Aren’t you too old to being doing that? Why are you doing that at your age? How old are you?
These are all questions that have been asked of me in the past year at various times about a range of activities I have decided to partake in. But how old is too old?
This is a question that potentially has many different answers depending on the context in which it is used, but essentially I think you are never too old to do anything.
Off the top of my head I can think of only one instance that outwardly states there is an upper age limit for participation, this being eating from the children’s menu in restaurants, but that aside I can think of no other occasions, events or activities that do this.
In fact, I believe it is actually illegal to do so, in the UK at least, due to age discrimination laws.
Yes, there are factors associated with age, health and mobility for example when specifically looking at ‘old age’, that become relevant when applying for jobs for instance, but a person’s actual age should have no bearing at all.
However, going back to my own experience, at the age of 36 I do not consider myself to be old, but I do not consider myself to be young either.
The ‘age stages’, for want of a better phrase, can be very fluid it seems.
Most people agree that it is the age of 18 when you become an adult. Perhaps you are a young adult for a while, but then there seems to be no specific labels until you hit the dreaded label of ‘middle aged’ which is often thought to begin when a person turns 40-45 years old. After which of course comes the even more dreaded label of ‘old age’ at 60-65 years old and beyond.
So I am not yet middle aged, but I definitely do not feel like a young adult. I am definitely at a sort of limbo age, where I appear old to those in their early 20s and young to those in their 40s.
A slightly differing view to this is that of Erik Erikson the developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, when talking about his psychosocial stages. He classified ages in to 3 stages: young adulthood, (20-24 or 20-39), middle adulthood, (25-64, or 40-64 years) and late adulthood, (65-death). Looking at my age from this viewpoint, I am either in my young adulthood or middle adulthood, reinforcing the limbo age idea.
The question of age and the perception of a person’s age, reminds me of a scene in an episode of The Vicar of Dibley, a UK situation comedy, called Happy New Year. In this particular episode the vicar celebrates her 40th birthday and discusses the subject of age with her younger verger.
The verger states that for actual old people, 161 is old … but for young people 28 is pretty old. When asked about 30, she says it is very old and for 35 she says that it’s hard to imagine anyone that old. Finally when asked about a person being 40 she replies I honestly don’t know why they bother … next step death!
In this particular sitcom, the character of the verger is played as being dim-witted and naïve, but there is some truth in what the character says as to how age is seen. The age of a person is seen in direct comparison to the age of the person doing the viewing.
I remember, when clubbing in my late teens / early twenties, seeing older guys and wondering what they were doing in clubs at their age. Thinking back to my university days, I can clearly remember one guy in particular – Sailor Man is what we called him as he always wore blue and white striped clothing – in one particular club week after week. At the time I felt, and said to friends, that he was far too old to be clubbing, but thinking back he was probably only in his 40s which is no age at all really.
Actually the idea of the perception of a person’s age is a whole different discussion for another time!
There are many books and websites with titles like ‘Things to do before you’re …’ giving lists of activities, events, goals to achieve before some arbitrary age. Some of these have realistic things you can do or achieve and some have very unrealistic goals. We might not be able to get a doctorate, but we can all learn a new skill. We might not all be able to climb Mount Everest, but we can all certainly try to become a little fitter than we are now. But why should these things be restricted to having to be done before a certain age.
Why can’t a 65 year old decide to try and run a marathon? In short, they can if they are fit and healthy enough and want to!
In the past year I have taken to making YouTube videos on a regular basis, talking about things that interest me, and many of my friends and acquaintances, some members of my family and some colleagues have questioned me as to why I am doing this, especially at my age!
To many people of a slightly older generation, YouTube is something for young people to do, those in their late teens and early twenties. Many YouTubers I watch have even talked themselves about getting too old for YouTube when in their late twenties.
However I think that is complete rot! YouTube can be for people of all ages and it is merely the content that changes as a person gets older. You won’t find tag videos, prank videos or getting drunk videos on my channel not because I shouldn’t be making those sorts of videos, just because they don’t necessarily fit with who I am anymore.
There are however plenty of other things I do that are perceived by some as being too childish for someone of my age including watching cartoons and Disney movies, buying geeky collectables, playing arcade games when in a seaside town, swiveling around on office chairs, dressing up as often as I can, laughing at crude jokes, singing along and dancing to cheesy pop, randomly speaking in different accents, flirting with guys in their 20s, fangirling over cute YouTubers and generally being a little bit silly.
After all, I really do subscribe to the idea that growing old may be obligatory, but growing up is optional!
And this is possibly something that runs in my family.
My mother is currently 71 years old and she has got not living up to the expectations of a person of a certain age bracket down to a fine art.
She has lived an extremely varied and active life. She lived for a time in both France and Germany, has been married 5 times, she got her first tattoo in her late fifties, she often flirts with men much younger than her and her most recent conquest is nearer to my age than hers!
She has never seen age as being a barrier to the things she does and I see that as a wonderful thing and something to aspire to.
How my mother acts reminds me of a poem by Jenny Joseph called Warning. It begins with the lines ‘When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me’. It goes on to outline the things the author will do when she is old, many of which would seem out of place or wrong for someone considered ‘old’ to be doing. These include spending her pension on brandy and learning to spit. It goes on to talk about things she has to do now such as pay rent, not swear in the street and set a good example for the children.
It is another example of how we are conditioned to believe that people of certain age brackets should behave in certain ways.
But as long as you don’t harm anyone, as long as you do not break any laws, as long as you do not adversely affect anyone, why should something as arbitrary as your chronological age stop you from doing something?
As for me, I will continue to make YouTube videos, put on different voices, enjoy cartoons and flirt with guys in their 20s. I will continue to live the life I am living and possibly, when I am even older I might get some tattoos and wear purple!
I am a thinker, watcher, smiler, laugher, YouTube content creator, writer & part-time teacher!
My YouTube channel can be found at:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaPfRtDp5552wTwriVZ0_9g (Jay’s Jabberings)