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I’m nearly 60. Here’s what I’ve learned about growing old so far

The end of ambition, involuntary grunts and a mistrust of bathroom fittings. All things to look forward to …

Tim Dowling @IAmTimDowlingWed 8 Jun 2022

The parameters of middle age have been generously expanded over the years; for a long time I thought I might avoid old age altogether, because the minimum qualifying limit was sliding forward faster than I was. Middle age, by some definitions, now extends to 60, or even 65, which still gives me a bit of a reprieve. But I know this to be a mere technicality; a loophole, and slim comfort. I’m 59, and that’s pretty old. So old it doesn’t feel like a privilege, even if it’s preferable to the alternative. What have I learned about what it’s really like to get old? Not a lot, but here it is. I thought I’d better write it down before I forget it. 1 The real difference between youth and age is not physical, or even mental. It’s just the added weight of all the years piled up behind you. You can call it experience if you want, but having a considerable past doesn’t necessarily confer any wisdom. It just compresses time so that things that happened last week and things that happened in the mid-1980s sit side by side in your memory. This isn’t a problem as long as you restrict your conversational circle to other old people.

2 Being old also means having to contend with the enormous, invisible volume of everything you have done and completely forgotten about. At the age of 20 you’ve lived so little you can remember virtually all of it; by the age of 60 you will have forgotten entire holidays, scores of books you’ve read, hundreds of arguments, upwards of a thousand former acquaintances, all the popular music released between 1999 and 2004, and at least 10 Netflix passwords. This isn’t memory loss – just a natural shedding of things your brain has deemed superfluous.


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