Yesterday at the gym a woman shared that she was turning 65 but complained “I don’t feel 65.” I pondered that comment for a while and wanted to respond in this post. Above the picture shows on the left my Great-Aunt Margaret and on the right my Great-Aunt Elizabeth, both in their mid eighties. They were my grandmother’s younger sisters. I remembered how much I loved them and enjoyed their personalities, different but equally witty.
What does it mean to say we don’t feel our age? In one sense it is foolish. We feel exactly the age that we are. I am 72, so however I feel is how it feels to be 72. But that disconnection is possible for two reasons I can think of. The first is that we have absorbed some cultural bias against aging. To us to feel our actual age would be to confronted with our preconception of how we would feel at that age. Of course as a child I had no way of knowing how I would feel in my mid eighties. But fortunately I had these women around and wasn’t worried about it. Many others absorbed the idea that by their late eighties they would be dull, stuck in the past and resistant to new ideas. Of course they don’t feel their age as they imagined it since they feel so alive.
The other reality is that we seem to remain essentially ourselves as we age. I am still very like the child, adolescent, young adult and middle-aged adult I once was. So in that sense I don’t feel any age. But when I acknowledge that I am in fact now old, I can embrace some of the gifts that I didn’t have when younger. I am slower to judge, quicker to forgive, less likely to bear a grudge, more likely to cut someone some slack. My edges have been worn down a little. My soft body reflects my softened personality. Still lots of prickly quirks which have been there forever, but I am different.
I do in fact feel 72.