I Am Not 60 Years Old!


Do you think you are old? The question is posed in many ways. How we answer is typically the same. No one believes they are old no matter what their age.

Frequently, ‘being old’ is considered being less than what you are. That’s for the birds.

Feeling, looking, and acting ‘younger than our age’ is an odd description. “You look good for your age; you don’t look ____ years old; I would not have guessed you are ____ years old;” are statements both flattering and discriminating.  Are you being told you look or act well, but it is surprising at your chronological age? On the surface, the comments are well intentioned but not well thought. Time changes word meanings.

Words matter.  Maybe it is time to abandon the term ‘years old’ altogether. We simply are 62. We have lived 64 years. ‘Old’ is an unnecessarily confusing word used to describe age.  Inserting ‘old’ into personal descriptions is imprecise. ‘Old’ triggers reactions. “I’m not old!” is a common response.

The response is not always externally expressed in words. Watch yourself sit, walk, stand, look, or act in response.  We react in defiance to the word ‘old’.

Is it right to use the word ‘old’ when describing our age? ‘Old’ is a word long used.  Is long use of a word sufficient justification for continued use? The history of pejorative terms teaches that time moves some words into an offensive category.

What do we mean when we use the word ‘old’? The word is not required to define our age. Saying ‘I am 66 ‘ or ‘I am 68 years’ is sufficient.  What does adding the word ‘old’ to the description mean? ‘I am 66 years old’ at best is careless, sloppy, or excessive.  The words we express carry meaning.

Language habits are difficult to break. Changing the word choices others select can be frustrating and burdensome. Breaking our personal word habits while also challenging remains within our control.  Changing any language habit first requires a good listening ear.  Catching our personal use of  ‘I am 67 years old’ is the first step.

Once we catch our own use, we can move to the second step. Replace the offending word with a pause, albeit initially awkward. The word will shortly be excised from our common parlance. We can then model the language behavior we desire in others.

Correcting imprecise language begins with each person. I am 60.


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Posted on March 22nd, 2014 in category: Ask Graceful Aging with the tags:

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