How old is really old in today's world?

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By Stephen Thomas

    Lately I’ve been wondering just how old I really am.

    Maybe it’s because I almost broke a toe and have been moving around like an old man. Maybe it’s because I see old friends and to me they look really old.

    The general term of discussion here is determining what old is.

    There are many folks in the community that fall under the elderly category, but some that seem younger than I am.

    At the other end, there are younger people in society that seem to imbibe wisdom and intelligence that would make them older than me… or so they think.

    What do people consider as old characteristics? Is it based on age or longevity? Or is there another theory behind the conception - or misconception - of old age?

    Occasionally the topic comes up that old people feel unimportant, discarded, unnecessary. But why do they feel this way? Maybe it’s because society tells them they are unimportant, discarded, unnecessary.

    I suppose my grandmother is old, but how old is she really? She has a pretty sharp memory when it comes to days past, telling me stories about family members and people she knew. It’s always very fascinating to hear.

    Recently Grandma has experienced a few physical setbacks, but nonagenarians are not supposed to be running marathons, either.

    With the physical setbacks come doctor visits and medical prescriptions. It also brings loved ones who want to take care of Grandma and do what they believe is best for her.


    What’s best for Grandma? Who determines this? Her family? Her doctor? Her cynical grandson?

    How about Grandma? Wouldn’t Grandma know what’s best for Grandma?

    So the arguments begin: How many pills should Grandma take? How much should Grandma sleep? What should her diet consist of?

    This all basically leads to everyone in Grandma’s life telling her to sit and relax. But that’s not how Grandma reached 90 years.

    Grandma was always a strong, independent woman. She’s a busybody, always wanting to do things, for herself and others. She raised four kids and a number of grandchildren. She’s a matriarch.

    And here’s me and a bunch of loony family members and friends telling her to just sit there, thinking she’ll enjoy life that way and be around for years to come.

    Is this selfish? Are we telling Grandma what to do based on our own personal happiness and convenience?

    Granted some of Grandma’s sitting is for her own good. At her age she wants to do more than she is physically able to do.

    The medication is a necessity as well. But how much? That’s a big family debate. When the doctors prescribe a certain amount, do we follow orders to the maximum or just give Grandma the minimum that she needs?

    Some pills make Grandma woozy, disoriented, sleepy. But for her better health we’re giving them anyway. Why?

    I never had a woozy, disoriented, sleepy grandmother before. I’m not old compared to Grandma, but I’m old enough to know that’s not the Grandma I always knew.

    In between my old and my Grandma’s old there is now my Dad’s old.

    My father is also a workaholic busybody that can’t sit still for more than 10 seconds without worrying that he’s not doing something.

    My Dad loves to be active. He worked long hard hours for many years to help raise five children. Plus he had a full-time work job for 36 years.

    Now Dad is retired and ready to enjoy his retirement. How does Dad enjoy himself? By keeping busy.

    But not in my family.

    The children that my father raised have decided, by majority (along with Mom), that Dad should not remain so busy. I think the belief here is that he’s done so much in his life for others that it’s his turn to sit and relax while we take care of him. Plus we don’t want him to get hurt.

    But that’s not really what Dad wants. Like Grandma, Dad will want to take care of his family past age 90.

    I often wonder, when we constantly tell Grandma or Dad to sit down and relax, although we mean it in the absolute best way, if what Grandma and Dad really hear is, “You’re old, decrepit, defunct, no good, past expiration, of no use to the real world.”

    Maybe I’m guilty of doing this but I’ve never meant to. I would like to believe my family would agree. But why do we tell these people, people we respect more than anyone else, that we want them to just sit there and be old?

    We do fear that Dad will hurt himself doing too much physical housework, for example. We try to help, although that’s difficult because Dad doesn’t necessarily want to make us help him. It’s hard to out-nice a nice person.

    Maybe Dad likes being active. Maybe the solution is remaining active if the over-doing part can somehow be harnessed.

    Maybe Grandma can do some things she wants to do as well, which I believe she wants to do. I always felt Grandma was scared to just sit there because that would then make her actual old.

    So who knows what’s best for Grandma and Dad? Themselves? My Mom? Society? Who’s to say?

    Whoever is to say, I would hope Grandma and Dad have at least something to add in the decision. I know when I’m old I’d like that, too, instead of some young punks telling me what’s best for me.

    Of course, I have eight nieces and nephews now who show me how to use my computer and cell phone and tell me the music I listen to isn’t good because it’s not in the Top Ten. Maybe I’m old now and I should trust them to tell me what’s best for me in my old age.