In a few months, I will be 65 years old. According to most people, survey companies, and the UK government, that is officially old. Old enough to receive my Old Age Pension, and to qualify for Senior Citizen discounts wherever they are offered. My Mum once told me that she felt just the same, despite being old. Inside, she was the same woman she had always been; with the same thoughts, hopes, desires, and unfulfilled dreams. One day, she assured me, I would understand exactly what she meant.
However, as I approach the age she was when she imparted that knowledge, I find myself disagreeing with her. For I am not the same. Far from it.
Life has made me cynical and unimpressed. Along the way I have discovered that dreams are just that, and that belief in the innate goodness of mankind to rise above circumstances is only for films and TV shows. Most of the things I believed in when I was young did not endure a life of work and experiences; some good, many not so. On the plus side, I have started to feel more comfortable in my ever-slackening skin, and content with my lot. I am less concerned about what others think of me, and therefore more forthright in my opinions. I have (almost) reached a pivotal age, one where life turns from whatever it was before, into those later years, when everything naturally slows down.
So, as I often do, I have some advice for you.
Don’t get a tortoise as a pet.
Before too long, you will begin to recognise too many similarities between you and the reptile. The saggy neck, extending chin, a clumsier and much slower gait, and a propensity to withdraw inside a shell of your own making.
Be aware of your limitations.
That younger you inside (if it is still there) might be telling you that you can still do all the things you did ten years ago. Climb up there, lift that up, cut that, dig this, or shift those. As you do so, you might notice that they were not quite as easily done as you remembered. Two days later, and you will find it difficult to even get out of bed.
Beware of bumps, cuts, and jumps.
Things no longer seem to heal. The slightest cut on head or hand will take forever to close. A small bump against a fence or a wall will hurt much more than you ever imagined it could, and present you with a technicolour bruise, out of all proportion to the injury sustained. For the same reasons, avoid jumping off of or over anything too. You will find that your body’s natural shock absorption is all but gone.
Read things twice.
Your eyesight will no longer be what you imagine it is. Reading an important document, government letter, or even a blog post, you will unconsciously presume some of the words and phrases, even though you are unaware of doing so. This can lead to some unfortunate misunderstandings. So read them twice, and preferably in a good light too.
Allow more time.
You don’t drive as fast as you used to, and traffic seems to be worse than it was. You cannot walk as fast either, so don’t presume you will catch that bus, or make the train connection in ten minutes. Think of how much time you would have allowed ten years ago, then double it.
Avoid mirrors where possible.
Looking at yourself in a mirror is a sure path to depression. Even catching sight of yourself unexpectedly, perhaps in a shop window, or passing a mirror, can lead to that worrying “Is that me?” moment. Get dressed before looking at your body in a mirror, and if you are a man, shave quickly, then get out of the bathroom. Undue contemplation of your physical and facial decline will not help at all.
There are so many more, I could write all afternoon. But I will leave it at those five tips for now.
If you abide by them, you might just live happily for another ten years, until you are 75.
Then you will really be old.