200 Steps of Ageing. Part 4
- Your teeth won't be in as good a condition as before, and you may have dentures.
- There is a good chance that you will require pills to keep yourself healthy and pain-free.
- You and your same-aged peers will be massively different in their health and how old they look. Some people will be tap dancing; others will be puffing along with a stick.
- Now and then you will hold a cup or glass at an angle without realising it, and it will pour on the floor.
- As it will probably be forty years since you took your driving test, your driving skills will have deteriorated considerably. Not only will your reactions be worse than forty years ago, but you will have gradually developed hundreds of bad habits, and you will have forgotten details of the Highway Code. You will still consider yourself a good driver, as everyone considers themselves a good driver.
- If you are male, your eyebrows will most likely be much longer than they used to be, and will require trimming not to look wispy. Likewise, if you are unobservant your nose and ears might be full of hair.
- Your vision will not be as good as it was. Wearing glasses if you are long sighted won't give you perfect vision. If you are a cleaner, decorator or something that requires you to have good vision, then you will be less good at your job because of your failing eyesight. You won't notice insects in food, you won't notice dirt on the floor or on cutlery and crockery. You may not notice rotting fruit. You will find it harder to read than before.
- Your political views will still be the ones from your youth, which means, in a progressive country, that they will appear outdated to younger people. For example you may be pro-caning children, or still against the last-but-one wave of immigration, or against the current civil rights struggle.
- This is a good age for developing into a late-in-life alcoholic, even if you never showed any sign of alcohol addiction before (especially if you are male). I suppose the reasons include your wish to avoid thinking about your mortality, and to block out the fact that you will never achieve the impossible ideals you used to have.
- However much exercise you take, or weight training you do, you will never regain the tight firm muscles of your youth. You may be strong but your muscles will sag and you will have a belly.
- You will be more aware of minor changes in your mental state and abilities.
- You will suffer from the age related ailments that affected your parents.
- If you are male and single, your house will contain a lot of mats and will be untidy.
- Some kind of erectile dysfunction is likely in men. Being unhealthy or ill can make this worse. Even if it all works, it wonít be working like it did when you were twenty.
- At some point in the last ten or twenty years you will have lost the ability to hear the high pitched noises that you still could in your twenties. As I said before, in your twenties you stopped being able to hear very high sounds such as those from bats. Now you won't be able to hear high noises such as those from grasshoppers. It is unlikely you will notice this, unless a much younger person persists in telling you they can hear something that you can't.
"Could you turn the clock back for me by forty years, I would willingly swap you every penny and possession I own in return. And I would have the better bargain, too!"
Felix Dennis, How to Get Rich, 2006.
- Depending on your previous outlook in life, you will become more fixed in your ways. "Why canít things be like they used to be" is your motto. You will become like Jeremy Clarkson, criticising modern things from the viewpoint of someone from an earlier time who doesnít understand life now.
- Memories will become confused through the depths of time. Something that happened fifteen years ago, might seem much more recent.
- Women may have random long face hairs, but may not have the vision to be able to see them.
- Your standard of washing up will deteriorate significantly. You will find people who know you telling you there is no need for you to help wash up. They know that if you do it, they'll just have to do it again afterwards.
- You will become much more gullible and prone to scams. Not just new scams. Even things that you would have realised were scams in the past, will seem perfectly sensible now. If someone comes to your house offering you tarmac, you will think that it is a great idea.
- You will begin to be less capable of understanding what people's motives are. For example, if someone tries to open a door, you may wait for them to pass through without realising that they are opening it for you. This flaw is also another reason you will be more susceptible to scams.
- You will be physically weaker and less agile than you have ever been before.
- You will most likely have an ailment that prevents you from walking without pain or difficulty. For example: joint pain, knee problems, hip problems etc.
- The methods and systems you use to do some things will seem illogical to younger people, yet you will continue to use them as you won't want to change. For example, how you do certain DIY work or perhaps how you cook some foods. You will do some things because "that's the way you have always done them", not because it is the best method.
- You may show signs of dementia, however other people looking for signs of dementia in you, will draw wrong conclusions from any eccentricities, or any normal absentmindedness. Talking to yourself, or putting frozen food in the fridge isn't a sign of dementia.
- Your observation skills and your logic will not be as good as they used to be.
- You will be less able to tell if something is sticky or not.
- Your cooking won't be as good as it used to be
- If you are freshly retired, strangers will ask you "what did you do when you worked?", so you will still be constrained by society's views of particular job titles. As you get older still, people will see you as "a pensioner" rather than a former "job title", and will stop asking this.
- Depending on your health and optimism, you may be making plans for your death. For example, tidying up your affairs to make them simpler for any relatives, should you die.
- If you are a singer, you will find it harder to sing as well as you used to. You will have less power and less range.
- You will have experienced things that younger people and those in power won't have done. You might have witnessed your town flooding, experienced a war, experienced a government altering the changing of the clocks, had powercuts, witnessed extreme winters, droughts etc. However those in authority won't have your knowledge, and you will have to watch them do things that you know are remarkably stupid.
- You will become upset if things aren't done the way you like, or if the layout of a room is changed to how it was.
- For some people, your face will become more "panel-like" - i.e. it will resemble that of a rhinocerous with flat areas and hard looking wrinkles. Your skin will become paler and greyer.
- If you are the typical retired man, who spent his whole life working, then now when you go supermarket shopping with your wife, you will just be in the way. Your inexperience will make you a burden.
For most of your younger life everything you do is based around improving your future - learning, getting promotions, eating well, keeping fit, saving money and so on. There comes a point in your life when the need and ability to improve your future stop, and instead you end up just cruising on the momentum that you created earlier in your life. There is no point in learning new skills as they won't improve your future. At a certain time in your life you are effectively sliding down the hill you spent your entire life building. The time that this starts to happen is probably somewhere between 55 and 65, and has definitely happened when you retire. After retirement everything you do becomes an essentially pointless "hobby" or "interest". Learning a new language at this stage in life will almost certainly never be useful in improving your wellbeing.
The difference between being an unemployed forty year old and someone who is old and retired is that the forty year old still has hopes and plans for the future. Their vision of the future is what separates them.
It is my view that a lot of the attributes assigned to the behaviour of older adults aren't necessarily a sign of old age, but more a sign of social isolation. (The social isolation is caused by age though). I have seen the effects of social isolation in much younger people and it has a lot in common with much of the behaviour of older adults.
Some reasons for social isolation as you age after retirement are:
1: Retirement means that you will meet and speak to far fewer people than when you were working. A lot of your friendships will have been based around work, and you may find that outside of work you have nothing in common with these people. Work provided a thin thread to provide a purpose to your friendship. You will also drift away from some friends without the constant forced contact to keep the friendship going. Without work friendships to fall back on, this might be the first time in your life you need to rely on your own social skills to meet new people, and you might not have any.
2: Some of your friends will have died. Eventually, of course, they will all die if you donít beat them to it.
3: You won't be as capable at social engagements because of age related ill-health and a lack of stamina. For example, you might struggle to leave your house to visit people, or increased deafness might make it harder to use the telephone to keep in touch and also make social events harder to manage.
4: If you are married you may be a couple who spend a lot of time together indoors. Whereas you could have done this without it being a problem at weekends when you were both working, after retirement such behaviour will not help you meet people.
5: Unchecked social isolation will get worse, like a reverse snowball, making you fearful of the outside world. The fear will make you less capable of solving the problem. I'm sure that the sensational scare stories in most newspapers is a major contributing factor to frightening older adults into not going out.
6: Your children are likely to have moved away and so will see you less often.
7: Downsizing to a smaller house will mean you lose contact with your old neighbours, and you might not know people in your new area.
The social isolation will keep you out of touch with what's going on in the world. You may miss out on important news, new technology, new films and music and so on, because there are fewer people to tell you about it. A lot of your knowledge about the modern world will come from few sources such as TV news and newspapers, giving you a simplistic, narrow and biased view of current affairs. This will be less of a problem now we have the internet to keep us informed, but there will still be huge amounts that you will miss out on.
Social isolation, combined with the extra time you have after retirement, will make you bored. You will become interested in very minor, trivial things that younger, more sociable people would consider insignificant or boring. For example, you might notice how often the next door neighbour puts out his bins, or where somebody parks their car. As there are fewer significant things in your life, the less signficant take their place.
Social isolation will result in your conversations becoming less interesting to those around you. A lack of stories to tell about your day or what you have done recently will mean you have very little to say. You will reach back into your past for stories to compensate for your lack of current ones. You will end up telling the same people the same stories several times. (This is the only issue that may also be a sign of age related memory deterioration). You probably won't notice that people are getting bored with what you have to say, but if you were observant you might see their forced polite expressions.
Loneliness will make you yearn for conversation so you may leap at every chance for social interaction, and try to strike up conversations with everyone. Your conversations will become more long winded, partly because you want to savour the interaction, and partly because you will forget the rules for interaction, and wonít realise you are boring people. With fewer people to interact with, it is less likely that there will be someone to correct or alter your manner of speaking to fit in with modern norms. Even if they did, it wouldnít stop you.
In summary, the effects of social isolation will lead to behaviours that other people might incorrectly associate with mental deterioration.