When does old age begin? I have a compelling interest in answers to this question. There are certainly various markers, I will confine my analysis to women, the ageing male is more mysterious to me. The sixtieth birthday is one of those definitive moments; the government recognises that you are now officially an Old Person, subject to the correct number of National Insurance contributions, you are entitled to a Pension. You will probably receive a free bus pass also any medication that you will now most probably need. So far so good.
Treatment in hospital will for the moment be free at the point of need but nursing care and attention may be noted by their complete absence. (I am of course talking about English hospitals).
Grey hair, nowadays this has become a matter of choice, many people in the public eye and others completely anonymous decide that a choice of colour is much more preferable. I have been tempted in this direction myself.
A spreading waistline, I will remain discreetly silent on this point, I have observed this in people who have not yet reached thirty years of age.
The universal need for reading glasses, this can begin in the fifties. For some a boost with hearing,(often invisible).
By no means universal but frequently seen a walking aid, often specially carved to suit the individual supported by it.
The most interesting aspect when does an individual human being recognise herself as being old? I recall getting on a bus, watching the passengers enter and mentally deciding, that person is old, this one merely middle aged. In very recent journeys I have noted young people stand up to give me a seat, indeed I have been very glad to sit down. They have categorised me as an old woman. Long ago I was told I looked young, time and tide wait for no man nor woman either. I still have my own teeth, well most of them, my hair is thick and glossy,(my hairdresser often compliments me). My grey cells are still in working order, I would even go so far as to say they work better, except for the minor problem of forgetting once familiar names.
Feelings! I can remember 1958, I’ve counted up 56 years ago. I come from another age, I could exhibit myself on Antiques Roadshow and ask if they would put a value on me. Well this item is showing some cracks and the surface has faded, as William Morris said, ‘have nothing in your home which you do not believe to be beautiful or useful’. Which category?
A famous writer once said,’the past is another country’, I think that makes me a time traveller. How strange, exciting, beautiful and frightening this twenty-first century world is.



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