive audience demands it. Hugs from London. ❤

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    1. Your absence was noted with moderate alarm A. I had presumed work was too taxing, but had not considered melancholy or listlessness. I hope that I have helped to shake them off, if only for a moment. I look forward to seeing your own work back in Endor, and as you know, I value your comments and kind words more than gold.
      As ever, Pete. x

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  3. Great post, Pete…. Now, I’m not far into your age bracket, but people frequently think I am a decade older….WHAT!?? I blame the MS, but still, not ‘appy as I used to be considered younger than my age….

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    1. Unfortunately, some types of illness can add years, at least from the perception of an outsider. Still, you had a good while of the opposite idea though Sue. I used to be denied a child fare on the bus when I was only 14! (But I could get into ‘X’ films and buy alcohol in pubs, so it worked for me to a large extent.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All very familiar. The problem is when your partner continues to think he’s physically 28 instead of 68 and wonders why he can’t do things as he used to. And let’s not talk about our old friend Arthur Ritis!

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    1. I have had a few lessons about physical capabilities since retirement, and now have to be very aware what I can and cannot accomplish. It catches up on you before you know it, sadly.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. But my memories of you Pete will always be the Nth ken days 🙂 and your posts on any subject do not make me think differently

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    1. North Ken, and that wedding in Preston Bobby, don’t forget that! Uncontrollable giggling in lifts, unable to keep a straight face when confronted with a dodgy wig, all never to be forgotten either.
      Anyway, it’s alright for you, you still look the same mate! Take care old friend. Pete.

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  6. Such a lovely post Pete. Growing old always felt like something that happened to other people, and suddenly I’m going to be 37 in November. I don’t even know where the time has gone. I don’t think the fact that my nephew is 16 helps, he just reminds me that I’m 20 years old than him!

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    1. Thanks Jenny. But 37? You are still starting out, nephew or not. I was bracing for my second marriage at that age! Lots more fun for you yet, until you reach the time I’m talking about.
      Glad you enjoyed this though, and very best wishes from Norfolk. Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely post, Pete. I’m in your age group and I can underline everything you write. Blogging as a way of making your own life archive is interesting! 🙂
    I wish I could say as Dustin Hoffman: “I don’t like the fact that I have to get older so fast, but I like the fact that I’m aging so well.” Sigh.
    Warm greetings from still grey-cold-wet Bonn to you and Ollie, Pete.
    Have a nice evening!
    Dina x

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  8. Pete, great post and so, so very true.

    Take care & always remember and never forget…To check the top of your head, before hunting down those lost pair of glasses. I also always find it useful when I’m lingering in a different room, trying to figure out why I’m there ~ To tidy up in there and make the time useful…There’s always a plus, if you look for it. And, by all means hide every mirror in the house.. proclaiming it to be a new trend, and less dust to clean… wink…

    Take care and happy blogging to ya, from Laura ~

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      1. Pete, giggling over here, hey it’s that darn visitor again. Love it… Perhaps, I’ll bring out a mirror ~ Naw……

        Laura ….

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  9. I remember a fellow female doctor I met years back (Polish) who was a few years older than me. At the time I wasn’t forty yet (but not very far off. No I’m the big Haway 5-0) and she told me in no uncertain terms that everything goes down hill when you get to forty. And I’m reminded of her very often. I must say I run out of batteries (my own, I mean), quicker and like old rechargeable batteries, they don’t seem to last as long. I’ve decided to start learning German (OK, I didn’t go for something easy) and I haven’t abandoned yet but…
    Well, I guess the only option to growing older is much worse.
    A great post.

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    1. Thanks Olga. It is different for everyone of course, but we all end up sharing some of these foibles, of that I have no doubt. Ihr Kommentar ist sehr geschätzt, wie immer
      Very best wishes, Pete.

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  10. Hahaha… so much of what you say is so true! I’m getting shocking at remembering actors’ names, always asking the OH “who’s that? S/He was in that program we used to watch”. (not remembering the name of the program either). Fortunately Google comes to the rescue! And as for not growing older inside, it is true! I am still around 28 years old. I get a shock every time I catch a glance of myself in a mirror or shop window – who IS that old person who looks just a bit like my mother. And don’t even go there with mobility!

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    1. You’ve arrived Jude! What would we do without Google these days? We would spend our lives in a circle of frustrated memories, I’m sure.
      Being a gentleman however, I have to say that you don’t look a day over 28. At least that bit of you peeping around the camera! x

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a beautiful post! I’m 45 but I am already feeling quite a few of the things you said. Entering a room and wondering why you came in… priceless! I also check other people’s ages, just to see how I compare to them. When I watch TV, I check actors and consider whether they are looking OK for their age.

    I really loved how you presented things. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nice article! Age markers. I find them fascinating to those who notice them and to those who pay no attention. I find I’m thinking of myself as more old than young and I am frequently shocked when a film is 40 years old (Jaws) or something 20 years ago feels literally like yesterday. I find it strange that I sincerely believe I emailed or called someone a week ago and it was only yesterday morning. I find I can’t recall what I made for supper the night before or recall anything that happened two years ago. Let’s not talk about dates. 😉 My adult children look at me strangely and chastise me for “acting” like I’m old.

    I think that’s why I enjoy blogging an writing books. Gotta hurry and put to pen all the wisdom gleaned from a life of experience before I’m sitting on the side of the bed staring vacant out the window.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the reasons why I write so much has to do with ‘getting it all down’ before I forget too. As well as the need to keep the brain as active as the body. Happy you liked this one Cindy.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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