“Old” Gets a Bad Rap

I looked up the word old in my Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. These definitions were listed.

  • dating from the remote past
  • persisting from an earlier time
  • of longstanding

Those definitions are fine when I am talking about cars or movies or clothes. However, when I am talking about people, the terms seem decidedly negative. They certainly do not make me feel happy to be in the over-60 crowd.

Therefore, when the word old is used to describe a person, it is more encouraging to state what the term does not mean.

Old does not mean useless or unproductive.

Old people have more and better life stories to tell than most young people have. Maybe that is why Laura Ingalls Wilder did not write the first of her childhood memoir books, Little House in the Big Woods, until she was 64.

The paintings of Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, hang in famous museums all over the world. She began painting when she was 74, a new hobby she took up because her hands had become too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle.

Old also does not mean unattractive.

I Googled “Beautiful Old People,” and read numerous lists of easily recognized names: Helen Mirren (72), Tina Turner (77), Liam Neeson (65), and Denzel Washington (62).

Who composed these lists? If, as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then anyone with eyesight can recognize beauty.

I have beheld many beautiful old people, but not one of their names appears on the lists I found online.

Through Google Images, I found this photo, courtesy of Pinterest. This old woman’s face speaks of strength and endurance. Her eyes and smile tell me she has a sense of humor.

Based upon appearances alone, I would rather spend an afternoon with this lovely woman than with Jennifer Lopez.

Old does not necessarily mean needy. It is true that as we get older, we lose some physical strength, but most of us can take care of ourselves.

I am revealing one of my pet peeves here, but I cringe every time a clerk or salesperson addresses me as “Sweetheart” or “Dearie.”  To me those words mean “You poor, doddering old soul, you obviously need special treatment.” I am not poor or doddering and I do not need special treatment.

In addition to all these admirable qualities, according to the Bible, old people also possess other benefits and blessings.

  • Job 12:12 reads: Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.
  • Proverbs 17:6 proclaims: Grandchildren are a crown to the aged.
  • Isaiah 46:5 records this promise of God: Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.

Most old people are productive, beautiful, and competent. God says we have gained wisdom and understanding. Many of us have been crowned with grandchildren. Best of all, God continues to sustain us. These are all wonderful assets to possess.

Celebrate your age, whatever it is. Childhood offers freedom and fancy, middle age brings opportunity and responsibility, but only old age gifts us with understanding and reflection.

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14 thoughts on ““Old” Gets a Bad Rap”

  1. Since I am approaching a “zero” birthday I am very sensitive about this issue of being “old”. Off the subject, I am also sensitive to people’s reaction when I say I have no grandchildren and they respond as if I have just said I have a fatal disease.

    1. Belva, you are one of my best, truest, and most loved friends. You will never be “too old” for friendship. Friendship has nothing to do with age.

      As for people who look down on you for having no grandchildren, that is their problem. There are always people who criticize even when there is no reason for criticism. They may make you feel miserable for a little while, but they are ALWAYS MISERABLE.

  2. Love this, the word I hate is elderly. The news people are always taking about the elderly and it turns out they are my age. I do not feel elderly and don’t like to be referred to as elderly. This has become a very big pet peeve of mine. Jimmy says I need to get over it. Thank you for reminding us of the benefits of being old. The best one is not working every day.

    1. Oh, yes. Please don’t refer to me as elderly and don’t treat me as if I am elderly! Just yesterday a check out person called me “honey.” URRGGHH! I am no more her honey than the 25-year-old customer standing in line behind me that she does NOT call honey.

      Yes, not having to go to work every day is truly a BIG benefit of getting older!

  3. Debbie, I appreciate and enjoy the company of women with more experience and wisdom to share – such a gift! Maybe I’ve been spoiled, but for years I’ve been the youngest among my bible study group. I prefer that! Feels like a room full of loving mentors. I may be guilty of occasionally slipping and calling someone Sweetheart, but I’ve never even thought to do it biased towards older women! (It just happens after time with my kiddos and I start calling everyone else the terms of affection I call them!) You’re a gift, Debbie!

    1. Pearl, you are most assuredly absolved of any blame for calling your friends in your Bible study group by endearing names. I remember when checkout clerks began referring to me as ma’am. I was probably about 35, and I didn’t think I qualified YET for that title. Now, I flinch at being called “dearie” or “sweetheart” by people, mostly salespeople and clerks, who do not know me. I feel patronized. I would not feel that way if I were addressed lovingly by people who know me and truly care about me. I always appreciate your comments!

    1. I love them too, on the rare occasions I take time to enjoy them! I find myself feeling uncomfortable about some of the things I said and did when I was younger. Age has shown me that I mishandled some situations. I guess that is what is meant by the expression “Live and Learn.”

  4. “Babe” is a name one waitress calls me. I always want to snap back and say, “Excuse me, but I am NOT your babe!” On the other hand if my husband called me “babe” it would be welcomed and appreciated. I think it is a feeling of being treated condescendingly. As if by being older, we are somehow worth less, or are to be pitied.

    Another great article. ❤️

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