Regular readers of my blog know that I am a big-time baseball fan who fancies himself a bit of a historian/nerd when it comes to our National Pastime. One of the game’s greatest pitchers (and characters) was Satchel Paige, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1971. During his remarkable five decades on the mound in various leagues, it was common for observers to speculate about his age. Some of his more memorable quotes about aging are classics:
- How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
- Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.
- Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.
Ol’ Satch got me to thinking. I reckon I have to finally admit that I’m old. At this point, there is no denying it. Indeed, there are far too many reminders these days of my advancing age and the resulting deteriorating condition of my physical and mental states.
Despite the wear and tear, I hope to continue to get older every passing day. As my better-half reminds me, though, “We Plan and God Laughs.” Because there is no denying that precept, I felt the urge to provide this treatise on growing old, I suppose, before it is too late to do so. As a keen observationalist and a self-proclaimed expert on growing old (Are we not all experts in our own opinions?), I hope that my experiences will help future generations cope with (or at least see coming) those distinct markers of time.
First Things First. How Do We Define Old?
While many might think the age when you are old is 65 because that’s a common retirement age, the definition of old depends on with whom you speak. Teenagers probably think you’re old if you’re over 30, while 20 somethings will likely believe you are old if you’re over 40.
“You are only as old as you feel” is a common claim. Some days I feel like I am dead, so what does that mean? Then there are days I have glimpses of feeling 25 again, but they are fleeting. While it might make you feel good to believe you’re only as old as you feel, if you have to tell yourself that, welcome to the Old Man Club.
Here are a few starting points for this discourse. At 66, I’ve got my cards (AARP, Medicare) and soon will receive my first Social Security payment. Each is tangible evidence of my having put enough mileage on the old carcass to qualify as old. My perspective is of an old guy with no children, though I have closely observed many a parent’s shift to senior status, and I have been blessed with all sorts of surrogate children. All of these experiences and observations have helped me compile …
… My Top 21 Indications that You and I are Getting Old
1. You Say, “Back in My Day … ” Often
If you’re consistently looking at someone of a younger generation and saying, “back in my day” or “when I was your age,” guess what? You’re old. You can’t escape it when you start talking about things like penny candy, payphones, cassette tapes, beepers, windows you had to crank up or down in your car, or even a gallon of gas for 73 cents. You’re old and there’s nothing you can do about it.
2. Getting off the Couch or Off the Floor is an Aerobic Exercise
There was a time when I popped off the couch or jumped up from the floor without issue or sound. I fondly recall those days.
If you feel like you’re getting an aerobic workout just getting off the couch, you’re old. I am right there with you, so don’t feel bad. It takes me a few tries, usually accompanied by a bit of rocking to gain forward momentum, plus a few groans (see below) to get off the couch these days. Sometimes, I just give up on doing these daily couple of crunches and stay on the sofa (Old Guy word) until someone younger or someone already standing nearby can extend a hand and help me up (joking, sort of).
Lord help us geezers if we’ve been sitting for several hours in a booth at a restaurant. You may still believe that you cover turf with impressive agility for one of your peculiar architecture, but, believe me, once you’ve joined the Old Man Club, the act of pulling yourself up from your chair after a lengthy and satisfying dinner and taking those first few steps is slower and more painful than dial-up (geez, I can’t seem to help my old-fart self).
The floor was once a place of joy — of long stretches tussling with puppies, sitting cross-legged, playing games, crawling on hands and knees from point A to point B. Nowadays, getting down to terra firma is a deliberate process, and I try not to sit on the ground. When I head down there, I resemble one of the Avengers in their famous landing pose after flight — one hand and one knee down — only not triumphantly. Hips and knees don’t like to find themselves parallel. It’s a comical, slow-motion procedure of measured descent or ascent. Legs no longer cross and knees are no longer weight-bearing for any significant amount of time.
3. A New Language — Old Man Noises
Grunt. Moan. Owww. Groan. Whomph. Aughhh. Yeow. Uggh. Oomph. I well remember being able to get up without making sound effects. I’m not sure when noises such as these became mandatory with nearly every attempt to become vertical, ascend stairs, toss a ball, or even give a good stretch, but I know for sure that they are now part and parcel of being in the Old Man Club.
(Editor’s Note: Though the spelling of sounds is arbitrary, this informal study in onomatopoeia [the process of creating a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes] is undeniable to those of us getting along in years.)
With many of these movement efforts, involuntary utterances are also accompanied by clicks, snaps, pops and cracks emanating from my body. Do not be alarmed, fellow grizzled persons. Our joints emit various noises, including popping, catching, clicking, snapping, grinding, scraping and others. The technical term for these noises is “crepitus,” from the Latin “to rattle.” The older we get, the more we rattle and the more strange “effort noises” are generated.
4. Some Days, Everything Hurts
It’s an unfortunate part of life’s journey. When you start to get older, seemingly everything will hurt at some point. Oftentimes, all at the same time. It’s just the way it is, and when things don’t hurt, it’s likely because they simply aren’t working right.
Have you keeled over in your kitchen while getting a snack due to sudden lower back pain? You’re getting old. Maybe you’ve awakened and felt so stiff you could barely move your legs to get out of bed. Welcome to the Club of the old and creaky. Managed to squat a tad but couldn’t go all the way down or, if you did, you experienced extreme consternation and strange facial expressions attempting to get back to the standing position? Welcome to Team Creaky. In summary, don’t let aging get you down. It’s too hard to get back up.
I won’t do a deep dive into the experience of flexing your foot or leg just a tad degree wrong and one of those body parts cramps. Suffice to say that it’s another painful aging experience; one that will have you thinking, “This is it. This is how it ends.” According to my loving wife, it is impossible to spell the “effort noise” that emanates from me during this truly painful oldster occurrence.
5. Walking on Grass Annoys You
Have you caught yourself telling kids to “get off your lawn”? If so, I can say with 100% certainty that you’re old. Grass was likely created to have something soft to walk on, but we old fogies love to make sure our lawn is protected from little-kid feet. No idea why, but this is just a part of getting old.
6. Young People Tell You They’ve Heard That Story Before
When a younger relative tells you they’ve heard your story before, they likely mean you’ve told it four or five times to them, alone. Consider that, like me, you’ve run out of stories to tell, so you have to repeat old ones over and over, even though you’re not divulging anything new or particularly useful to anyone.
If you can’t remember that you’ve told the story before, you’re either crossing the threshold over to old or you’re already there. Most younger folks don’t realize that older generations only repeat our stories because we like to add new details and we want to make sure our hidden messages get through to them.
7. You Still Have an Address Book
Do you still have a book filled with addresses and phone numbers? We fossils keep these books and, in general, we love to write things down. Younger people don’t know what an address book is, nor do they have much use for post-its. There’s an app, whatever that is, for all those things on their smartphone.
8. Your Brain is Full
Methinks the biggest lie I tell myself these days is, “I don’t need to write that down. I’ll remember it.” Not so much. Some days I am firing on all cylinders. Other days I look for my phone while I’m talking on it. If you were to ask my darling wife, she would swear that I’ve reached the age where my train of thought often leaves the station without me. Not only is my short-term memory getting worse, my short-term memory is getting worse. (Sidebar: Never ever, ever, ever test your wife’s memory. Just saying … ) Personally, I think that my forgetfulness is at least partially how The Good Lord makes sure that I get my steps in — 50% of the time that I’ve forgotten stuff, I have to walk back to either do it or retrieve it.
Personally, I found that these traits started surfacing when I became an official member of the Old Man Club, so I decided to include them in this list. Yes, forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging, and it certainly can generate amusing quips and stories. But not always. This can be a somber topic, and I’d be remiss without asking how do you know when memory loss crosses the line and becomes a concern? Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementia. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the horrific brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. If you notice any of them, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. To learn more, visit the Alzheimer’s Association.
Old Man Club members learn to take shortcuts to get stuff done. You managed to get your socks on and pulled up. You then put your left shoe on by grabbing your jeans pants leg and pulling your trouser (another Old Man term) leg up and over to cross your other leg, making it easier to pull on and tie your shoe. Then there is picking things up with your toes and deftly transferring them up to your hands instead of bending down to pick them up (warning: see cramps above). You learn to carry out activities in the easiest manner possible, utilizing your natural levers and sterling logic. It’s all about finding a less strenuous manner to accomplish tasks. And conserving energy, of course.
But be forewarned, fellow Club members. Shortcuts — especially those ultimately leading to breaks — can quickly get us guys classified as lazy, which, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply put, oldster dudes are adroit in the practice of ninja work habits, focusing on the benefits of actions, anticipating obstacles, plotting the right course and time to accomplish tasks, and ultimately striving for optimal efficiency and saving energy. From our perspective, stuff is getting done. It’s one of the benefits of aging for guys — our experience foretells future paths to complete honey-do lists. But if your adoring wife, like mine, thinks that you don’t have the good sense God gave a goose, and that you’re about as confused when it comes to following directions as a fart in a fan factory, then shortcuts, perfunctory efforts, and breaks are not going to put you in the boss’ good graces. And, as we learn even in our relative youth — Happy Wife, Happy Life.
10. Your Front Porch or Deck Has Become Your Favorite Hangout
When was the last time you saw young people hanging out in a rocking chair or a swing on a front porch or deck? Youthful people just go out, even if it’s just for dinner or a movie.
We old folks, we love our rocking chairs, our beverages, and our front porches. We even take it a step further by filling a pitcher with ice and our favorite beverage — or perfectly position the full cooler — so we can park our butts out there and not have to get up for several hours.
11. You Now Report Loud Parties in Your Neighborhood
Did you use to party and, occasionally, have the cops called on you because you were loud? One clear indication you’re getting older or you are already old is you’ve made this phone call. Heck, you might have called on a teenager with a loud stereo that wasn’t even having a party.
When you become the one who reports the loud parties, you’re old. Your days of enjoying loud music are long over, and for a good reason. Nobody really knows why we love to destroy our ears when we’re young, but for some reason, we loved to turn that stereo dial up as far as possible.
Heck, you can tell I am old because I used the word “stereo” twice in the last few paragraphs of this post. When was the last time you heard a young person say that word? Instead, they speak with words we older folks don’t clearly understand like Airpods, Beats, and Bluetooth Speakers. What language is this?
12. Ibuprofen and Antacid are Always on Your Shopping List
First of all, you still make a shopping list on a piece of paper with a pen. This is the only way I will do it and I am old, for certain. Younger people use an app for seemingly everything, including their shopping list.
Second, ibuprofen or Advil and antacid are now staples when you make out your list. Before we approached geriatric status, we didn’t need these over-the-counter pills and tablets. We could pound down spicy food to our heart’s content. Now, a little too much tomato sauce means heartburn is in our immediate future.
Finally, not only is ibuprofen on the shopping list, but it’s a part of our daily pills regime. We mature folks also love to separate our pills, at some point with a daily pill container so we know what to take each day. That’s due to the lack of memory we old people have these days.
13. Comfort Trumps Style
While discerning old guys have “going out” attire in the closet that isn’t too terribly old, for the most part, we’re done being fashionable. Though we once danced in our underwear to “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” and fancied ourselves as being able to carry that James Bond look, Club members are mostly now into flexible waistbands (gym shorts or sweatpants, depending on locale and season); faded, favorite, vintage (or team) T- or sweat-shirts; and comfort shoes (preferably slip-ons). Really bad old-guy attire options can also include overalls, fanny packs, velcro sneakers, untucked dress shirts, sandals with socks, and those t-shirts (mostly worn too tight) with funny or slutty slogans. There are certainly the debonair and suave amongst us, but behind closed doors, it’s all about comfort.
14. You Have No Idea What Your Grandkids are Talking About
Have you had grandkids over to the house who talk about Tik Tok, and you thought they were referring to a coo-coo clock? When you get to my age, and probably your age if you’re reading this, figuring out what in the world your grandkids are talking about is akin to deciphering a code in a mystery novel.
15. The 24/7 News Channels Play 24/7 in Your House
I cannot say that I am guilty of this, but I have witnessed that many grizzled peeps apparently still think they only have one or two TV channels, which are news channels. The days of watching the news once or perhaps twice a day are over when you’re old. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’m getting there, though.
16. Your Arch-Enemy is Now Your Bladder
Us oldies-but-goodies at some point acknowledge that we can’t walk past a bathroom without thinking, “I may as well pee while I’m here.” My wife calls me a “four times a night” man, which is no longer a high compliment. The combination of a larger prostate, blocked urethra, less flexible bladder, and simply the wearing out of muscles and organs means us venerable older models make frequent trips to the john (there I go again; another old-man term).
We pensioners generally have to get up and use the bathroom multiple times during even a short movie and certainly during a lengthy sporting event. Thank goodness for the ability to pause everything these days. Likewise, getting through a meal at a restaurant without a visit to the can is quite rare these days.
Sleeping in could easily be my superpower were it not for my arch-enemy, my bladder. I used to have an arch-enemy who wasn’t my bladder, but I am old, so I can’t remember who or what it was. These days, my bladder and I have a comic book-like relationship — I believe I am the superhero, but my dastardly bladder remains undefeated.
And to make matters worse, Old Man Club membership necessitates that you pee in Morse Code. Urine good company if you have reached this unenviable status.
17. You Finally Found Your Glasses
Have you had that moment? You know, the one when you’re looking for your glasses, whether reading, sun, or bifocals, and you realize they are on top of your head?
Misplacing your glasses, wallet, keys, phone, remote, etc., is a byproduct of becoming a seasoned gentleman. Yes, it’s possible that perhaps you are simply just having one of those days. However, if you believe that poppycock, it’s likely just an excuse because you don’t want to admit you are old. Been there, done that. Then I went from calling myself vintage to realizing I am just old. Us old guys just seem to put everyday items in the wrong place. About the only thing that we don’t lose as we cross over to the dark side is our sanity, though it may appear to others that’s long gone for the old guy, too.
18. Waking up Before the Sun Appears
As I got older, bedtime changed, but so did the time I woke up. I see more darkness when I wake up now than right before I go to bed. Waking up always happens before the sunrise.
Plus, I am always irritated by daylight savings time. Not only because it’s annoyingly stupid twice a year and messes with me, but also because I blame it for me going to bed before the sunset in the summer.
19. A Nod to the Nodding
I used to have terrific stamina in the evenings. Johnny Carson until he, Ed and Doc signed off (Oh God, I am AM old!). Pulling all-nighters to prep for exams or presentations. Out with the gang ’til the wee hours and no issue with rising early for work. Channel-surfing after midnight and (“Oh Wow!) staying up until the credits rolled on one of those movies from which you simply are not allowed to turn away. (Okay, regrettably adding to the length of this blog, some of mine are My Cousin Vinny, Silverado, Major League, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gladiator, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Die Hard, Rio Bravo, Field of Dreams, Goodfellas, Princess Bride.)
No longer. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of crossing into old-guy zone is that I nod off during important (sporting events, including playoffs) and unimportant (reruns) viewing. It’s downright embarrassing. When combined with a later-than-customary dinner, Fuggedaboutit! — the nap-jerks can commence as early as 8pm. Inconceivable!
More often than you will admit, Old Man territory also regularly includes afternoon naps and falling asleep in front of the TV or while consuming a good book. Fortunately, sleep is the best meditation for us old guys. Until you have to pee.
20. The Music You Listened to in your 20s is Playing on the Oldies Channel Now
You always thought the music your parents listened to was known as oldies, but now that’s the same channel set on your platform/radio of choice. Only now they’re playing what you loved as a teenager.
To compound matters, old-guy-me occasionally sneaks away from satellite radio and searches for local, terrestrial FM stations (and, horrors, even AM stations). Young people may not even understand what you are saying when you use the word “radio” around them. They certainly don’t know what it was like to actually turn a radio dial or get up from the chair to change the channel on the television.
21. Body Transformations
The Fed’s Witness Protection Program has nothing on the Old Man Club. They provide for the relocation and protection of a witness or potential witness. We gaffers change our appearance. With time, we get hairier — ears, eyebrows, nose, face, chest, back, etc. Some of my mates’ ears seem to be getting bigger. Bellies build up and hide our former six-packs and everything from view south of the button. Skin becomes thinner, less elastic, and no longer looks plump and smooth. Nearly all of us experience hair loss, and what’s left up top loses pigment and turns gray and even white. Best of all, to combat those height charts in 7-11s, we have a tendency to become shorter — seniors typically lose almost one-half inch every 10 years after age 40, and height loss is even more rapid after age 70. A total of 1 to 3 inches in height is lost with aging. In summary, a great many of us turn into a cross of Miracle Max, Gandalf, Emmett Brown and Yoda. (If you’re not a member of the OMC, google’em.)
Soooo … There you have one old guy’s Top 21 indicators that you and I are getting old. I speak from experience. I could have made this list much longer. I’m still researching:
- Buying a smartphone but having no clue how to do anything other than make phone calls.
- Comparing illnesses and injuries with friends, and generally talking a lot about joints/ailments.
- Complaining about more things.
- Forgetting people’s names.
- Not knowing any songs in the top ten or the name of any modern bands.
- Struggling to use technology.
- The obsession with turning off lights.
- Infatuation with the Weather Channel.
- Rand McNally getting the nod over GPS.
- The propensity to tell looonnnggg stories.
Getting older may seem like it sucks, but it’s better than the alternative. My research is conclusive in one matter — aging appears to be the only available path toward living a long life. So I say bring it on!
The fact of the matter is that “Senior Moment” time comes with oodles of advantages. We are the wiser generation because our minds and souls are richer based on our experiences, wisdom gained, and emotional maturity. Then there are those discounts. Retirement begets more leisure activities. Grandchildren. There’s something inexplicably comforting to getting even more set in your ways. You can more easily get away with saying or doing outrageous things. Now, if we can just convince those younger-gens that we are wise and our stories are interesting, maybe they can learn something from us.
It’s a funny time, this getting old stuff. On the one hand, it’s weird being the same age as old people. On the other, life seems so much the better for the long journey.