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Growing Old Disgracefully

Updated on February 5, 2013

Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional!

What an interesting observation Jenny Joseph made in her poem 'Warning' (see below)! Why are we so concerned about our image - who do we think is judging us? Why do we conform to behavioural expectations - who lays down the rules? When do we decide that we have to set a good example? Who designates what is acceptable or appropriate behaviour at a certain age? Who says purple is not an appropriate colour for the elderly or that we should 'act our age'?

No doubt most of us are guilty of telling someone to 'grow up!'. There comes a point where you are expected to be mature, sane and sensible, and to contain your wild, rebellious side. Former hippies become respectable bankers. There can be obvious reasons why mini-skirts and racer-backed vests should be laid to rest at a certain age, but who said we have to wear big knickers, tweed skirts and twin sets? My mother wore t-shirts, leggings and trainers well into her 70's and looked fantastic, (perhaps, not such an unusual sight in the USA as in the UK).

"Uncharacteristic" or "inappropriate" behaviour is defined by social norms, i.e. how we expect people to act. It is easy to find yourself describing "different" behaviour as "inappropriate", simply because that age group's personal habits, ways or preferences differ from our own or from society's usual expectations.

Uncharacteristic behaviour simply means unusual for that person and not what you have come to expect from them; this may be the result of a temporary state such as drinking too much alcohol, or more permanent change, due to the onset of dementia, for example. Inappropriate behaviour is in some way shocking, dangerous or socially unacceptable, e.g. walking naked in the street. Different behaviour is exactly that, 'different' and not necessarily wrong.

'Different' is what many adolescents strive to be, (although, there is really nothing very revolutionary or radical about pink hair, piercings or tattoos!). How come being different is less tolerated in old age? Why is being different not often an aspiration for elderly people? Have they simply discovered who they are, and grown comfortable in their own skins? Are they less ego-driven and attention-seeking? Elderly people at bus stops often have a good natter to strangers - such social confidence and unconventionality seems to develop with age (younger people would rarely consider striking up a conversation - that would be odd!). Why are they not more liberated and unconventional in other matters? Where does 'free spirit' go?

Growing up and becoming mature seems to be more about no longer behaving in a childish way; stifling and controlling that inner child whose behaviour we are told is inappropriate. Perhaps, at the same time we lose some of that wonder and excitement at what the world has to offer? How sad!

The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.

Douglas Engelbart

Warning by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick flowers in other people's gardens

And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

And pay our rent and not swear in the street

And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

senile dementia
senile dementia

DEMENTIA QUIZ

Oh dear - it does not look too good for me!

DEMENTIA QUIZ

FIRST QUESTION:

YOU ARE A PARTICIPANT IN A RACE. YOU OVERTAKE

THE SECOND PERSON. WHAT POSITION ARE YOU IN?

~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~

ANSWER : IF YOU ANSWERED THAT YOU ARE FIRST,

THEN YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY WRONG! IF YOU OVERTAKE THE

SECOND PERSON AND YOU TAKE HIS PLACE, YOU ARE IN SECOND PLACE!

TRY TO DO BETTER NEXT TIME.

NOW ANSWER THE SECOND QUESTION,

BUT DON'T TAKE AS MUCH TIME AS

YOU TOOK FOR THE FIRST QUESTION, OK?

SECOND QUESTION:

IF YOU OVERTAKE THE LAST PERSON, THEN YOU ARE....?

(SCROLL DOWN)

~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~

ANSWER: IF YOU ANSWERED THAT YOU ARE SECOND TO LAST, THEN YOU ARE.....

WRONG AGAIN. TELL ME SUNSHINE, HOW CAN YOU OVERTAKE THE LAST PERSON??

YOU'RE NOT VERY GOOD AT THIS, ARE YOU?

THIRD QUESTION:

VERY TRICKY ARITHMETIC! NOTE:

THIS MUST BE DONE IN YOUR HEAD ONLY.

DO NOT USE PAPER AND PENCIL OR A CALCULATOR.

TRY IT.

TAKE 1000 AND ADD 40 TO IT. NOW ADD ANOTHER 1000 NOW ADD 30.

ADD ANOTHER 1000. NOW ADD 20 .. NOW ADD ANOTHER 1000.

NOW ADD 10. WHAT IS THE TOTAL?

SCROLL DOWN FOR THE CORRECT ANSWER.....

~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~

DID YOU GET 5000?

THE CORRECT ANSWER IS ACTUALLY 4100...

IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE IT, CHECK IT WITH A CALCULATOR!

TODAY IS DEFINITELY NOT YOUR DAY, IS IT?

MAYBE YOU'LL GET THE LAST QUESTION RIGHT.... MAYBE...

FOURTH QUESTION:

MARY'S FATHER HAS FIVE DAUGHTERS:

1. NANA, 2. NENE, 3. NINI, 4.. NONO, AND ???

2 WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE FIFTH DAUGHTER?

~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~

DID YOU ANSWER NUNU? NO! OF COURSE IT ISN'T.

HER NAME IS MARY! READ THE QUESTION AGAIN!

OKAY, NOW THE BONUS ROUND,

I.E., A FINAL CHANCE TO

REDEEM YOURSELF:

A MUTE PERSON GOES INTO A SHOP AND WANTS TO BUY A TOOTHBRUSH.

BY IMITATING THE ACTION OF BRUSHING HIS TEETH HE

SUCCESSFULLY EXPRESSES HIMSELF TO THE SHOPKEEPER AND THE PURCHASE IS DONE.

NEXT, A BLIND MAN COMES INTO THE SHOP WHO WANTS TO BUY A

PAIR OF SUNGLASSES; HOW DOES HE INDICATE WHAT HE WANTS?

~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~

IT'S REALLY VERY SIMPLE

HE OPENS HIS MOUTH AND ASKS FOR IT...

DOES YOUR EMPLOYER ACTUALLY PAY YOU TO THINK??

IF SO DO NOT LET THEM SEE YOUR ANSWERS FOR THIS TEST!

recycle in old days
recycle in old days

The Green Issue

It's all our fault!

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologised and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."

The cashier responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right. We didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn't expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn't come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad.

But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Surprise people, have fun and follow your dreams - .....while you still can

A few years ago, I read an amusing story about an elderly lady being mugged. An hoodied youth snatched her bag, but he obviously could not have known that she had been an olympic runner in her youth. He grabbed the bag and ran off, and she followed in hot pursuit! He was so horrified, shocked and embarrassed that she was catching up, he ditched the bag and just kept running! Oh, how I would love to surprise someone like that.....I shall be keeping up the jogging just in case!

Professor Randy Pausch's last lecture and Steve Job's famous Stanford address remind us to follow our dreams and do what makes us happy, while we still can. Both refused to roll over, give up and feel sorry for themselves when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, (which although typically found in over 70s also killed Patrick Swayze).

Two incredible, inspirational speeches from men who would almost certainly have continued to be different well into old age.....

Do you intend to act your age?

Do you find yourself suppressing your wild side?

See results

In Dog Years I'm Dead:

Growing Old

(Dis)Gracefully

Growing Old Disgracefully:

How to upset and perplex your children with increasingly erratic and unreasonable behaviour

Old Git Wit:

Quips & Quotes for the Young at Heart

The Warmth of the Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting:

Ageing without growing old

Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.

Tom Stoppard

Not acting your age is good for you!

Children are carefree and spend their time running, laughing and playing. OK, we have to work and earn, and we have responsibilities and commitments when older, but we should not forget how to laugh and have fun!

Fun activities for oldies

Find some other naughty old people to go out to play and have a wild time with.

Why sit at home and be lonely, inactive and bored?

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

Mark Twain

Some people are old at 30years! Others seem like spring chickens in their seventies. This clearly has more to it than simply looking your age; it is more about feeling your age, or perhaps disregarding your age!

What would be your tips for keeping young at heart?

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    • CraftaholicVete profile image

      CraftaholicVete 5 years ago

      What a great lens! I am glad I found it,love those pics,lol. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great Lens. Turning 50 next week , thinking about age a lot!

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      LAUGH! I'm in my early 50s and still feel 40 :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have been feeling old lately. This lens was just the tonic I needed. Thanks!

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      Jenny Joseph's "Warning" was framed and prominently posted in my childhood home. It's been years since I thought of that poem, and I still remember every word. What lovely advice! I think I shall find something a little crazy to do today (after work, chores, and social obligations, of course ;)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love the main picture!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Excellent job. I find it amazing to think that when I was young, my Grandmother used to wear "old lady clothes" and "big knickers" or "drawers" yet women these days don't have to look old, even in their sixties. Same with men, I am approaching 60 but never seen in old fashioned collar and tie and checkered cardigan etc.

      Old people can take it too far though, and one example is when I was walking close to where I lived in Florida, and in front of me I saw what looked like an attractive slim blonde woman. As I got closer, her skimpy shorts and legs didn't quite look right, and on passing her and looking around, she must have been at least 70, had tons of plastic surgery, and her eyebrows were halfway up her head, making her eyes look really weird. Sorry, but I think it's sometimes better to grow old gracefully.

      Nicely done, blessed.

    • profile image

      madigan 5 years ago

      Apart from spitting and setting off alarms, my mum does all the things in the poem already, and she is only 55! Hate to think what I have in store.........

    • profile image

      Digs 5 years ago

      Two brilliant speeches by two innovative and 'out of the box' guys.