How old is old? As my birthdays seem to come around more frequently, I have to started to wonder how “old” is defined.
I try not to think too much about the topic, but a recent news item headline got my attention. There was an unfortunate auto accident near Denver, and they said the fatality was an “elderly” driver. The poor chap was 65. Give me a break!
I decided to dust off my dictionary to see what Mr. Webster had to say on the subject. (If you are young and reading this, this is what we used before Google and dictionary.com) Elderly is defined as somewhat old, near old age or pertaining to a person in their later years. The word old on the other hand means far advanced in years. The dictionary also said old means no longer in general use. The example for this was an inanimate item, thankfully.
Old is a relative term I guess. I have known some 60-year-olds who are very old and others well into their 80s who are not. My father in Iowa, who was born in 1924, doesn’t seem old. Oh, he has slowed down some, but he still volunteers at the hospital one day a week, and whenever I call him, he always seems to be at the hardware store getting something for a new project.
My wife has an aunt and uncle living in Pueblo who will never be old. They are in their 80s and still live in their own home. She mows the lawn and walks to the local library frequently. He likes to email family members and download pictures he has taken. They both can converse on local and national issues as well as anyone I know. The aunt does protest when we describe her as spry. She thinks this term is for old people, not her, but really, it means energetic, agile or active.
Many younger people work at the company where my wife is a temporary employee. You know the ones that can text message faster than I can type. One said she needed to take a few days off to go see her mother in a neighboring state. She was concerned about how many years she would have to enjoy with her mother. My wife later found out the woman in question was 60. Yikes.
I know there is no finite definition of “senior” citizen. AARP says you are a senior at 50. AARP stands for the Association of Retired Persons. Who the heck retires at 50? These days people work well into their 70s and beyond. If my investment situation doesn’t pick up soon, I may have to become the first 90-year-old greeter at Wal-Mart. My AARP card will be 40 years old then.
Restaurants and other stores offer senior discounts. It is very wearing to try to figure out if they mean 55, 60, 62, or 65. For some reason, maybe political correctness, they employees are reluctant to offer their discounts or ask if you are eligible for one. I always ask, figuring I have earned anything they have to offer in the way of a reduced price. I once saw a baseball cap in a mail-order catalog that said, “I’m a senior. Give me my darn discount!” Maybe I should buy one.
When I was young, I thought everyone was old. Some of my high school teachers, who I considered ancient, may have barely seen their 30th birthday. When I graduated from high school, my dad was about 40. Go figure.
I have come to realize that old age is a moving target. I can live with that – for a long time.