Moving the Goalposts

The Super Bowl is coming Sunday, and I’m thinking about the half-time performance, clever commercials, and goalposts? What might goalposts have to do with aging?

It all started on the eve of my thirtieth birthday. The perceived reality of being old by age thirty came rushing in. “Over the hill “and “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” were anthems of anyone in their teens and twenties. Each decade brought new and different axioms, and my friends and I would pick and choose the ones we liked and toss the others over the generational cliff. I bet you too recall sayings like “Life begins at forty,” or “Sixty is the new forty,“ and also, “You’re not 60, you’re 20 with 40 years’ experience.”

With the completion of each decade, we’d gladly push the “old-and-all-that’s-negative-about-it” out to the next decade, or we’d move the goalpost further away. Doing this was a futile effort to distance ourselves from being truly old, whatever ‘truly old’ means.

It’s pretty hard at my current age of 75 to get away with thinking “I won’t be old until I’m 80.”  My “old” goalpost was way more than a handful of years back. The social and scientific communities label elders as follows: the youngest old are those between 65 and 74, the middle old are between 75 and 84, and the oldest old are those over 85. I’ve began the 75-84 years middle old group but, as I type this, I feel the silliness of why I’m even considering the importance of any of these categories. What does it matter?

Since we can’t do anything about it, why not just accept the age we are? At the same time, I’m still stuck wondering if there will be a place to shove the age goalpost out to when I’m old-old. How will I feel about not being able to move the goalpost out of the old-old category when I get to be 85? But, hey, how about I focus on getting to 85, should I be so fortunate?

It’s not easy to explain the aging process to someone who hasn’t experienced it. What it’s like to get old, obviously, is different for each of us. Chronological age is only one aspect of any aging experience. Attitude, beliefs, habits, and our environment all factor into how successfully and comfortably we age. Regardless of age, everyone I know would agree that we tend to feel younger than our years as we get older.

(Sidebar: Speaking of shifts and changes, I read somewhere that, as we get older, men get funnier, and women get deeper. Deeper in terms of their hearts and souls? I’ve never heard this before, have you? Plus, I have no personal experience to test that theory.)

There’s nothing wrong with pushing the age goalposts out … or ignoring them altogether. But let’s not lose sight that we are what we are, and some of us are old and some of us are not. Personally, I’m going to go for a touchdown and try not to worry about those darned goalposts at all. (If you don’t know football, that last silliness won’t entertain … sorry.)