older couple walking on path

Crossing the Divide From Middle Age to Young Old

 July 1, 2021

This year I turned sixty-five. I can no longer kid myself that I am middle aged. I have crossed the divide from middle age to young old.

From Middle Age to Young Old

For years I’ve been moving the goal post. You see, getting old is not a goal I sought to achieve. It just happens. You get older or you die. There is no other alternative. I used to think, old age started at fifty, but then I stretched it to fifty-five when I qualified for some senior deals. Sixty came and went but I was still middle aged to my way of thinking.

Now that I’m sixty-five, I’m accepting that I have crossed the divide, however unwillingly. I’m now eligible for Medicare, a marker of old age.

Not that it happened over night. Age crept in like those extra pounds that take up residence in your body over time and refuse to leave. Once you add another year, there is no going back.

What Constitutes Young Old

Now that I’m here, I see I am part of an amazing group of people. We are the largest and most diverse age group around. In fact, we are so large we need to be separated into two groups – the young old and the old old. But what differentiates the one from the other?

If you need to assign numbers, then maybe sixty to eighty are the young old, eighty and up for the old old. But these are arbitrary markers.

The two groups are better defined by activity level and attitude. The young old are busy enjoying life. They may be working at a job they love long into their nineties. Just look at Benjamin Ferenz who was featured on 60 minutes. The oldest living lawyer from the Nuremburg trials, at one hundred he is still working for peace. And Ruth Bader Ginsberg who remained active on the Supreme Court until her death at 87. Both were young old.

If retired, they may be traveling the world, socializing, volunteering, playing with grand kids or occupying the many pickleball courts that have sprung up for this age group. They are still in good health, able to live independently and are enjoying their life.

From Young Old to Old Old

What pushes this group into old old is not a number but often an event. A fall or accident resulting in broken bones or a stay in the hospital. A heart attack or stroke that renders them unable to do all they had been doing. Often this is the blow that takes away the active life of the young old and moves them into old age. They need assistance with daily life activities. Unable to do all they used to do, some find themselves depressed and unhappy, just waiting for the end.

Of course there are variations on this. As I mentioned, this is a diverse group. There are residents of nursing homes who exude joy and happiness and maintain a young attitude amid the losses of aging. They have yet to become old old.

Trying to Cheat Time

So, I tell myself I’m young old. Adding the word young to the term makes it easier to accept. I’m still young and in good enough health to enjoy life.

I used to think that getting old meant being able to take naps whenever I wanted. That was during my sleep deprived years when my kids were babies and toddlers.

I do seem to tire quicker, but I’ve yet to start taking afternoon naps. In fact, the naps that I relished when my kids were little, that was part of my young adult years, disappeared when my children left home. Except for an occasional nap, I’ve been napless for twenty years or more.

Maybe part of getting older is adopting a daily siesta? Not yet for me. I do fall asleep in front of the TV many nights and hang out in my bed longer in the morning than I used to (if my dog allows me). I’m still trying to cheat time. I plan to be young old as long as possible, even into my nineties.

All things considered, being young old is not so bad. I’m in good company. And consider the alternative.

Where do you fit on the age continuum?


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