The Age Old Question


In the movie Steel Magnolias, Dolly Parton’s character wisely said, “Honey, time marches on, and eventually it marches across your face.” While there’s no escaping the inevitable wrinkle here and there, do we actually wake up the dawn of our birthday and say wow I feel a year older? Not really. In fact, most of us would say we feel ten years younger than what our birth certificates claim, and apply some hair dye to those grays when no one is looking. Age is relative, a number, a label that tarnishes the fountain of youth. Does anyone really want to admit to things not “working” as well as they used to? Certainly not! That’s what Rogaine and Botox were made for, right?

Reaching “old age” theoretically, depends on which century one is living in. People living in biblical times lived to be several hundreds of years old, and were still having babies in their 80’s and 90’s! On the other end of the spectrum, if you lived in the Middle Ages, you won a lifetime achievement award for making it to 60, provided you survived childbirth and the plague. Look at life during the 1800’s where women were past their prime if they weren’t married by 18? This day in age you have people in their 60’s and 70’s running for office, participating in marathons, and finding love.

A study performed by Pew Research Center surveyed 3,000 adults and found the threshold between middle, and old age to be 68. Now, if you approached someone of this age with a similar question, you’d probably be scoffed at, and with good reason! The age of retirement has gone well beyond 65, with baby boomers surpassing their 30 something counterparts in terms of experience, and healthy lifestyle. Many employers are preferring seasoned veterans in the workplace over a fresh face straight out of college. Also, it’s not at all surprising to walk into a health club, to find the majority of those pumping iron, and racking up mileage on the treadmill are older adults.

According to an article published by the Daily Mail, a poll of 2000 Britons over 40 found the vast majority decided old age was 80. A major difference than the numbers found in the Pew Research Center study. So when does old age begin? No real answer exists, other than it is what you make it be. Society has stepped in to try and define it by introducing the 55+ (senior discount) or becoming eligible to move into a retirement community. Some will define it as when they become grandparents or decide to stop working. I knew a lady in her forties who decided she was already over the hill. Really? Queen Elizabeth is still running a country at 89!

Survey Says:

  • How old is considered middle age?
  • How long after 65 will you still be working?
  • When does old age start?
  • 55-60
  • 60-70
  • 70-80
  • 80+
  • Do you feel at least 10 years younger than you are?
  • Are you more ambitious now than before?
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