This week I turned 60 years old.
Now, my mental image of someone who is 60 is very different from what I see in the mirror, or, indeed, from my friends who are 60 or more. True, I’m sure all of us are suffering from more physical ailments than we did in our youth; and my hair is certainly “more distinguished” (i.e. greyer) than it used to be. But I don’t feel old. And that is what I remember from my youth; that people in their 60’s were OLD.
My mental image must come from growing up in post WW2 Britain, where those in their 60’s and 70’s had suffered through not one, but two world wars, with all the hardships and suffering that came with that.
I look at those 10 years older than me, and realize that they are living a life much different than I saw that age group living when I was in my teens. I recall as a pre-teen being looked after by my grandparents, and going with them to the “Darby and Joan” club (I’m not sure if that was really the name of it, or if that was just what they called it). Looking up that phrase in Wikipedia just now I see that it is sometimes defined as “a happily married couple who lead a placid, uneventful life”.
Maybe that is the clue I have been looking for. Those 60 plus year olds I remember from when I was 10 had seen the “excitement” of the World Wars; most of the people I met would have lost their homes in air raids, or at least have had the constant anxiety that they would. All of them would have lost friends and family in the terrible bloodshed of the wars, and suffered through rationing of their basic requirements for life.
When I was growing up, I was only vaguely aware of the physical scars from the wars. My grandfather had lost a leg in the war, although he would never tell us curious children exactly how. Growing up in Dover, there were still areas that had not been redeveloped from the scars of bomb craters. But the mental scares must have been even greater in the minds both of the soldiers, and also those back at home under daily threat of harm.
And so a “placid, uneventful life” was not something that many of them would have seen as a possibility, and certainly not something that they experienced. Is it any wonder then, that the quiet pleasures where the ones that they reached for as they got older and were able to do so?
My generation has different issues; we grew old in a different world with different life experiences. So I suppose it is little wonder that we are different at 60 than the previous generations. And one day someone who is now 10 will realize that they are now as old as that strange guy Derek that they used to know, and marval at how different they are.