What does it feel like to be really old?

What does it feel like to be really old?

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We cannot even begin to grasp what elders have to cope with when age takes its toll on the body; to have declining dexterity, vision and mobility problems, to be unable to open a drawer or button a blouse...
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It’s impossible to really understand what it feels like to be old until it happens to you.

We cannot even begin to grasp what elders have to cope with when age takes its toll on the body; to have declining dexterity, vision and mobility problems, to be unable to open a drawer or button a blouse. As well as physical problems there can also be severe cognitive deficit coupled with the sobering fact that there is no way to turn time back.

Activity Professionals that work with elders on a daily basis could write books about the brave, tenacious seniors who face their challenges in a stoic and dignified way. They have physical and mental barriers to cope with every day for the rest of their lives.

Amid the aches and pains that come with growing old there are surprising consolations and many reasons to be cheerful. Elders living in assisted and other care facilities can have fulfilling lives encouraged and supported by the love and care of staff. It is never too late to acquire the zest of life; pain can be managed and the blues kept at bay.

From the point of view of an 85 year old man

Back to the original question however: How does it feel to be really old? Here is one answer from Stan Hayward. Stan is an 85 year old Englishman, born in Southward, London. He is a Film/TV/Book writer and a happy senior:

“I am really old, and I know death is imminent. I am the same age as Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood. I am shorter than either and heavier than both. I am not sure if that makes up for it.

Most of my friends have passed away, and of those remaining, they suffer from health problems in some way. I am myself totally deaf and partially blind. I live by myself.

I am writing this at 6am in the morning.
Today, if the weather is fine:
I will go for a walk
I will chat with friends
I will do my shopping
I will do my laundry
I will feed the cat
I will tidy up what needs to be done
I will put out the garbage

I will do what most people do who are not really old and know that death is imminent. Because there is no feeling of being old.

There is a feeling that you can't do what you used to do.

There is a feeling that you might lose your independence, or if you already have, a feeling that you should try and do as much as you can by yourself.

There is a feeling that you should spend as much time as possible with those you like to be with.

There is a feeling that time is precious. Of course it always was, but one becomes more aware of it.

There is a feeling that many things one does will be done for the last time.

There are passing thoughts about those who respect you because you are old and about those that dismiss you because you are old.

There is the aspect that life is changing fast with all the new advances that inundate us daily.

There is the aspect of life that nothing changes.

Mothers still smile at their babies.
Children are still enthralled with their first pet.
Learning to ride a bike is still as much fun as starting a company.
Blowing out your birthday candles is still as satisfying at eighty as it was at eight.

It is not that death is imminent that is important, but that when the curtain comes down, the audience leaves with a sense of satisfaction.

As someone once said:
The World is a stage
You played your part for what it was worth
You take your bow and leave”

Books to read about growing old:

  • ’Nothing to be Frightened About’ by Julian Barnes
  • ‘The Virginia Monologue: Twenty Reasons why Growing Old is Great’ by Virginia Ironside
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck’ and ‘I Remember Nothing’ by Nora Ephron.
  • ‘You’re Looking Very Well: The surprising nature of Getting Old’ by Professor Lewis Wolpert. (If you are against Euthanasia, skip this book)


Philippa 21st Jan 2015
What could be more telling than the Preacher's picture of old age - the "days of trouble" - in Ecclesiastes 12:

Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.

Some things don't change!
Darla 21st Jan 2015
Here is another resource shared with me:

The Stone Angel Speaks: Listening to Older Women’s Voices
Sage-ing with Creative Spirit, Grace & Gratitude || A Journal of the Arts & Aging
Persimmon Tree

RESOURCES on the Spirit of Nature


Berry, Thomas. Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community (edited by M. E. Tucker). Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2006.
Berry, Wendell. A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997. Berkeley CA: Counterpoint Press, 1999.
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. New York: Mariner Books, 2002 (orig. 1962).
Lane, Beldan. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. Oxford UK: Oxford University, 2007.
Merton, Thomas. When the Trees Say Nothing (edited by K. Deignan). Notre Dame IN: Ave Maria Press, 2003.
Strand, Clark. Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey. Winnipeg MB: Hyperion, 1998.
Suzuki, David. Sacred Balance. Vancouver BC: Greystone Books, 2007.

National Senior Conservation Corps
Age-Friendly Communities (UN guidelines for easy access to nature for all)

Special Thanks to a friend who researches information for me
Jen 21st Jan 2015
What an interesting activity that could be... to get all your 'Oldies' to write (or have written for them) ...how being old feels for them!! We all talk about it with them.. but to actually put words on paper and then collate it all, might prove VERY interesting!( Jen. Tamborine Mt.)


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