Meals On Wheels of San Francisco

Baruch speaking at a MOWSF volunteer training.

Thoughts On Aging: When are we “old”?

Posted April 25, 2013

MOWSF Blog | Senior Issues

“Thoughts on Aging” is a column by Baruch Gould, MOWSF’s Manager of Volunteer Programs. Each month he’ll discuss issues related to seniors and aging.

April 22, 2013 – There are jokes that begin, “You know you’re old when… .” But, seriously, how DO we know we are “old”? And what does it really mean to be “old”?  Obviously one of the sure indicators of being old is a significant loss or decline in our physical and neurological functioning. But loss and decline can happen at any age.

I think we are “old” when we inwardly consider ourselves to be such.  Sometimes an illness or accident comes upon us and we realize that we are changed in a way that leads us to think of ourselves as “old.” Or, we might have an experience – an encounter with others or something in the culture – that unexpectedly leads us to a different view of ourselves, and, for the first time, we consider ourselves “old.” 

However, accompanying these outer experiences that lead us to change our perception of ourselves, there is another indicator of being “old.” This is an internal experience not necessarily connected to any outer event. This kind of experience is a turning inward of one’s energy, a shift of values, a heightened importance of what is of ultimate concern beyond the physical.

Such concerns often have to do with our connection with others, our connection with ourselves via our memories and our connection to the transpersonal. Old people need connection and validation as much as young children in order to be at peace with themselves. We know how important it is to nurture the young through paying attention to them and validating their unique experiences. So it is when we are old. Isolation is a killer at any age and connection fosters life at every age.