May 142011

It’s my forty-eleventh birthday today, but does that mean I’m “old”?

The younger you are, the less the number of years your definition of “old” is. Each time you reach the age you had in mind you realise that it isn’t old at all and your perception changes so that the gap between you’re current age and “old” widens.

This continues until you reach a point in time where you realise you have as much life in front of you as you have behind you. From this point the gap between you and your perception of being “old” decreases until such time as your age and your perception clash. At this point you’re old.

Still with me?

I’m at the point where people younger than me tell me I’m old but I don’t think I am. However, I also believe that I’m not very far away from being old. In a recent performance review at work my boss referred to me as the “elder statesman” of the team. She may as well have just called me Methuselah. She didn’t even soften the blow by saying “we’re a young team” or using words like “relatively”.

Shortly after this ageist affront I was approached in a car park by a proper elderly gentleman who attracted my attention with an “Excuse me young lad!” and proceeded to ask for directions to the nearest pay point. There was no hint of sarcasm or frivolity in his tone so I have no reason to think that he didn’t genuinely perceive me as being young. (Before anyone accuses me of ageism, he gentleman in question referred to himself as elderly in the course of conversation)

I don’t think there’s any legal definition of “old”. The term old age pensioner (OAP) only refers to someone who receives the said benefit and this age is subject to change at the whim of the pension provider. If you don’t get the benefit you’re not an OAP regardless of your age. If you don’t get a pension until you’re seventy, does that mean you’re not old at sixty-nine (but your wife is)?

Of course not! Old age is just a perception and without a consensus from society of what age we become old, we all have the right to declare ourselves to be young for a long as wish.

This stance has recently been endorsed in some way by the government through the introduction of anti-ageism legislation. People no longer have the right to discriminate against me just because of the number of years I’ve been around. However I will still want a State Pension, Free Bus Pass, TV Licence and Fuel Subsidy when I’m old enough to qualify, but  I don’t want to have to re-apply for a driving licence, that’s just the government being ageist isn’t it?

They say with age comes wisdom, but I’m not so sure. I’m pretty certain my ability to do or say something stupid is about the only thing that’s still as good as it ever was. Maybe I’ll have some sort of epiphany in my sixties but I’m not too hopeful of that.