Age: It’s a Relative Thing

I was having lunch with a group recently and the topic of conversation came around to my pending retirement. One of the women was surprised to learn that I’m so close to reaching that milestone.

“You look so good!” she said referring, I think, to the fact that I look younger than the traditional sixty-five year plus retiree age. (Good thing since I’m only fifty-four!)

When I was in primary school I was put into an accelerated program and, as a result, for the remainder of my school years I was younger than most of my classmates. As a teenager I wanted to be older: I wanted to get my driver’s license, I wanted to be able to go to the bar (legally), I wanted to vote, I wanted to get married and have a family. I despaired of my youth.

When I was in my mid-twenties I went back to school and found myself one of the “mature” students–a “Golden Girl”–at age twenty-six. Yet, despite that detour into maturity, when I look back over my life I realize I’ve often been most comfortable with people who are a few years older than me. The woman’s observation of my relative youth in terms of her perception of what a retiree should look like sat well with me. I liked it; it fit.

Later the conversation shifted to child-rearing. I sat quietly listening to the women talk about the cost of babysitters (Crikey! And to think I used to get paid fifty cents an hour as a babysitter in the 1970’s.), teenagers getting their driver’s licenses, and “meddling” mothers checking on their children’s plans (“No one else’s mom does that!” Yeah. Right.), and curfews.

I felt somewhat removed from the conversation–it’s been a good many years since I’ve been concerned with getting a babysitter or missed curfews –and it then it hit me: I’ve got children about the same age as some of these women!

I was old enough to be the MOTHER of some of these women! 

Whoa! What happened to that good feeling of being younger than many retirees? In an instant I felt like an old woman, a matriarch, a fossil. I almost had to check to see if I was wearing a heavy wool coat, support hose, and sensible shoes. (Okay, I was wearing sensible shoes, but not those kind of sensible shoes.)

I couldn’t help smile at the conversation, and I sent up a silent prayer of gratitude that I was past the days these women were living and talking, about but as I listened and smiled at their stories my mind was racing and I felt older with each passing minute.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how the way we feel can change in relation to the people and circumstances around us. In the course of one lunch I went from feeling young-and-bouncy to old-and-feeble all due to conversation of women at the table and my own thoughts about age in relationship to the women I was with.

I like to think I’ve embraced my age; most of the time I believe I have. I appreciate the wisdom, sense of self, and perspective that I’ve gained as I’ve matured. I’m less fond of the changes in my metabolism, stamina, and memory that have occurred in recent years. I’m convinced though, that the positive far outweighs any negative aspects of growing older. I feel more “me”. I’m more comfortable with asking for, and taking steps to get, things I want and need for my own well-being.

I was going to end this post with a tongue-in-cheek comment about needing to spend more time with senior citizens so I can continue to be the youngster in the crowd, but I changed my mind. No matter what demographic I find myself around I’m choosing to embrace being fifty-four. I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock for anything–these are truly the best years of my life and I’m blessed to be living them.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. This was wonderful – it really resonated with me! Thank you for expressing it so beautifully, Linda! Only a year to go until you retire! Woot Woot! 🙂

    1. I’m doing a happy dance, Laura! Glad you liked the post. 🙂

  2. When I first started teaching I was the “youngster” on the team and I was already 36 since I stayed home with the kids for quite a while before returning to work outside the home. As the years passed I became the seasoned teacher and mentor. That was so weird since I didn’t feel like I knew enough. I think I rather liked being the “young” one in the group. Since I’ll be ready for Medicare next year, I guess I’ll have to get used to being that Senior citizen. Living with my mother though probably keeps the illusion that I’m still a little girl.

    1. Ah yes, I’ve heard how being around our parents or other older family members can keep us feeling young. I wish I still had parents or aunts and uncles still alive. Unfortunately, I was forced into the matriarchal role much too soon. I tell my hubby all the time (he turned sixty-five last year) how much I love that he’s now officially a Senior Citizen and qualifies for all the discounts and perks that go with that status!

  3. I must admit, I’m not aging gracefully — mentally. I’m fighting it tooth and nail. But, I do like spending time with my 80 year old (very good) friend because she inspires me and…she calls me youngster.

    1. I’d be lying if I said that I’m enamored with everything that goes along with aging, Teresa. Certainly some of the physical changes are less than what I desire. I’m enjoying the freedom I feel to be me and let go of being so concerned about what everyone else things of me though. 🙂

  4. I retired at age 50. It was a big change. Volunteering has been excellent.
    We all age, and good for you for dealing with it!
    We should exchange books! I am an adoptee.

    1. How fortunate you were to be able to retire at fifty, Jenn! I’m finding that the concept of retirement has changed, and continues to change, don’t you? I’m certainly looking forward to experiencing it myself. By the way, I’m always especially happy to meet a fellow adoptee! I clicked over and checked out your book–is it available as an ebook?

  5. Dear Linda, in April I’ll turn 77. I’m the oldest person I know now. Up in Minnesota I had a number of friends who were older than I, but not here in Missouri. And that’s too bad because I was always learning from my friends who were just around the next bend or down the street in this aging process, metaphorically speaking. I so like to have younger friend for they keep me young in my thinking, but watching friends age gracefully and watching them–and myself–face the vicissitudes of time makes for a graceful acceptance of life. Peace.

    1. I love how friends of a different demographic can expand our thinking, don’t you? We can learn from those who have walked the path in front of us, be an example to those coming up behind us, and at the same time just enjoy one another’s unique perspectives and ideas. I do agree though, that having people who are older than us in our lives is especially enriching.

  6. Yes, at 52, I can say my life is pretty dang nice. I have been through many hard times but feel so much more grounded and in touch with my essence than I ever did when I was younger. Even if gravity tries to fool us, life really does get better with age.

    1. I love how you said “dang nice”, Grace! I use that word all the time!

      Having also been through many hard times, I think we may appreciate the peace that comes with maturity more than we might if we hadn’t endured those difficulties. Yet another thing to be thankful for.

  7. So much of this hit home for me. We’re about the same age and I’ve always been the “younger one” too, but that’s more about the crowd I run with– Like my 103 year old friend that I have lunch with every 2 weeks. He recently told me that he’d like to turn the clock back 20 years because there are still places to travel too even though he’s been all over the world. When I pointed out that it would make him 83, he smiled and said that was a pretty good age even though he’s quite happy now.

    1. It’s so cool that you have a friend who is 103, Joanna! I can only imagine the conversations you have with him.

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