What Is Old, Anyway?

I saw a question this morning on Quora about the difference between old folks now and 70 years previously. This article sprang up full-blown, as so many seem to do.

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, all those previous numbers sound young!

I’m 73, and I can’t figure out how I got here. Wasn’t I just 50 a few years ago? And except for a few sore muscles that show up when I walk more than my usual 3–4 miles per day, I don’t feel particularly old.

Those of us who too often get characterized as elderly or old are far healthier, physically and mentally, than previous generations. We grew up with medicines that gave us the chance for longer and healthier lifespans. We grew up able to find jobs we could do in our later years. We have access — many of us do, anyway — to far better preventive healthcare, which is huge.

And one enormous change has to be those of us who have gotten our second, third, or fourth wind at these ages, meaning we’re NOT. GOING. TO. RETIRE. EVER. We have found work we can do — work that is stimulating, work that keeps us on our proverbial toes, work that we actually look forward to — until we’re 100. (I’m aiming for 103, myself.)

These jobs, which are often entrepreneurial, tap into strengths, talents, and abilities we may not have been able to show or use in our earlier years. Working in companies often meant kowtowing to others, doing things the “corporate” way, or working because we had to. But as many of my Boomer generation have seen, it’s possible and desirable to reinvent ourselves in ways that play to our strengths, that keep us alive and relevant, and that make a huge difference in the quality of our lives.

We have friends locally, and we’re connected to even more friends worldwide, so our curiosity about their lives keeps us aware and awake. Although maybe we can’t or don’t want to travel too far, we can use Zoom or Skype to talk and see them, something we couldn’t have imagined 10 or 20 years ago.

We know more about the things that are really bad or good for us, and we make the conscious decision to be healthy and live life to the fullest.

Many of us have shed the old skins and masks we wore for so long that were composed of others’ expectations of us, of society’s rules for us – we found our true selves and we’re loving living as who we are!

I know I will never willingly retire, and why should I? As an editor / copyeditor, I am privileged to have work that I love and do from home, from a corner of my tiny 525 s.f. cottage on the bay in 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 (I just returned from California!), and I have just begun leading LinkedIn workshops in local Chambers of Commerce. Who knows what I’ll think of next year or the one after?

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

How are you living YOUR life? What plans do you have for your future self?


Susan Rooks
Susan Rooks
With nearly 30 years’ experience as an international 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, creating and leading workshops in three main areas – American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills – to help business pros enhance their communication skills. She also leads one-hour LinkedIn workshops (Master the LinkedIn Profile Basics) via Zoom to help business pros anywhere maximize their LinkedIn experience, offering it to Chambers of Commerce and other civic organizations free of charge. As an editor, Susan has worked on business blogs, award-winning children’s books, best-selling business books, website content, and even corporate annual reports (with clients from half a dozen countries), ensuring that all material is professionally presented.

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  1. Very interesting article, Susan. In some regards, I am living my life as I want to but in other ways, I am not living my life as I would like to. As far as the future goes I have no way of knowing what may be or happen. I try not to look or plan too far into the future because of the unknown of what plans have already been made for me. It is good to plan ahead…I guess!

    • Joel, I don’t plan ahead with a lot of detail; life sometimes has other ideas for me as it does for all. But so far, the plans I have had and the ones life has had for me have worked out very well, so … I’m just going with it as though I’ll be OK. And I’ll deal with whatever life throws at me … what other choice do we have?

    • Thank you for your reply, Susan. I do think of what could in the future which at times scares me. Will my health hold up and things like that are not something I can plan for. I can’t even begin to think about years from now.

    • I hope mine does as well, Joel! Can’t guarantee it, but based on life so far … that’s the only fear I have because so much else rides on it. But today’s a great day, so let’s go with that!

      I read an article this morning by Christopher Muther, a travel writer for The Boston Globe newspaper. He’s had eye issues for several years — several surgeries — and for a travel writer who tells of the far-off lands and what they look like … that’s nasty! And I’m sure he’s had uglier days than he even wrote about, but at least he seems to get that it’s his new normal and how does he deal? Gave me a lot to think about.

  2. When I was 67 in 2010 I was recently retired and bored then I found out I had Pancreatic Cancer. I vowed to beat it and have 100% free. when I recovered from the surgery I immediately opened my Sales Training nd business consulting company because I vowed never to be bored.I made the commitment to never stop living.. My wife who had a stroke it May of this year and has recovered beautifully has vowed the same. WE hit the gym three days a week, stay totally active, She is a huge asset in my business, but has her own interests in a DAR Chapter as well. We spend as much time as possible with our 7 Grandkids, and love living life to what we believe is its fullest.

    Our goal is to live each day like it is our last on earth.. We always look forward never back…

    We Love Life.

    • Wow, Norman! That’s a heck of a terrific story, and thanks! Yeah, bored wouldn’t work, and I honestly think that’s what killed so many in earlier generations once they retired. Sorry about your and your wife’s health issues; great to know you’ve both recovered and are doing what’s needed to stay as healthy as possible.

      I. LOVE. LIFE. TOO!

    • Thanks Susan I loved your post. I wear my being a senior citizen badge with pleasure, love my graying hair ( I wear it proudly)… my wife always quotes POPEYE “I AM WHAT I AM”)…KEEP WRITING SUSAN…

  3. Susan Rooks you are such a sassy class act, cannot imagine you with an ‘age chain’ around your neck! As I turned 50 last year I did wonder about the years before and feel there is so much more to do…indeed age is a word we give life as we live our own lives.

    • Aw, Donna-Luisa! What a wonderful few words you wrote! Thanks so much — from the Sassy Class Act herself! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. WHAT? How did I miss this article for so long? This positively describes me: “Many of us have shed the old skins and masks we wore for so long that were composed of others’ expectations of us, of society’s rules for us – we found our true selves and we’re loving living as who we are!”

    I didn’t find myself until I was 50, Susan. And I’m even now discovering myself … still … again … always. And I have the amazingly good fortune now to be doing it in the collective self-discovery of this amazing community and to be doing it with you.

    Thank you for this beautifully spirited reminder that we’re not done until we say we are. And we’re never going to say it.

    I’m so grateful we’re connected.

    • Neither did I, Mark! Neither did I. I was about that age when I took control of my life. Jumped at the chance to work for an international seminar company. After five years of that, ended marriage #2. Started GGC. Haven’t looked back since.

      I think that’s what’s happened to a lot of us, Mark, at least the lucky ones who have the resources and the health to make those drastic decisions. I finally understood the specific things that make me happy, and I surrounded myself with them. Not a day goes by without my thanking my lucky stars for this remarkable life.

      I’m grateful we’re connected too, and thanks!

  5. I do not think that age, or retirement, can be a problem, in general. The important thing is, in the physical, to learn to know our limits in relation to certain activities physiologically influenced by the advance of years. While, as regards the intellectual aspect, we must commit to keep ourselves fresh and creative. To do so, in this rapidly changing world we must exercise the willingness and ability to withstand external stresses, acting to adjust our attitude and approach to the times, maintain a good competitive edge.
    I believe that one of the paradoxes characteristics of the human being is that asks about the future and novelty, but practices the past and repeates the known. This is arguably the most dangerous thing, although legitimate. I believe that everyone us should pursue, either spontaneously or for self-education, new behaviors, new ideas, directing our intelligence and emotion towards such flexible attitude that allows to take opposing points of view, to exercise the doubt on beliefs, change our mind, abandon old positions, stopping behaviors even consolidated, etc. Only then we can reborn each day, and feel alive in a world that changes so quickly. And do not miss a good dose of enthusiasm, that is the common denominator of each role.

    • And as always, Aldo, I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment. It’s interesting how so many of us in this era who are 70ish or more see so many opportunities still ahead of us. We don’t see ourselves or our lives as finished; many, many of us are reinventing ourselves frequently and getting a real kick out of the new challenges!

    • Thank you for reading the comment and for the answer.
      Yes, that’s how you say. Many of my peers are busy at a consultancy level, with sports and other activities, perhaps only at the level of hobbies or volunteering, but they keep themselves busy, active, curious, with no regrets for a youthful age that is almost faded, but rather open to new ones. experiences.

  6. Ah Susan, that smile in your head shot says it all, something like that cannot be faked. I’m the third eldest person in this organization of 50+ people, so I shy away from starting sentences with phrases like “Years ago…” or “Back in the day…” or “I remember back in the (take your pick: 60’s, 70’s or 80’s…). It’s hard, in some ways, to deal with the fact that most everyone is starting to fit into one demographic – younger than we are.

    But more and more, I see examples like yours, and it reminds me that, in the grand scheme of things, we’re all here for just a glimmer, and nothing is guaranteed to any of us. My parents are 90 (dad turns 91 tomorrow) and yes, they don’t do all the things that they used to, but they make the most of what they can do. We had dinner with my parents last Friday, and I asked my dad “Are you ready to turn 91 Wednesday?” In his own way, without hesitation he replied “I’m still working on today yet.” How perfect and sublime… when you’re 90, or any age, why look so far down the road that you aren’t enjoying the gift that today is. I always say that I learned so many things from him, one of my favorites is: “Every day is a good day, some days are just better.”

    Thanks for shining that light on being wherever we are, owning it, and celebrating it. Here’s to you Susan, living life out loud, on purpose and with great joy.

    • A glimmer indeed, Tom! “Glow, little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer.”

      I’m just really grateful that I live in an era where this age isn’t automatically seen as old … that I can still matter … that I can still be part of this thing we call human connections. That I can find ways to make a difference. That I can find things every day that make me laugh out loud!

      I watched my (adoptive) mother just sort of fade away (she died two years ago at age 100), never having worked, never having developed a persona that others were drawn to, never having anything in her life that gave her joy. And I know how awful that sounds, but everyone who ever knew her would attest to it. She existed, but didn’t really LIVE.

      Thanks to that and other bits and pieces of my early life, I have focused more and more, especially in the last 20 or so years, of finding the joy in everything. My family. My friends. My tiny house. My dogs. My … everything.

    • My parents are, not surprisingly, huge fans of Big Band music… more and more, I find myself enjoying it as well, as even our kids do! We had Mills Brothers albums in our house, and I loved the joy and seemingly effortless way that they sang and enjoyed the harmony that they brought for so long. Thanks for the smile today, what a great tune, sung with such joy!

  7. Well, you know you have a kindred spirit and friend in me, Susan. I often find myself saying, “I wish I had discovered this life 40 years ago.” But it was different times back then. I couldn’t have spelled “entrepreneurial” when I started thinking about college because working in and for an organization, whether it was a business or school, in my case, was kind of the expectation. Go out on your own? Huh? But, hey, here I am running my own little operation and meeting amazing people, as you pointed out, all over the world, including someone from Buzzards Bay, MA! Why just next week I’ll be interviewing someone in Ireland and a couple of weeks later, someone in Australia. Who knew, right?

    A great post, thank you.

    • Who knew, indeed, Jeff! I couldn’t have imagined this life 50 years ago, not even close. I’m grateful beyond all measure that I’m living in a time when being in my 70s isn’t seen as a hindrance! That I can continue to grow, evolve, live, and learn for another 30 years … given the chance.

      And imagine interviewing others across the world! Could you have envisioned that back when? I mean, newscasters did that. Big-time stars did that. And now we can do that!

    • I know I do, Jeff, and it’s such fun to have a few friends around my age who see how rich this life can be at our “advanced” age! My friends who are actually retired say they’re happy, and I hope they are! I guess I’m just wired differently.

      And you know how much I love your stories — please keep on keeping on!

  8. What a wonderful message you have shared with us Susan, thank you most kindly.

    Belonging to the same age group, I fully agree with you, at this age retiring is not an option, we leave that to the younger generation.

    We choose to be happy with what we have got, we rejoice with every opportunity and we celebrate ourselves lost in the service of others. Contentment and a positive grateful heart ushers us into the amazing world of thankfulness.

    I guess these days, by having a strong mental attitude, effective time management – ah, whatever that is ? – loving and making peace with ourselves, factually creates more ‘miracles’ than any medication.

    I love your positivity Susan, you are an inspiration.

    • Thanks so much for all that, Jonathan! It’s always great to know others see the world in much the same light; there’s just so much darkness these days. But I love that I can live as I want — owning it, as they say — and enjoying every day far more than I’d imagined when I was 20 or 30 or … whatever age came before this!

    • My goodness and thanks so much, Jonathan! What an excellent last sentence 🙂

      Yeah, our generation is lucky about so much from far better healthcare (for most, anyway) to acceptance of second, third, and even fourth “careers” that many of us find so satisfying! I never imagined this life; I probably never dared to. But now that it’s here — bring it on!

      Thanks for your continued support of my efforts here, Jonathan; much appreciated.