News Mary Kenny

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Survey reveals 50 warning signs that age is catching up with you

Not all signs of greydom ring true

Mary Kenny

Published 30/06/2013 | 05:00

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Mary Kenny
Growing old doesn't go hand in hand with developing an interest in antiques.

People have been growing old for a very long time, but now there are research groups that publish surveys about the experience of ageing, and even provide you with proof that you're beginning to feel the years.

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The most recent poll, carried out on behalf of an insurance company, the Engage Mutual Assurance, suggested that there are 50 warning signs that anno domini is catching up with you.

Some of these indicators are certainly as old as the hills, such as thinking that policemen, teachers and doctors look really young. I wouldn't worry too much about that. And it's reassuring when the guards look young – strong enough to defend you in an emergency.

But forgetting people's names? Check. In my family, there's a tradition of even forgetting the Christian names of family members, so that the entire clan has to be listed until the right moniker comes up.

Misplacing your glasses, bag, keys, etc? I have St Anthony plagued for lost items, and only now do I see the wisdom of the maxim, "A place for everything, and everything in its place".

Preferring an early night with a good book to painting the town red. Oh bliss. I hate late nights now and relish the deep peace of sleeping – alone.

Being aware of stiff joints and noticing how much your peers talk about health problems. And how! When two oldies meet, they embark immediately upon 'the organ recital'.

Then, there is not being able to operate all the new technology. Yes, but that's what young people are for – seven-year-olds can work a mobile phone's more remote functions in a trice.

Spending more on face creams and anti-ageing products. Yes. I know perfectly well there is no such thing as an anti-ageing pro-duct, but I certainly do spend more on face creams.

Needing an afternoon nap. I've always thought cat-naps in the afternoon a great energiser.

Complaining more. I never stop complaining, since there are so many daily vexations: hanging on for 'choices' and 'options' on a phone-line while they play irritating music is a primary one, and I usually deliver a Grumpy Old Woman discourse by the time I've reached 'No 1' in the queue. And if anyone says, "We value your custom", I'll throw the pesky instrument across the room.

I also complain a lot that people don't articulate properly any more – words are elided, and there's a lot of mumbling, but I suspect there might be an element of decline in my hearing powers. I've given up complaining that 'Annie' is a girl's name and not the correct pronunciation of 'any'.

Enjoying crosswords. Oh yes. It's so satisfying when you remember that the word for a mountain lake is 'tarn'.

Not knowing the names of modern bands, or what is in the top 10. This doesn't affect me, as I've always been retro about music – my appreciation of popular music stops at Judy Garland. Although now that Mick Jagger is 70, I'm beginning to appreciate him more, strangely.

Quite a few of the 50 signs of greydom don't really ring bells for me.

You drive more slowly. No, I'm still mad for speed, and always drive to the maximum.

You take an interest in antiques. The antiques mania seems to me a sign of elderly avarice: money is to the old what sex is to the young – a prevailing temptation, and preoccupation.

Saying, "It wasn't like that when I was young ... " Well, if I ever say that I'd be a damn fool, because it was exactly 'like that' when I was young. Human nature doesn't change.

Dressing for comfort rather than style: that applies more to shoes, but my first consideration in dressing is colour, not necessarily comfort. Queen Elizabeth said recently that she never wears beige because she'd "fade into the background", and so she chooses bright colours. My sentiments entirely.

Considering going on a 'no children' cruise or holiday. What a horrid, misanthropic idea. Nothing is jollier than the high spirits of young children.

Taking more interest in gardening or bird-watching. Okay for some. But you've seen one azalea, you've seen them all.

Feeling you have the right to tell people exactly what you think, even if it isn't polite. It's true that with age, you have less to lose, and you're not as intimidated by the disapproval of others. Yet I've also learnt to keep my counsel more prudently on some occasions.

We don't have to hold an opinion about everything, and, anyway, some subjects are too complex for snap judgements.

In truth, people age at a different rate and, although some values are shared, oldies are not all the same in their habits and inclinations.

One of the interesting aspects of getting old is seeing the way life is a cycle, not a continuous line; all the same ideas come around again. In 1949, they abolished the Dublin trams, the authorities claiming they had had their day – now they're building tramlines afresh.

Much of what is decided for us by our masters will be regarded as a fad or a folly in another 60 years' time.

The cyclical pattern of life was illustrated by the French writer André Maurois in his reflections about cinematic "continuous performance". You could go into a cinema in the middle of a film, watch it to the end, and then stay for the beginning again. When it gets to a certain point in the movie, you say, "This is where I came in".

That is the true experience of age.

Yet it's important to keep doing something new. Which is why I have now dyed my hair purple.

email: mary@mary-kenny.com

Irish Independent

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