Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How old is old?

This is related to a post I want to put up later in the week, but also is just a topic I'm generally curious about.

As culture has shifted over the last 100 years or so, we have been increasingly upping the age at which people are considered "adult".  When I was in therapy school, we learned that the stages of development that were written even 20 years ago were pretty much invalid now.  The two main stages that are developing are the time period post-retirement but prior to physical decline...the Baby Boomers have started redefining this from a blanket "retirement" to a time for second careers and such...and then the time after classic "young adulthood".  This time period has been expanding because of later marriage/baby making.  Whereas my mother got married 2 years after college graduation and had babies 2 years after that, I got married 6 years after graduation and had babies 3 years after that.  Thus, my twenties were nearly entirely responsibility free and thus a distinctly different time of life than it was for my mother's generation.  From what I can tell, my trajectory was not terribly deviant from the norm.

All that being said, it's getting harder to pinpoint exactly when someone stops being "young".  I've noticed a tendency for people to push the age where youth is an excuse for less than advisable behavior higher and higher.  I'm trying to suss out a consensus on this, so it's time for a poll!  Or rather, polls!  There's a few angles here:

I'll talk about the results later this week, and hopefully link them to another topic I've been pondering.


  1. The variables in my head were considerable. In particular, I looked at the questions differently if they were my own children or just acquaintances. A half dozen sibling groups, including yours, were in between.

    I can also tell that my answers have changed over the last 20 years.

  2. A cousin of mine recently turned 70. She told me that when she had turned 40,50, or 60, she didn't feel old, but she felt old upon turning 70. Old perhaps, but young enough to pinch hit in the family business recently when her son was sick.

  3. I have a friend who is north of 60, with white hair and moustache. Solid fellow. I once called him "Mr.___________." He responded, "Don't call me Mr. _________. That's my dad."

    I have also had someone who is over 70 tell me the same thing.

    This attitude baffles me. I was 19 when a store clerk first called me "Sir" and I loved it. Still do.

    I'm mostly bald with a white beard. I turn 50 this year. I am Mr. Denis.

  4. Dave - agreed. Now. I encouraged that mode of address when younger. Now I wish I had not. Not a big deal, but it's something.

    1. AVI - by "that mode" I assume you mean the overly familiar use of the first name of elders. Yes.

      My girls run into this constantly. They were raised and are quite happy to address adults as Mr or Mrs. Then the adult tries to confuse the whole issue by insisting on an un-earned and un-requested familiarity. These are adults who don't really know my daughters (or vice versa) and who are dealing with them on a fairly formal and superficial level -- and they find it appropriate to force my daughters to call them by their first name even though the girls would clearly prefer not to.

      As far as I can tell, the motivation on the adults part is that they don't want to feel old. As if my kids don't have eyes. And as if they haven't themselves looked in the mirror lately.

      We coached them to acquiesce and not make a stink over it, but to let the adults have their way. The girls get it. It doesn't pay to argue with a crazy person.

      Not that this bothers me.