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When is someone else “old”?

posted by xscot mcknight

Sometimes I find myself saying someone is “old.” The other day I told Kris that someone who is “old” to me is someone who is 10 years older than me — which means “old” keeps changing. The nice thing about this calculus is that I’m never going to be old. Nice thought, don’t you think? It means today that someone has to be at least 63 for me to consider them old. How do you determine who is “old”?
Now being 10 years older than me doesn’t mean you have to be considered old. For instance, our friends in Florida, Jim and Bonnie Panther, aren’t old. I think they are about 10 years older, but they are way too young and like us to be considered old.
Which means, there are only three real ages for me:
1. There are the “old” — 10+ years older and act like it;
2. There are folks “our age” — and that means anyone who is like us in all sorts of ways;
3. And there are those who are “young.” They are age-wise younger and aren’t like Kris and me in all sorts of ways.
(College kids and younger are not yet “young”; they are still kids. They get in our sights when they start working. My two children and their spouses are now “young.”)
My colleagues Brad and Barb Nassif and Boaz and Sarita Johnson are “our age” but I think Joel and Karla Willitts and Genevive and Peter Dibley are “young”. If you still stay out late on Friday night or Saturday night, you’re “young.” If you are regularly home on Friday night by 8pm or so, you are “our age.” If you eat dinner at 4pm so you can go to the matinee, well, I suspect you are “old.”



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Kate Johnson

posted January 31, 2007 at 2:41 am


When my middle son was young, about 5 or 6, he drew a picture of a really old person… it was a guy with a long beard, hunched over as he walked, and using a cane. I asked my son about the picture and he answered “It’s a really old guy… he’s about 30.” Yikes! Today, 30 is far from old!! Especially since I am more than 20 years PAST 30… ahhh, but it is all in perspective! I feel much younger, then my body reminds me I am not :(



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Paul

posted January 31, 2007 at 3:17 am


i’ve always said when i retire then i’ll be old – but can you retire as a christian, lol :)



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Ted Gossard

posted January 31, 2007 at 5:10 am


Scot, Thanks for giving me a handle on who is old and who is not! :)
Recently Herb Vader Lugt passed away. http://www.rbc.org/content/ourDailyBread/51101.aspx He was in his 80′s. When I saw him at the hospital he would talk at least the first five minutes about the stuff from N.T. Wright he was (re)reading. All three big volumes. Now that guy never got old, in a way. But his body did, so I guess you have to say we do get old as our bodies after time quit functioning normally.
Yeah. I’m amazed at how young these college students keep getting. And even these young married couples.



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John Frye

posted January 31, 2007 at 7:30 am


Does anyone feel the glaring disjunction between your chronological age (body) and your psychological age (your mind and spirit)? I am “old” and I am “young.” Julie would say I am old and I am a “kid,” according to Scot’s reckoning.



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Tom Hackelman

posted January 31, 2007 at 7:44 am


I find myself referring to someone as “this kid” when they’re in their mid- to late 20′s. And then I remember that I’m not THAT FAR ahead of them.



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Ken White

posted January 31, 2007 at 8:41 am


When I speak to college students at the University here I usually mention that I started at Michigan in 1978. That draws a laugh. I realized last year that if somebody had said something akin to this when I was a student they would have said “I started school here in 1950″. Then I felt old.



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Pastor Astor

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:15 am


You know that you are grown up when being requested to show your driving license to be allowed to purchase alcohol makes you thankful rather than irritated.
You know you have gone into middle age when you have been out to a movie and dinner, and on the way home you think that the young people look so happy and healthy – and you realize that, while you are going home, they are heading out.
I wouldn’t know about being old, but a former pastor of mine stated that “you know that you are old when the attractional power of the earth is greater than that of women.”



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RJS

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:38 am


When is someone else old? That’s an easy one – when they are not willing to try new things or consider new ideas. Old is all in the mind.



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Tom Gilson

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:41 am


My kids tell their grandparents, “You’re not old until you’re 15 years older than you are.”
(Don’t try too hard to figure out how that works.)



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T

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:45 am


Well, one way you could still find yourself ‘old’ using your criteria is when you can’t find anyone else alive to fill the category–if no one is ‘older’ than you, you must be old!



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John Frye

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:53 am


You know you’re “old” when you reach down to pull up your socks and realize you’re not wearing any.



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Michael Kruse

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:54 am


I am in my late forties and I have met some very old twenty-somethings. I also knew a guy who died in 2004 at 92 who never aged. Because of special work God has done in my life over the past few years I have actually been getting younger. :)
If the issue is chronology, then people who can remember the JFK assassination are old. If you can’t remember Nixon leaving office, then you are young. (Strange how the number of old people keeps declining and there are so many more young people.) :)



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Andie

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:58 am


You must be at least 20 years older than me to be old, and I’m 56. I find young folks are now those below 40, my daughter & son are 37 & 31, and I find myself calling those in their twenties kids.
Lordy, doesn’t this all change as we get on in years. :)



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My $.02

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:00 am


Scot, you are right, it’s a moving target! And my parents are NO help. They keep getting younger and more active the older they get.
Just the other day we found out that we were old because we knew that the Indianapolis Colts weren’t originally from Indianapolis, but from Baltimore. The YOUNG ones didn’t know that. And didn’t know that is why some people are still Bears fans from that region.
Oh, this wasn’t a GO BEARS post, was it?



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Pastor Astor

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:01 am


The socks can also be used to determine when you are middle aged: When you reach down to pull up your socks and think to yourself – Is there anything else I can fix while I’m already down here.



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Bob

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:08 am


I think John’s comment here is the most interesting when thinking of what is “old”. We all know our chronological age, but when you envision yourself, how old are you?
I’m 39 (soon to be 40) but in my mind I still think I’m about 28 (what I can do, how much of life is before me, what part of society I belong in, etc.). It’s only when I am surrounded by 28 year olds that my delusion comes to light. I had a friend who is 68 but still perceived himself at 25. He proved it when he fell out of a tree from which he was trimming fallen branches with a chainsaw.



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jawbone

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:19 am


“If you didn’t know how old you were, how old would you be?”
Satchel Paige :)



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John E.

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:20 am


“Oh, to be 87 again.”
- Sen. Mike Mansfield



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My 2 cents

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:23 am


Well, true the socks could also betray age…dark socks with shorts and tennis shoes seem to indicate a “certain age.”



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Ted

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:29 am


“Age is just a number.” – several early morning news magazine hosts/hostesses
Chronology is a reality, but attitude and relevance are most important to me in determining what “old” means.



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Pastor Astor

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:46 am


Can I suggest that trying to deconstruct, make age a question of attitude or of filosophical uncertainty to be in itself a sign of old age? ;)



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Rick Meigs

posted January 31, 2007 at 11:41 am


MetLife did a survey in 2005 asking the question, “How old is old?” Some results:
“As might be expected, as age increases so too does the choice of an age as being ‘old.’ Thirty percent of those under 30 say 61 to 70 is old, while more than two in three 50 to 64 year olds say over 71 is old. Almost six in ten over age 65 say over 71 is old. No one 65 and older thinks 41 to 50 is old.
“A plurality (32%) of all respondents say an age between 71 and 80 is ‘old.’ About half as many say either an age between 61 and 70 (19%) or an age between 81 and 90 (18%) is old. Less than one in ten say an age between 41 and 60 is old.”
I remember asking my mom this question when I was young. She told me that anyone 15 years older than me was old.



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Michael Kruse

posted January 31, 2007 at 12:33 pm


Cool stuff Rick. Thanks. I am feeling younger by the minute.



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BeckyR

posted January 31, 2007 at 1:51 pm


When I was on the cusp of turning 50 I was concerned if I had the maturity part together enough yet to fit in the category. I read all these books to get an idea of what it means to be in the 50′s category. I did have some growing up to do, some letting go of blaming, some accepting responsibility of my life being the way it is. One thing I reread was Passages my Gail Sheehy and she puts middle age starting at 35, I think she put it, because she says we begin to realize our mortality. 40 did it for me when I realized it was harder to put some things off since there is only so much I can do in a day or month or year. A real sense of urgency and fear.
I spent a bit over the last year dealing with one health crisis after another, the first being cancer. I tell you, cancer grew me up faster than reading those books about what it’s like to be in one’s 50′s. And it was a major jarring knock-the-socks-off confrontation with mortality. I did not like it.
Old? When we have moments we realize death is coming toward us. A friend the other day said life seems to go by so fast. I said – that’s because you realize death is coming and there’s nothing you can do about it. We want to slow it down so to have more time to do all the pleasurable things there are to do.
Oh, but bummer, I kinda made this post serious.



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John Frye

posted January 31, 2007 at 2:11 pm


When my daughter was at Michigan State University, we went to an MSU football game. As we were going in, a band in full dress marched by us. I asked, “What highschool band is that?” It was the MSU *college* age band! I was shocked.
I went to see a new doctor. This young kid came in. I was tempted to ask, “Where’s your mother?”



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Kansas Bob

posted January 31, 2007 at 2:12 pm


Here are the rules:
Young: 0-29
Not Young: 30-39
Middle: 40-49
Not Old: 50-59
Old: 60-69
Ancient: 70+
Feeling is relative; Age empirical :)



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BeckyR

posted January 31, 2007 at 2:30 pm


When I was going to turn 50 I was concerned I was mature enough to fit in that category. I read all these books about what it means to be in the 50′s, I did some personal work to let go of some baggage, take responsibility for my life being the way I want it, stop blaming.
One of the books I reread was Passages by Gail Sheehy. In it she says middle age starts at 35 and she charactherizes middle age as the time when we realize time is running out, we will die, and how we deal with that reality, however consciously or unconsciously. Well, 40 did that for me, less time to put things on the back burner cuz there’s only so much I can do in one day, one week, one year. Some anxiety in inability to do it all NOW. And 50′s put the reality closer to my face.
Then I got cancer, and I tell you, there’s nothing like cancer to grow you up faster than book reading did. Talk about being hit in the face with mortality. Quite unpleasantly. So, yeh, now I fit in the 50′s. Now the challenge is to squeeze every bit of life out of every day, not because the grave is coming, but because life is sweet. My next piece of work is to let go of the victim sense cancer put on me. Then it doesn’t have me.



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BeckyR

posted January 31, 2007 at 2:34 pm


My 24 yr old daughter will be telling me something and say “and we saw some old people.” I’ll say “how old?” She’ll say “oh, about you and Dad’s age.” groan. I don’t feel old. Then the other day someone called me old and I told him he blew it, that I prefer being called “mature.” He said “no, you’re old.” The first time I remember feeling old is when the guy who took the groceries to my car, called me “maam.” groan.



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Julie Clawson

posted January 31, 2007 at 4:02 pm


Feeling really weird having just been stuck in the 0-29 “Young” group by #24… come on, me and my 2 year old daughter can’t be in the same age group!
But honestly, I’ve found that it’s having a kid that separates you. When people refer to the twentysomethings in my presence and I ask if I’m included (given that technically I am in my 20′s), I generally hear, “but you have a kid, you’re old.”
But old to me is anyone who is my grandparent’s age or acts like they are. Which of course is a relative thing. So right now if you are over 70, you’re old to me.



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BeckyR

posted January 31, 2007 at 8:54 pm


I first felt old when the bag boy taking groceries to my car, called me “maam.” For some it’s something you say to women for manners. But that wasn’t so in this case. I think I was 35 or so when that happened.
Now, my 24 yr old daughter will be telling me something about what happened and will say “there were some old people,” and I ask “how old?” She says “about you and Dad’s age.” sigh. I don’t feel old.
Then last week a young man called me old and I told him he just blew it because I prefer the term “mature.” He said “no, you’re old.” sigh.
When joints creak, I feel old physically, but I don’t feel old mentally. I would love to have back the joints I had in my 30′s.



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Brian

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:43 pm


The idea that being old is a matter of the mind can work the other way too. A friend of mine from a small Dutch village likes to say, “You don’t have to be old to be an old Dutchman.”



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dianne

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:29 pm


I’ve noticed that *old* is older than I am. In the same vein, if someone lives in *a big house*, than it’s a house that’s larger than mine. At the end of the day, my reference point is (surprise, drum roll….) ME!



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2007 at 11:10 pm


BeckyR,
You got spammed by my SpamKarma2 because you commented so often; I think it grabs your IP address if you comment more than 10 times in a limited period.



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Suz Speer

posted February 1, 2007 at 12:50 am


My grandmother always used to make the distinction between “old” and “Old, old.” She was in her eighties at the time–and she knew that she was old, but she felt young at heart. Later in life, when she really started to feel old, she would call it “Old, old.” She died soon after that.



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Dave Dunbar

posted February 1, 2007 at 9:04 am


Scot, it is encouraging to know that in your eyes I will never be old.



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Orangemiles

posted February 1, 2007 at 9:16 am


I hopped over here from Susan Speer’s blog and wonder how connected we are– are the Panthers you speak of from Libertyville? And I taught Boaz and Sarita’s kids at Christian Heritage for a while before we moved down south to Florida. The world is small.
And I turned 30 this year and therefore am not young. But that’s ok with me.



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Michael Kruse

posted February 1, 2007 at 9:58 am


#32 Dianne
“At the end of the day, my reference point is (surprise, drum roll….) ME!”
I think we have hit upon a question of hermeneutics here! And it is a hermeneutic with which I strongly identify. ;)



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Mike Clawson

posted February 2, 2007 at 3:14 am


I don’t really like classifying people by age. Some of the people I relate to the best are 20+ years older than me, and some are 10 or more years younger. It bothers me when people start to get so self-conscious about their age, as if they’re not allowed to be friends with anyone too far from their own age. I just want to hang out with people I like. I don’t care how old they are. I just don’t think in terms of age. Most of the time it doesn’t even register.



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lauren

posted February 3, 2007 at 12:18 am


based on the Friday night classification, i am both young AND old :-D in college, you do what you gota do to keep things cheap!
i have always told my parents that no one is old until they are 90. but then my great grandmother turned 90. she was still alive and kickin! her physical body was quite old, but her spirits were still very young. to me, age is just a number.



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Tom Huff

posted February 7, 2007 at 4:28 pm


At 59 am I old? Had prostate cancer last year and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the openings for nerves in the lower back). Does my age and recent medical condition make me old?
I teach high school (networking and hitech content) and my kids always want to know how old I am. I tell them “older than dirt”.
Just took eight months off from working ou, all I did was walk. Back in the gym. The surgeon and the back specialist limited my some workout (no leg press and limited squats to 450 pounds). I don’t think that’s old!
The people that I work out with are around my age and use the same sort of weights, are they old.
We dance, do a lot of charity work, travel and generally have a good time. Much more than a few years ago.
Being around teenagers I find that the people I know voer fifty seem to be in better condition and do more the the kids ever thought about.
My mother is 82 has nerve damage in her legs and trouble walking. She has a store dealing in turquoise jewlry and still goes to work. Is she old.
What is old? Is it age or is it a state of mind–or a state of mind and body?
Tom



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