Recently, when writing about balance in “older people” in How Functional Fitness Can Help You Get Stuff Done, I wrote: “Older people have a higher tendency to lose balance, putting us at higher risk for injury by falling down.”
Oh my goodness! Am I old?
Putting myself in the “older people” category (by saying us instead of them) was a big leap for me. I don’t see myself as old, but other people do. Recently, I’ve gotten some condescending, “You don’t get it” looks. You know what I’m talking about. Those looks from people (kids) that seem to say, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Especially when it comes to technology.
I don’t care that they think of me as old. That’s fine with me. Kind of.
And I get it. We all tend to categorize people, things, and circumstances. We like to place things and people in nice, tidy compartments in our brain. So often, it’s more complicated than that. Even though gray hair and wrinkles are obvious signs of aging, we age in different ways: chronological, mental, biological, and physical.
How do you know you’re old?
I want to be strong and healthy well into my 70’s and 80’s, so I never thought that 54 would be considered “old”.
Sure, I’m old enough to join AARP, order from the senior menu, and enjoy many senior citizen discounts.
Does that make me old? I don’t think so.
But I’ve realized that being considered old has less to do with what I think and more to do with what other people think about me.
So to an 80-year old, 54 is probably pretty young. To a millennial, 54 is probably pretty old. To a young child, 54 is ancient, a number so large they can’t even process it.
This short video from AARP demonstrates this idea.
Millennials Show Us What ‘Old’ Looks Like
That’s not to say all young people think that way, but that explains those unmistakable non-verbal messages that say, “You’re old.”
Should we 50 and 60 somethings be angry?
What can we do about it? Is there really a way to be okay this?
Yes, there is.
Just as in most things, our attitude determines our outcome. What outcome do you desire? Do you want to feel young and vibrant and better than you did 20 years ago? That’s possible. Do you want to actually be 30 again? Yeah, that can’t happen.
But there are ways to be okay anyway. Here are:
3 Things you can do to be okay with getting older/being “old”.
- Recognize the perception. Even if you don’t accept the “old” label, it helps to realize that some people may have negative perceptions about you because of your age. While you can’t control what other people think, recognizing the perception can give you a better understanding of how best to manage those false perceptions.
- Embrace getting older. There’s no going back, so the best you can do is to keep learning and growing. In the video, the older people surprised the younger people by showing them that “old” can still be healthy, strong, able, and smart. It takes commitment. Just like the man in the video says: When you stop learning, you start getting old. Consider each day a blessing and make the most of it.
- Be hopeful about the future. In the book Life Reimagined, Barbara Bradley Hagerty examines the physical, emotional, mental, and social aspects of midlife. She found that making plans and being hopeful about the future increased feelings of happiness and well-being. Life isn’t over just because you’re getting older. Take the opportunity to do what you’ve always wanted to do. Some people call it a bucket list. Have fun with it. Stay active and engaged and expect good things to come.
Do your best to stay strong and healthy and change perceptions about being old, just like the over 50 people in the video did.
Recognizing the perception, embracing getting older, and being hopeful about the future will help you be okay with being considered old, even when you’re not really old.
And don’t worry about it. Age really is just a number.
I’d love to hear from you. What experiences have you had with people thinking you’re old? How did you handle it?