Since last year, something strange has been happening to me. Younger people occasionally get up in a full train or bus to offer me a seat. It doesn’t happen every day, or even every week, but perhaps once a month, whereas before last year, it never happened.
Last year, I was gracious, but firmly declined any offers of seats, being secretly mortified that anyone would deem me less able to stand than them. This year, I’ve started to accept. Well, I’ve only been offered a seat once this year-that was this morning-and I was glad to have it. It was on a bus full of mostly students carrying us from the train station to campus, so there might have been something about respect for staff in it, too. Another student also offered the older, grey-haired but fit-looking lady standing beside me a seat. She graciously declined.
Is this the beginning of the end? I said to myself. Is this the beginning of the time when I begin to think of myself as “older” or no longer young, by any stretch of the imagination?
I know that people under 25 think anyone over 35 is ancient. In my (admittedly unscientific) questioning of young people, many have shown that they can’t recognise the difference between 40 and 60 or 50 and 70. They’re all just “old people”. My parents were quite a bit older than the norm when they had my brother, and when he was a mid-teenager and they were in their early 60s, one of his friends said, “How old’yer parents—about a hundred?”!
But who they perceive as being “young” is interesting and not necessarily about years. It seems to have something to do with “coolness”. I once asked a group of students, mostly aged 18-20, to decide whether a list of famous people I named were young or old. They had only those two choices, nothing in between.
I asked them about the then-Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd. “Old,” was the verdict. Then I asked them about the President of the US, Barack Obama, also in his 50s and less than four years Rudd’s junior. “Young,” they said emphatically. “Because he’s cool,” added one bright spark.
Perhaps I’m just not cool any more. *Sigh*
Coincidentally, this week’s Daily Post Writing Challenge is about ageing. You can read more here.