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What is elderly?

 
master gardener
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I just bumped into a post from Judith Browning asking,  (taken out of context,) what is elderly.  In the medical community, it has long been a moving target.  I remember talking to a man with two quad canes and barely moving ... he was happy he was doing so well on  his 65th birthday.
In general, the medical community places it as age 80, but that is not the entire story.  What markers do we look for, maybe subconsciously, to decide if someone is elderly ?
 
rocket scientist
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In my opinion  (as long as your healthy) elderly is a state of mind!
 
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I think it's an unfortunate word in it's implications and associations and I don't expect my generation to ever accept it as a label

I like the word 'elder' though as it has some self worth still associated with it's traditional meaning.

Words used as labels to identify large groups of humanity can have serious baggage sometimes.....
 
pollinator
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my opinion (and experience): you can not give a certain age for 'elderly'.
I am 64, almost 65. I do bicycle-camping trips in spring and summer, and a lot more bicycle riding during the year. Last summer when on one of my tours I met a man who sat on a bench and started talking to me, asking where I was going to a.a. After a short conversation he wanted to show me a better route to come at my destination. He started riding his mobility scooter, so I could follow him. He talked a lot. One of the things he said was: he would love to be able to do such a bicycle trip together with his wife ... but they were 'too old'. His age was 65 ... (I didn't tell him I was 64)
 
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Judith Browning wrote:

I like the word 'elder' though as it has some self worth still associated with it's traditional meaning.



I like this word too. It implies a person who has a wealth of wisdom to share with the younger generation.

My mind associates "elderly" as an aged person with medical frailty. I don't necessarily think of an older person in great health as "elderly." Case in point: my future son-in-law's father is 84, but still in great health. He puts his grown sons to shame with the amount of hard manual labor he does all day long. I don't think of him as "elderly." However, my own father-in-law isn't 80 yet, but can barely walk. He's got Parkinson's disease, diabetes, heart disease, etc. I think of him as "elderly."
 
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I asked google that question and got all kinds of answers though nothing definitively.

It is good to know that the medical community places it at 80.

I will have to pay more attention when I hear the word used from now on as I always assumed that when people started getting social security they were considered elderly.

I always thought my grandparents were elderly.  My mom's father died when I was really young as I only remember him from pictures. My Dad's father died when I was 10 and Dad's mom when I was 16. They all looked old to me though none of them reached 80.

John, this is a great question.

Thomas, I like your answer.
 
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I always thought the elderly were the ones that could no longer do their farm chores without help.  So as a child we helped the elderly so they could stay on the farm.  Interesting thoughts here.
 
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I agree with Judith that the word has little value other than as a poor stereotype. In my mind at least, it implies physical impairment - frailty, lack of mobility, poor health.

When someone refers to their elderly father, these are the images it conjures.

I don’t imagine a robust 85 year old still kayaking and hiking and playing pickle ball (my Uncle) or an 82 year old walking 10,000 steps per day (my Dad). So for those reasons, I don’t like associating it with an age, or really using it at all.

We have many words to use to describe someone; elderly, if linked to someone by age alone, seems to lack precision.
 
pollinator
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I'm only just starting to close in on fifty, so this is from that point of view...

Old folks and elders have a lot of years, but like most anyone else, they do whatever they're gonna do. You check in with them like you would any other adult in their situation, and don't really consider the wear and tear much more than you would if you were planning doing something with someone younger.

Elderly folks, those health considerations come to mind first. They often have serious mobility issues, fall risks, a cornucopia of meds. They may require minding if they have cognitive issues. They need regular assistance, and often a lot of it. "Elderly" is code for "fragile and old."

Elderly's not a one way street, it's more of a state. I've had friends who are solidly elderly, and shift to old, usually after some medical drama and a lot of hard work and life changes.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Judith,

The idea that elderly is a label is what makes it so fascinating to me ... that, and the fact that it keeps being redefined.  As I type this,  I suspect that as good of a marker as any is the age of US presidents.  We accept older presidents than we used to.  Clearly, our idea of elderly continues to shift.  But what idea is that? I suppose it may mean too old to function independently.

Working as a nurse in a hospital I witnessed patients being told by their physicians that they needed to be placed in a nursing home.  Without exception, they accepted it without debate.  It always amazes me that no one told the doctor where to shove it.

I think this may become my standard of measurement.  If the doctor tells you that you need to go in a nursing home and you accept it, you may be elderly.
 
pollinator
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I think the term elderly is defined by the person saying it, based on their age and view of life.

When I was in graduate school, one guy said to me that once he hit 30 years old, he would commit suicide because he wouldn't be able to do all the things he wanted to do. He'd be too old. I thought that was ridiculous and of course never followed up on him but I'd bet that once he hit 30 his view on aging changed, and somehow he'd find that life was still good (although he was probably still an idiot).

Ask a teenager to describe someone over 30 (or 40 or whatever). You're probably ancient if you're over 50.

On the lighter side, when I find myself saying things like "boy that's gotten expensive" or "these kids today...." or "they don't know what hard work is!" I have to stop myself from premature geezerhood.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Robin,

I was somewhere in the neighbor of 5 years old when I decided I would kill myself when I hit 50, because people over 50 never has any fun.  Obviously, I reformulated my strategy when I hit 50......but then again, I went and hiked the Grand Canyon. And after that, I went into nursing school.

Regarding prices ...I refuse to complain. Complaining about prices is what mother did.

 
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Well....
as nominee for most unpopular post of the day!

Elderly is when you curtail your options to avoid potential damage during common activities....
Senility is what happens when you fail to curtail your options to avoid potential damage!!!

In reality though I think "elderly" occurs when the hazy recollections of past glory outshine the futures potential.
 
pollinator
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Elderly to me is when the person can no longer function as most can. when they have trouble doing simple tasks like cooking dinner or washing.
 
pollinator
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Elderly to me is when you allow or are forced to allow someone else to make your decisions for you.

I am 63.  I will fight for my independence until I die.
 
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I had nothing to add, but wanted to just say that this topic has changed my views on how aging effects us. I had assumed everyone breaks down at the same rate, but reading this, that is obviously not so.
 
Tonya Hunte
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Bill Haynes wrote:

In reality though I think "elderly" occurs when the hazy recollections of past glory outshine the futures potential.



Beautifully put!!


 
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I don’t quite remember the age my parents were when they began to seem like ‘old people’; probably their late 60s. But I do remember a period of a couple years, when they approached their late 70’s, that I began to see them as being elderly, because they were suddenly unable to do many of the common daily things they had previously done- lawn mowing, laundry, meal preparation, house cleaning. They hired 2 people, a young man to do the lawn and random maintenance chores around the property, and a woman to come in twice a week to do laundry and clean. They still made meals, but it was a lot more prepared foods and more eating out. Very little cooking from scratch. They both had health problems at that point- things like cancer and a heart bypass as well as the typical things like arthritis and vision loss. Happily neither ever developed senility or suffered long before dying, but at that period in time they definitely fit the description of ‘elderly’.
 
Julie Reed
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(I, too, googled the word ‘elderly’ and came across this, which I found amusing. Feel free to remove if it’s inappropriate!)

A man was working in his yard when he was startled by a late model car that came crashing through his hedge right into his front yard. He rushed to help an elderly lady driver out of the car and sat her down on a lawn chair.

He said with excitement, "You appear quite elderly to be driving."

"Well, yes, I am," she replied proudly. "I'll be 97 next month, and I am now old enough that I don't even need a driver's license anymore."

"You don't... need a driver's license anymore?!?"

"That's right...  The last time I went to my doctor, he examined me and asked if I had a driver's license.  I told him 'yes,' and handed it to him.  He took scissors out of the drawer, cut the license into pieces, and threw them in the waste basket, saying, 'You won't need this anymore.'
So I thanked him and left!”
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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My mother is 90 now. Now I consider her 'elderly'. And she herself does too.
But until last year she drove her car wherever she wanted. But the car was badly damaged, because of a very young lady who drove her father's car crashed with my mother's car ... No harm was done physically, but my mother decided not to buy a new car, but an e-trike (like a bicycle on three wheels with electrical pedal assistance). And she has a stairs-elevator (like a chair going up and down the stairs along a rail) ... but sometimes she forgets to use it. And she still makes long walks with her dog, only using a stick and sometimes a walker (depending on how she feels that day). Someone is helping her once a week cleaning the house, but all other chores she still does herself.

You'll understand, with a mother like that I do not feel old myself at the age of almost 65
!
 
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I turned 67 this week. I’ve lived for just over a year in an over 55 community. The people here range from 55-100. The ones that seem the youngest are the most athletic, clear thinking and sociable.

I do have a lot of health problems but am still very mobile and do not take any medications. I have always done all my own housework etc. I’m painting my entire house by myself but have had to get help with small remodeling jobs because I don’t have the skills or strength to remove cabinets, do drywall or put up shelves.

I’m also giving my small yard a complete makeover from pulling up brick pavers to building raised beds and low brick walls.

I became a book writer and published author at 57, an organic gardener at 60 and a solo camper at 65. As soon as I get my house settled and finished I want to concentrate on other writing projects, continue 40 years of genealogy research and start a podcast.

I have healed 49 years of bipolar disorder without drugs (18 years mentally well next month) and as a result of writing a book on the process, became a public speaker at 58 presenting to diverse audiences including mental health professionals and nursing students.

I have taken several online tests which determine mental age and I always score age 21 and I have friends in every age category.

Even though I am so called retirement age, I don’t believe in retirement. It seems like many of the people living around me just live for pleasure - golf, relaxation and games, drinks and socializing. Of course the pandemic has curtailed a lot of that. I feel my best is yet to come as I plan to keep progressing mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well as working as I usually do to resolve my health problems without drugs.
 
pollinator
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I’m only 24, but to my sort of casual reflection, elderly describes a person who has shifted from providing material support to the young and helpless, to receiving material support and supplying mostly spiritual/intangible help (wisdom, prayer, a cultural touchstone). The elderly play a critical role in a community, helping the next generation to mature in gratitude and wisdom, not necessarily in spite of, but even because of their physical dependence.

No particular age covers it, though I would include a particular woman in her eighties in my church even though she is extremely active, still keeps goats, horses, poultry, etc, and only uses a cane or walker when she has had an injury. because of her role in the community leading us to prayer, and the way we have begun to help her, though it hasn’t come close to returning the enormous generosity she has shown to us over the years.
 
pollinator
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I totally agree, it is a state of mind.  My husband is nearly 80 and is out chipping some of the branches from the 40 something 80 feet tall white pines he just cut, so he can make room to set up the Alaskan chain saw mill and saw them into lumber.  I only came in to make supper.  
 
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I have reached my sixties. I am active and in better shape than I expected from seeing other people reaching this age when I was younger. I can say the way I am active and the way I eat is healthy enough to work for that, and dispite a breathing issue I can see how I would keep going a long time still, with keeping the healthy ways I have been using.
 
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Hi,  Most people view elderly in terms of age. Doctors see broken bodies and decay in older people. Some say elderly is a state of mind. I have thought of elder in many of these ways, yet I have come to appreciate the young elderly people I have met.  A person who is elderly has experience and wisdom. Some people have lived a lifetime by the time they hit thirty, and others in their 90s. One man became CEO of a corporation when he was young, yet exibited the charistics of an elderly person by the way he lived his life. As he got older he gained more wisdom. His name is Fred Smith and he is dead now. Yet I continue reading the things he wrote to be able to emulate some of his characteristics and knowledge. His family continues his websight "Breakfast with Fred," and be forwarned, he is a christian. But I think that an elderly person has learned that he / she can learn from someone who thinks differently. I also know of a 93 year old man who still contributes to society, still works and plays, and is not a draining resource upon those around him. He still cuts down trees and tills the soil, and on weekends plays guitar in a band in church.

If elderly is determined by age then consider. 2000 years ago the average lifespan of a person was 35 years old. For me age is not the main factor. It is more of a life lived with experiences who have gained wisdom.
So the question, what is elderly. Old age, old wisdom, old charasterics, or elderly like?


Remember the goal.
 
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Bill Haynes wrote:

In reality though I think "elderly" occurs when the hazy recollections of past glory outshine the futures potential.



This is what troubles me. In the years before I went off-grid, off-society and off-treadmill, I had plenty of exciting experiences that still astonish me. These memories feel like they were lived by somebody else, and in many ways they were. Now, with my chosen lifestyle being one of simplicity, I can't help but flashback to some of the amazing moments of my "past life", and when I do, I realize that I'm doing exactly what you mentioned. I don't want to be the guy at the end of the bar, trying to convince people that the cover of the book does not do justice to the stories inside.  

The things that excite me now and occupy my time would be dull and pointless to the prior version of me. But I look at the prior version of me and see that I was just stuffing myself full of frivolous activities and fleeting excitements. I get more out of befriending a grouse today than any hobnobbing I did back then.
 
Michael Helmersson
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Faye Streiff wrote:I totally agree, it is a state of mind.  My husband is nearly 80 and is out chipping some of the branches from the 40 something 80 feet tall white pines he just cut, so he can make room to set up the Alaskan chain saw mill and saw them into lumber.  I only came in to make supper.  



That's a beautiful post. Eloquence, subtlety, humility and a hint of humour. You packed a lot into that short pause from your activities.
 
John F Dean
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Bill makes a good point in that we need to define our terms ....which, of course, is what this post is all about.  Age is certainly a factor. The last time I checked the medical community defines it as 80 or more. Of course, numbers are only part of the picture.  Function is another. I knew a man who was 85 who I had trouble keeping up with when I was 35.  I am now in my 70s, and I am fortunate to have people much younger than me telling me to slow down.  There have been changes though. I cannot lift as much as I used to.  I have difficulty dealing with multiple problems ar the same time....I have to immediately prioritize and focus on one.
 
Michael Helmersson
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John F Dean wrote:Bill makes a good point in that we need to define our terms ....which, of course, is what this post is all about.  



There is lived years age, maturity/immaturity age, lived experience age, physical condition age, mental condition age, emotional maturity/immaturity age and maybe more. I wonder if a Myers/Briggs-type of categorization could work?
 
John F Dean
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There are numerous instruments that measure function from various perspectives.   I suspect that for the purpose of this site, they have little value. For example my wife has a definite short term memory loss.  On a homestead, that has little meaning.  She has been in a similar routine since 1982.  Her function relies much more upon long term memory.  As long as some fool doesn’t get the bright idea the she will function better in an efficiency apt where her entire routine changes, she will continue to fit in as long as her environment remains the same and her LT memory remains solid.   The only adaption we have had to make is relying on timers.   And, she has taken up playing chess on lline.  For those who know, she has a 1500 rating ....  not bad for a 66 year old who played her first game in Jan.

 
See ya later boys, I think I'm in love. Oh wait, she's just a tiny ad:
Work Trade for the 2023 Garden Master Course
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