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Am I Old Or Am I Young?

By Thegenaboveme @TheGenAboveMe

Am I Old or Am I Young?

Photo by Luc B.

"Forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age."  ~ Hosea Ballou
Because I am a gerontologist, people ask me directly or indirectly, "Am I old?"
Well, there isn't an easy answer to that question.
Last week I talked with an administrator at a local university who was telling me he was a lot older than people imagined.
Older? He's in his mid 30s.
Because I regularly socialize with people who are twice and three times his age, I perceive him as young--even though he is twice the age of an incoming university student.
From his perspective, he exemplifies Ballou's first clause in this post's epigraph:  "Forty is the old age of youth."

Am I Old or Am I Young?

Photo by Nick Kenrik.

My own experience as a woman in my fifties tells me Ballou's second clause is true as well: "Fifty is the youth of old age."
When ever I confess my age to people who are in their 80s and 90s, they always make some version of this statement: "You're a baby!"
Thanks to improved sanitation, better health care, and the reduction of smokers in the US, the average life expectancy is increasing.
Reading about projections leads me to belief I will live into my mid 80s, maybe into my 90s.  Because I expect to live for 30+ more years, 50 doesn't really feel old.
As a gerontologist, I social regularly with older adults. They teach me a great deal about life in the US before I was born. They also teach me a great deal--directly or indirectly--about how to age effectively.
I see a parallel emerging.
When I was 25, I looked to my middle-aged professors for guidance on how to establish myself in the workaday world.  As a young adult, I didn't even see many people over the age of 65--let alone talk with them--so why would I seek a mentor from among those past traditional retirement age?
Now that I am 52, I look to older adults for guidance on how to establish myself in the broader view of "the world."  I find that older adults know more about personal character, peaceful relationships, long-range decision making and many other larger-than-worklife skills.
So when you wonder whether you are young or old, remember to consider the context and audience when you post that question.
This is part of a new series of posts inspired by quotes. Enjoy! 
Life Span vs. Life Expectency
Leisure World Cohort Turning 90
Transcending Age
Quantifying Wisdom

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