Has it really been fifty years since The Who first sang “Hope I die before I get old”? Once upon a time, when my youth was something to be taken for granted and squandered, that was my mantra. And today, I’m not sure anything’s changed.
The problem is, I can’t actually see myself as being “old”. I can’t imagine being unable to get out of a chair or do my own grocery shopping. I can’t imagine being the 93-year-old woman who has lost all her friends and has to rely on her great grandchildren and an old copy of Woman’s Day to keep herself entertained.
Our generation was the first to reject the idea that ageing was inevitable and we’re doing our darnedest to prove we’re right as baby boomers approach 70. From age-defying potions, lotions and injections, to improved nutrition and fitness, we simply refuse to go quietly.
When I’m reading to my grandkids and a little old lady with grey hair in a bun pops up, they never associate her with their Grandma.
And why would they? She’s hunched over in a chair with her blankie on her knee, while their Grandma is learning to ride a motorbike and planning a trip to to India.
As I plan for these grand adventures, I sometimes feel the weariness of age creep up and a tiny part of my brain thinks, “Can I be bothered with all this?”
Immediately the noisier, bossier voice says, “Of course you can – you’re not dead yet!”
Truth be told, I’m terrified of the prospect of not being able to do what I want, and it’s got nothing to do with ticking items off a “bucket list” , and everything to do with the gnawing fear that if I don’t do it all now, I might not be able to tomorrow.
Some people fear ageing because they are worried about losing their looks. To be honest, I couldn’t give two hoots about my face – I have the fortunate perspective of rarely seeing it unless I choose to.
A woman in the UK has made the papers over there for refusing medical treatment for cancer because she doesn’t want to die old and ugly (never mind the impact on her children, this is clearly all about her). It’s not the exterior shell I fear, but that feeling that your body won’t do what it’s told – or worse, your mind.
Loneliness is a another great concern. If I do cling on, who’s to say anyone else will? What if everyone I love, even my children shuffle off before me, lacking the stubbornness of this old stalwart?
I truly hope that, like an Energiser bunny I will keep on keeping on for a long time and then someone will take the batteries out so there’s no wind-down. Better still, give me some reusable batteries, please!
Did previous generations fear growing old the way we do? Did they go gentle into that good night; did they fear gaining a moustache and losing their continence? Or was it accepted that thus was the circle of life?
We boomers are lucky to have lived through a mostly charmed period, with no world wars and staggering medical advances. Is it any wonder we’re not willing to let go?