Time to Admit We’re Old— or Not

Time to Admit We’re Old— or Not – by Emily Akin, Union City, Tennessee

At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.”                 Ann Landers, advice columnist, (1918-2002)

How old are you? I know. It’s bad manners to ask that question. What if I go first? I waseniors-1166741_1920s born in 1946, the first wave of the post-WWII Baby Boom. A child of the greatest generation, I grew up in the 1950s and went to college in the 1960s (without becoming a hippie). My children are middle-aged. I have grandchildren almost as tall as I am. Still, my brain thinks I’m 21. But the rest of my body reminds me it’s just not true. I just turned 70 in January. So is it time to admit I’m old?

“I’m not old. I’m a recycled teenager,” my friend Myrtle Harton often said. She will be 100 on April 13, 2016. Another one I’ve heard is: “I can’t be over the hill because I haven’t reached the top yet.” To statements like this, I reply with another well-worn quote: “Denial is not just a river in Egypt.”

Women, in particular, don’t want people to know how old they are—ever. I know of at least one person who would not allow her family to put her birth date on her tombstone. Death date is displayed prominently, but only those in immediate family will ever find out how old she was. There comes a time, though, when we should admit we’re past our prime. Never mind that our contemporaries are saying, “Sixty-five is the new forty-five.” Is it time to embrace the label “senior citizen?”

You’re a senior citizen when government and businesses say you are.

  • Anyone on Medicare and drawing Social Security is a senior, like it or not. Those born between 1943 and 1954 may collect Social Security at age 62 with reduced benefit or at 66 for full benefit.portrait-1166986_1920
  • For membership and benefits in “senior” organizations, you must be fifty-something (or more). AARP considers you “retired” at age 55, the age at which you can become a member. It varies, depending on the organization. You must carry a card admitting you’re old to get the benefits.
  • Businesses establish the qualifying age for senior discounts on goods and services. If you don’t want to disclose your age, you just forego the discount. You are entitled to decide between getting the discount and telling the world you’re eligible for it.

You’re old when you seem old to strangers.

  • A friend drove in to the fast food place and ordered her meal over the speaker. The voice came back saying, “Would you like the senior discount?” She hesitated before saying, “Yes.” Wondering why the server thought she qualified for senior discount, she said, “Gosh, I know I have gray hair that makes me look old, but I must really sound old, too.” (The server could see her gray hairs on the drive-through camera).
  • Has anyone treated you like you’re too old to take care of yourself? For example, someone recently told me, “Don’t you think you should have someone go with you to Jackson tonight?” True, it was dark, and I was following the ambulance. But, I’ve driven that far after dark many times before. I was mildly insulted, but I appreciated his concern.
  • When they call you Ma’am or Sir, are they suggesting you’re old or just using their Southern manners? Children of the South are taught to say “yes ma’am” or “yes sir” to anyone older than themselves. So, whether you feel insulted being addressed as “sir” or “ma’am” depends on the age of the person you’re talking to.

You’re old when it takes too much effort to deny it.

  • You accept the Medicare card because there’s no affordable alternative—unless you want to do without health insurance. (Oh, yeah, I forgot you get penalized for that now).
  • You take the senior discount because you no longer care what others think. I read a great article online entitled, “Stop Wasting Money Because You Won’t Admit You’re Old.” The author convinced me.
  • The hair color and makeup don’t fool anybody anymore, so you can give up on the regular makeovers (another way to stop wasting money).

Are you ready to join me in admitting you’re over the hill and maybe picking up speed? I’ll ask again. How old are you? Answer that question any way you like. You can continue in denial by saying, “I’m not old; I’m just ripe.” Or, you can shock us and tell the truth. Alternatively, you might say, “I’m old enough to know better than to answer that question.