Old People Now – and Old People Then: What’s the Difference?

Based on my response to a Quora question: “What’s the difference between old people nowadays and old people 70 years ago?

First of all, what age is old? If you’re 20, 40 seems old. If you’re 50, 80 seems old. But if you’re 80, those other ages sound young!

I’m nearly 74, and I admit I can’t figure out how I got here. Wasn’t I just 40 a few years ago? It sure feels that way. But except for a few sore muscles that show up when I walk more than my usual 3–4 miles per day with friends and our dogs, I don’t feel particularly old.

I often do admit, though, that technology is a challenge; remember, I grew up in the era of black-and-white TV sets and three-party phone lines. But as long as I have contacts who are willing to show this “old” broad how to handle the internet or other tech-related issues, I’m fine!

So, what’s changed from 70 years ago to today in 2020?

Those of us who often get characterized as elderly or old are actually far healthier, physically and mentally, than previous generations were. The years ride more lightly on our shoulders. We grew up with medicines that gave us the chance for longer and healthier lifespans. We have access — most of us do, anyway — to far better preventive healthcare information, which is huge.

And one enormous change has to be that so many of us have found our second, third, or fourth wind at these ages, meaning we’re NOT. GOING. TO. RETIRE. EVER! We have found work we can and love to do, work that is stimulating, and work that can keep us on our proverbial toes until we’re 100. (I’m hoping for 103, myself.)

We have local friends and family, and thanks to the marvel of the internet; we can easily connect to other friends worldwide, so we don’t have to feel alone or isolated. Our curiosity about and interest in their lives keeps us aware and awake.

I know I will never willingly retire, and why should I? As an editor / copyeditor, I am privileged to have work I can do from home, from a corner of my tiny 525 s.f. cottage on the bay in southeastern Massachusetts, and my mind and spirits stay wonderfully alive with every author I work with. I learn every day, seeing their world through their eyes, and it’s exhilarating!

I even still work as a corporate trainer, mostly locally (although last year I worked in California for a week), and I have just begun leading free LinkedIn Basics workshops in local Chambers of Commerce.

What’s not to love? I rise each morning, look out at the bay, love my two small dogs, and see what I can learn, what I can help others learn, and what new adventures the world has for me.

Life. Is. Grand!

Susan Rooks
Susan Rookshttps://grammargoddess.com/
With 25 years’ experience as an international speaker and workshop leader, Susan Rooks is uniquely positioned to help people master the communication skills they need to succeed. In 1995, Susan formed Grammar Goddess Communication to help business professionals enhance their communication skills. She creates and leads three-hour “Brush Up on Your Skills” workshops in three main areas: American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills. And recently she created and began leading introductory workshops to help business pros maximize their LinkedIn experience, offering it to Chambers of Commerce free of charge. As a copyeditor (and editor of nonfiction only), Susan has worked on projects ranging from blogs to award-winning children’s books to best-selling business books to corporate annual reports (with clients from half a dozen countries), ensuring that all material is professionally presented and free from grammatical errors. From the beginning, Susan’s only goal was to help everyone look and sound as smart as they are.

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  1. Susan, I love this! So very true and at 67, I feel mentally 30. It’s frustrating because my bodies breaking down but my spirit hasn’t gotten the text yet!
    Do I want to turn back the clock? I know I hear people always say that they are just happy where they are but I’m not so certain and with the wisdom I’ve gained, if I could keep it, would probably take another shot at it! Anyway, I love the piece…. Keep Writing!

    • And see, Johnny? You’re 67 … to me, that’s young! And I agree that our bodies don’t work quite the way they did when we were much younger, but for me the upside is that my body’s reactions are still strong. I walk 3-4 miles almost every day with my dogs and friends, up and down our hilly village, and that keeps me happy. I’m certainly far wiser than I was even at 50 … sometimes age and wisdom do come together.

      Thanks for your warm thoughts and encouragement, and stay safe in this crazy time we’re living in.

    • And I’ll be 74, and several others in our BIZ360 group — although it’s grown by leaps and bounds lately — are also approaching birthdays we are somewhat surprised to have already reached!

      In golf terms, a lot of us are playing on the back nine, and continuing to enjoy the heck out of life with energy and enthusiasm!

      Happy birthday early, Larry!

  2. And you still find time in that schedule to make my writing and the writing of others sound good!

    This sentence was like the universe speaking to me: “We have found work we can and love to do, work that is stimulating, and work that can keep us on our proverbial toes until we’re 100.” I know there is a pivot in my future.

    Well done, you word master, you!

    • Says the master to the apprentice, Jeff! Your prose is far superior to mine and/or most, so thank you for brightening my day and with your most recent article!

      And thank you for always giving me the chance to help you — not that you need much, my friend — with your articles. You always transport me to another realm, one that may be somewhere hear on earth, but one full of mysteries you have seen that we can now catch a glimpse of.

    • You are welcome as always, Raissa, and thanks for reading and commenting here!

      I never actually contemplated my next decades up until recently; fate kept intervening and whispering (once SHOUTING) here. Go HERE. Don’t ask. Just GO!

      Now it’ll be interesting to see what YOU decide to differently, Raissa! Keep us informed!

  3. Oh I love this inspiring and uplifting article Susan. I’m elated and thank you!
    I have acquired the thought that age is just a number by which we use to measure. This mindset is a loaded stigma. What it comes down to is all in how you breathe. The longer slower breathe allow more clarity. Short and panting breaths rush you through life. And because there is always some frustrating reason… stress..triggers.. manifestation of underlying illness. The Buddhist believe we are allotted a number of breaths.. how you use them determines your longevity. It’s just easier to and healthier overall to breathe slower! Pranayama! I’ll go with this. I’ve actually forgotten my age before and that made me laugh… the mindset works. Lol
    Also, retire? Not if you are enjoying what you are doing. For me? I have never found anything more rewarding than writing…I share and just keep flowing. I am starting out with this investment in me and left the corporate role last summer.. I hope to just be able to pay the bills eventually. It’s not what you have or where you live…but how you live. Investing in ourselves is the only way we can find ourselves.
    Thank you for this Susan. As for 74? I would never have guessed! You Rock my lady!
    Bless you too! 🙏🙏🙏. Have a great weekend!
    Paula

    • Wow, thanks so much, Paula! I believe as you do that it’s how you live that matters. I’ve seen too many folks — like my mother — who had so much and yet enjoyed so little … and I guess deep down inside I vowed to never live that way. Life has been wonderful, challenging, wacky, fun, and more than I had ever expected!

      And yes. 74 in one month. I can’t believe it either, but … Thanks for that wonderful response to my article! I so appreciate it!

  4. Susan, what you have proposed is interesting and it is a pleasure to see the enthusiasm you transmit.
    The changes can be defined epochal: the elderly of today are more
    healthy and better cared for, now much more numerous than 50 years ago, they have fewer children and grandchildren; now they are less ignorant, more
    lively and active, more autonomous; they have traveled much more in their lives; have become more curious and innovative, less severe, with more desires and
    aspirations.
    All right, then? Not even for a dream: according to recent research. These gigantic steps forward are for many contradicted by the fact that today the elderly are more lonely and
    abandoned to themselves, less respected and honored than the middle of the last century, more pessimistic and depressed.
    In summary, for 66% of the interviewees the current elderly are extraordinarily modernized compared to their homologues of half a century ago: with many advantages in terms of income and standard of living, health and psycho-physical vitality, information and culture, experiences and awareness , open-mindedness and independence. But 60% severely criticize their lower valorisation in families and in society.
    I (80 years old) have the good fortune to have a good physical condition (I still play tennis, I go by bike, I walk a lot), until a few months ago I worked, I have enough economic stability, a home, a healthy family, I help who he is in trouble, and I thank God for all this.
    Perhaps we can believe that much depends on knowing how to age and also on how much we have managed to build for this purpose, but also that today there are “new” reasons (I don’t say more) that can lead to a not really peaceful old age.
    Thanks for your attention.

    • “Perhaps we can believe that much depends on knowing how to age and also on how much we have managed to build for this purpose, but also that today there are “new” reasons (I don’t say more) that can lead to a not really peaceful old age.”

      Aldo, you saved the best for last! For me, it’s a mindset, although obviously it’s also that I’ve been blessed with much that I didn’t have to work for.

      But even those whose health or economic status may not be the best so often still find ways to rise above their circumstances and find joy in their life. Find ways to make their life count. Find ways to make the most of what they have.

      Thank you for always providing us commentary that makes us think even more deeply than we might have before.

      • I absolutely agree with you.
        Aside from dramatic and unpredictable situations, I am convinced that it depends a lot on the mentality, on the approach we have always had with life. After all, old age does not come suddenly, we are aware that it will come, indeed we must hope that it will come and it can be what we have built not only materially but how we “trained” psychologically throughout our life to look at things with the right mindset.
        Thanks for your kind response. It is a pleasure to talk to you.
        Until next time.

  5. Chief among the changes is the advent of social media and digitalization at large. Just as the age of industrialization was different from the ages before it, this age has seen a point of divergence and explored it.

  6. Definitely, a couple of things changed. These things were influenced by varying factors. Chief among them is the social media and digitalization at large. Just as the age of industralisation was different from the ages before it, the ICT era has affected our mode of thinking, processing and disseminating information.

    Thanks for drawing our attention to this interesting subject.

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