Monday, May 20, 2013

Thinking young on my birthday

Every month I write an article about some aspect of aging  for the Aging Bodies website. This month's article pertains to my recent preoccupation with age. Of course that makes sense. Today is my seventy-third birthday. 

Here's my article:


Aging Bodies

Tuesday, 14 May 2013 19:11



I’ve been thinking about age for a while – especially now that I’m sure to live well beyond the age of my father and my maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather. But I think age is just relative. We really are just as young or old as we feel.
My relatives who died at 72, the age I am now, looked and felt a lot older than they were. But they didn’t have the youth-prolonging advantages like healthy food and exercise opportunities that we have. We also have science on our side – better medical care and the miracles of skin care potions and plastic surgery.
Don’t you bristle when someone tells you how good you look for your age? I do. Couldn’t they just say, “You look good,” leaving out the “for your age” part of the sentence? But since I think I do look younger than my age, and I definitely feel younger, I wanted to know how others felt as well. To get my answers I asked several people to respond to the quote:
How old would you be if you didn’t know your age? (attributed to Satchel Paige).
What’s interesting is that the responses showed that most people think they are younger than their chronological age.
One woman about 60 said:
“I think I would be 55. My body is not as agile as I would like it to be, so I selected fifties rather than forties.”
She says she had great skin in her forties, but I think she has great skin right now. She even dares to go out in public without makeup.
Another woman who is over sixty-five said:
“Well, if I didn't know, I would say somewhere between 45 and 55.  I feel great and am totally active and engaged with the world around me.  I don't feel there is much that I cannot do, if I want to.”
We also tend to determine out age as it relates to parts of out bodies:
“I feel like I am about 42 in my head, 63 in my body and my reactions vary from day to day. Aging is very humbling. When I look at my hands I want to throw up because they look like the hands of a 70 year old. When I look at my arms I think, what the hell?”
I certainly agree. My hands are wrinkled, the skin on my arms and legs sag, and hordes of brown spots decorate my face, décolleté, and hands, arms, and legs. Perhaps I should say those parts of my body are older than I really am while I feel younger when I look at other parts. 
And don’t you just love it when someone acts with complete surprise at finding out how old you are? I like the shocked looks on their faces. So does this responder:
“I guess I’d have to refer to the people at Curves who are shocked when they learn I’m 73.  I don’t feel like I’m 73 but I know I feel worse than I did at 63.  So judging from my capabilities at working out, I’m younger than my age, and I look younger.  So I’d say I’m 60.”
Mirrors also play a role with some folks:
“When I look at my face in the mirror I think, who is that old women?"
 “If I did not know how old I was (and had no mirror), I would think that I was 50. I still work hard and long, concede nothing to aging and I remain an eager learner and willingly expose myself to new ideas and experiences.”                
“I just say I’m 30 and when I look in the mirror I remember I’m 87.” 
And some people’s age assessment depends on how they compare themselves with others:
“Keeping in mind that Fred Mertz on the old "I Love Lucy" show was supposed to be 50, I guess I should feel like I'm 30! My fantasies make me feel 40. But since I know that I'm old enough that young women do not and cannot even see me – because I've passed the point when old men become invisible – I guess I feel like I am 73, which I am.”   
“Every day I encounter people who think that they are ‘old’ and many of them are chronologically much younger than I am.”
“Ten years younger, because that's when the infirmity that is mine appeared in others.”
Others responded in terms of the age they’d like to be – as if they wished they could go back in time.
“I would be 48 years old.  I would still be at my most favorite job with the Navy.  I would be head-over-heels in love and had just found my soul mate.”   
“I would be middle aged – with half of my life in front of me, and believing that “the best is yet to come.”
“I'd be in my mid forties, when we first became empty nesters and a new exciting chapter was beginning.” 
Only two people responded negatively. One has had a recent illness that disrupted her feelings of youth and wellbeing:
“If you had asked me two months ago, I would have told you that I feel like 45, fit, going to Zumba four times a week, hiking, and enjoying all. Today I feel like 85 since five weeks ago I had a severe pseudo gout attack that left me in intense pain in both knees. I have not been able to exercise, and I’m only able to take short walks when the pain is less. The medication is not helping my wellbeing. Hopefully the rheumatologist will make me feel 45 again!!!”
The other said:
“Taking the survey is too depressing for me.”
I guess that person doesn’t want anything to do with her age real or perceived.
And one response was a combination of both the negative and positive:
“I have chronic back pain and when it is acting up I feel old, i.e., at or above my current age of 76. When my treatment of my chronic body pain is working, I feel much younger than my actual age, maybe as much as ten or more years younger, say 66.”
My favorite response is:
“Think young, stay young.”
That’s the key.
***
So, you're probably wondering how old I would be. Actually, I think I'd be no older than fifty-five. I'm trim, I'm pain free, I don't take any medications for physical maladies, and I always feel very good. Plus I workout every single day. I can't find I thing about me that says I'm actually seventy-three except for the fact that I was born in May 1940. 

How old would you be if you didn't know your age?

2 comments:

myriteofpassage said...

Madeline, even though we've got science and the awareness to eat and live healthily on our side, we still need to make the effort, so I applaud you first of all for caring how you look and feel and secondly for your discipline to work out every day. Well done!

If I could have a wish, I wouldn't mind turning the clock back by five years to prevent the injury I sustained to my ankle while walking. It's still giving me some trouble, so the incident has definitely slowed me down somewhat.

Thanks - great post!

Madeline Sharples said...

Dear Belinda,
I hope your ankle heels very quickly so you can be back on track with your fitness program. You are very right. We need to make the effort. But after that it becomes a habit -- a good habit.
Thanks for coming by.