Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Best Kept Secret: Getting Old is Okay

                        Best Kept Secret:  Getting Old is Okay

When I was in my twenties fresh out of college, for a few months I lived with my parents who’d left suburban Long Island when their last child, my youngest brother, went off to college. 

I think it’s the first time I was conscious of their age.  I was temporarily back home and meeting new people.  I saw them through my friends’ eyes along with my own and I saw them as old.  They were fifty.

I do remember how excited they were by all the things they could do, the opportunities that were now open to them living in the city.  My father was still working, but after work he loved trying the restaurants that until now he’d only been able to read about.  My mother, who hadn’t worked since I was born, immediately got a membership at the Metropolitan Museum, started volunteering at the local Red Cross and signed up for courses at the New York Botanical Garden.  She especially took to the city like a duck to water.  It was as if she had a new lease on life and I remember being proud of her, but I was also amused because she was “old.”

Now I’m older than they were then, but I don’t feel “old.” If I’m old, and by most definitions, I am, I’ve discovered that it’s not a bad place to be.  From the time I was a child until I went away to college, I didn’t feel like I had control of anything, let alone my future. It wasn’t much better after that.

For as long as I can remember there were people to worry about, standards to measure up to, and of course, the competitions.  I never figured out the rules to those competitions until it was too late, so I wasn’t very good at them, but I worried anyway.

For some reason, those competitions don’t matter so much anymore.  Maybe I’ve been around so long that I can see a lot of them are silly and have finally figured out that comparisons don’t usually make any sense.  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I’m finally at the age where I don’t worry so much about what other people think and I don’t spend a lot of time comparing myself to others. 

There will always be people that are better looking, have more and by certain standards, are more successful.  But I’ve pretty much stopped judging myself by others.  I know I’m very lucky and have the life that I want to lead.

Of course bad luck or tragedy could be around the corner.  Most of us have experienced that first hand: a loved one who dies without warning, a serious illness that changes everything, or a personal disappointment.  No one is immune.  But even so, being older is the most comfortable I’ve ever been in my own skin.  Looking back I think that’s exactly where my parents were when they moved into the city.  My mother, particularly, was the happiest I ever saw her, but both my parents were excited and alive—even though they were “old.”  I think the same could be said about my husband and me and that makes us very lucky.


  1. Deborah, I love your blog and can relate. Maybe that's because I'm "old" as well. Like you, I don't feel old. I'm excited to be able to have the time and the health to do what I want. It shouldn't be a secret. Shout it out: Aging can be fun!

  2. Thanks! I was hoping people could relate. And I see you're up early too.

  3. Love this, Deborah. I think this is true for so many of us. It's only when we let go and don't try too hard that we really begin to know to know who we are. Wonderful post.

  4. I was thinking recently that the fifties are the second adolescence--coming to grips with the physical changes, including hormonal, that force us to reconcile with our approaching senior status, not to mention our mortality. The physical changes in our fifties were (for me at least) as difficult to deal with as they were in my teens (what am I becoming?!) in large part because there is little to take its place. (Wisdom in our current culture is grossly undervalued.) But there comes a time when we're face to face with ourselves, and superficial aspects fall away of their own weight. So rare to hear from someone who's happy and comfortable at this stage of life. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post!

    1. Interesting that you say your fifties. I think I was in denial back then about aging or maybe maybe I've just forgotten. But I think more older people are happy than you'd think--except of course those who aren't happy and are determined to make the rest of us miserable too!

  5. I can so relate, being of that age or maybe even more. But, I don't "feel" old either, and there is something freeing about it. I no longer have children living at home but I help out as much as I can with my grandchildren. And things that seemed so important to me when I was younger-- career advancement, appearance, having certain things -- no longer seem to matter as much. And I think I'm happier in general than I've ever been before.

  6. I think women, especially, get a new lease on life when we hit menopause. It's as if we are suddenly free to be whatever we want without so many societal strictures.

  7. Interesting! So you think it's when we hit menopause. I'm not sure if that's true for everyone, but I do agree that there comes a time when we are free to be who we want. I don't think men are as lucky.

  8. Hi Deborah--
    I love this post. How lucky you are to have witnessed your parents at that time in their lives. You're right, getting old comes with many joys and freedoms.