When I've just performed some physical activity that has tired me out – but that I could have done easily when I was younger – there's an old joke I use that goes: "I feel like an old man ... [pause for effect] ... but where are we going to find one at this time of the day?" Hmmm, it doesn't seem quite so funny at the moment, because today is the day that I'm celebrating my 50th birthday.
The funny thing is that I don't feel particularly old. The reason I find this strange is that, when I was young, older people seemed to be really old. Now, I'm sure that some of this was just due to my subjective perception (young folks always think older folks are really old), but I think there's an objective element here as well.
Seriously, when I was young (say 10-ish), people of 50 were prone to look pretty darn old, while folks of 60 and above tended to look absolutely ancient. As I recall, old men used to wear flat caps, shabby sweaters, shirts and ties (even when working in the garden), and trousers pulled up under their armpits. Meanwhile, the ladies used to wear shapeless dresses covered by dowdy coats and hats like upside-down plant-pots held securely in place with long, sharp hat pins that could double as deadly weapons.
I've been pondering this over the course of the last few weeks, and I've come to the conclusion that the reason folks used to look so old was largely because they had been conditioned from an early age to believe in their hearts and souls that by 60 they were in their "declining years". In turn, of course, a lot of this was probably due to the fact that when they were young, the life expectancy was much lower than it is today, health care was incredibly limited compared to today, and so forth.
By comparison, I think people of my generation are really lucky. By the time we were in our 20s and 30s, we started to see older folks beginning to live life to its fullest – men in their 60s, 70s, and 80s were running marathons, while older ladies started to zip around on roller blades wearing eye-watering clothing ensembles such as "spanking pink" stretch pants and tie-dye T-shirts. Suddenly, growing old didn't seem quite so dire any more.
I think it's all a matter of attitude – if you say "Oh woe is me, I am undone, my end is in sight!" (from an old comedy sketch where everyone immediately looks at the zipper in the speaker's pants) then that's the way you will feel and life is going to be full of gloom and despondency. But if you have the attitude: "Hey, it's your round, I'll have another large beer and then let's go for a race on our unicycles wearing blindfolds," well, you can't help but feel happy (especially if you manage to persuade your friend into going first).
Yours truly when I was 20 years old (and still had hair)!
When I was 20 I couldn't imagine ever being 50 – now I don't give a hoot – I don't know how you are supposed to feel at 50, but I feel as happy and bouncy as I ever did (I would claim it's clean living, but we all know better).
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.