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Are we getting old or obsolete?

Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 21:48 UK time, Thursday, 7 October 2010

We had a season or rather a day of programmes here at the World Service devoted to old age. See Affording Old Age and Growing Old in Africa

But what I'd like to discuss this week is not the longevity as such, rather a prolonged youthfulness. Recently in a gym I overheard a conversation between two gentlemen

"First sign of ageing? It's when what's dropped out of your pocket is not a condom, but Kleenex tissue."
"Yes, it flows."

In one of my novellas an ageing character says:

You call yourself an old man, but there used to be a time when it was only ancient wise men with white beards who were called "old men". Now, though, you can't tell the old men from the young ones, not from the way they look or the way they behave. At 60 they look almost the same as when they were 40. They don't age - they just become obsolete and worn out. Yes, that's it, that's the trouble.

It's embarrassing to call yourself an old man.

And further:

It's as if the world has rejected seriousness. Everything in it seems false, fake, artificial. The empty-headed old men don't have any hair on their faces, but the lads who used to come and visit them have beards as large as spades. This makes their faces look like the palm of a hand. They'd taken charge of his old friend's funeral; they'd given orders to everyone in the neighbourhood. And the people with the worn-out faces, the ones who call themselves old men, had just crowded into a bus, walked to the cemetery in a file, and lined up to get their funeral meal.

Had the earth flown off its axis?

I also remember several stories (by Thomas Mann and Vasily Shukshin among others), where so called 'old' men dance with young girls and the authors abhor the oddness, unnaturality, freakiness of that act. What would those classicists say - when they see our aged rockstars, turned from playboys into 'play-granddads'.

But ageing myself I discover that even at 56, when I am asked my age, without thinking I find my first response would be to say: "28!" One's attitude remains the same too. You remain competitive - with your teenager son doing pull-ups or push-ups for example.

Though there's another side to the youthfoolness (let's keep that spelling intentionally) of the oldies: younger generations treat them with no extra piety or respect. "You wanted it, you got it!"

What's the first sign of ageing? When you don't shut up not because you don't want to, but because you can't. It flows...

Therefore I'll shut up here and leave the discussions to you.

Feet on a running machine

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