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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Are you young-old or old-young?

17 February 2020

How old do you have to be to qualify as "old" these days?

I guess you're officially "old" once you reach the official retirement age of 65 and I recall as a kid that retired people really did seem very old indeed.

Is 65 really "old" any more?

I'm rapidly approaching the start of my 68th year on the planet and I have to admit that although there are occasions when I definitely feel "old", most of the time I feel little different to when I was in my 40s.

The Parkinson's hasn't helped my ability to cope with advancing years... or maybe it has.

Although I definitely feel slow and it is as if I'm wading through a swimming pool when I get out of bed in the morning, by mid-morning (which is about 7am my-time), I'm up to speed and raring to go. Yes, the Parkinson's has hindered but by steadfast dedication to keeping myself fit and strong so as to help mitigate its effects have also seen me fitter and stronger than I've been for at least 30 years.

So am I really "old"?

Well I've noticed that there are two types of poeple within my peer group.

There are the "old" at 65 and the "still going strong" at 65 groups.

The difference seems to be almost entirely down to mental attitude.

Although I must admit that I am the only one who runs from the truck to the Post Office mailbox foyer or across the supermarket carpark, there are a number of my friends who share a similarly "active" attitude to life. They are alert, quick of wit, and sharp as a tack when it comes to the way they interact with others. They also move with a spring (albeit sometimes small) in their step and still have an open mind to new ideas, concepts, beliefs and opinions.

These are the people who will listen to both sides of a debate and sometimes change their own position based on what they've learned.

Then there are "the others".

These folk shuffle around rather than bounce. They seem to be very introspective in their thinking and give the appearance of having learned all they need to. Their opinions are fixed and (according to them) infallible. In any form of discussion they tend to operate in a "talk-only" mode and seldom respond to rational, reasoned, evidenced arguments that might be contrary to their own opnions -- that's when they bother to debate at all.

These people give the impression of being *very* old, often far older than their actual age would suggest.

I'd love to know what it was that created this difference and what it means going forward.

It would be nice to hope that those who are "young of mind" might actually be in a better position to resist the ravages of time and enjoy a somewhat longer tenure above dirt, but I'm not sure that's actually the case.

The slow and introspective group often seem far less physically capable -- but is that as a result of their attitudes or perhaps the cause of that mental slow-down?

At one stage in my life I was almost going to become a psychology student because the workings of the mind have always fascinated me. I also felt (and still believe) that perhaps the most valuable (from a practical perspective) degree that anyone can get is one in psychology. That's because, no matter what you plan to do with your life, you will always have to interact with other people and if you know how they think, you will have the upper hand.

Indeed, anyone out there who's about to embark on tertiary education but has yet to decide what degree they're going to acquire would (IMHO) be far better advised to study psychology than to just aim for some Arts degree that simply proves you have the ability to pass a few exams. Whether you later decide to become a business leader, salesman or scientist... knowing how the mind works and how people think will be an invaluable skill that will work well for you in the years ahead.

Damn... if I lived closer to a university, had more money and had more time, I think I'd be studying for a psychology degree myself right now -- but in the meantime, I'll just keep observing and studying the people around me, with a view to trying to work out what makes some old people so young and some young people so old.

Your thoughts?

Do you consider yourself "young" for your age? I suspect most Aardvark readers will be "young", regardless of their age. One thing I've noticed is that "young" minds are probably more intelligent and more "engaged" with technology than the "old" people's minds.

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