By Gregory Allen
Other than the inevitable progress of time and the appearance of grey hair, how do we know we are old, mature or a “senior”?
I’m sure we all remember the first time we were endowed with the adjective ‘old’ or ‘mature’, or entered into the brethren of Senior Australians by a well-meaning service provider. While there are a plethora of advantages to growing older and gaining awareness of that fact, the first few times your ageing status is reflected back can be confronting.
I have been faced with this new dawning of my ageing in diverse ways. In shops I have become “Sir” or “Mr”, which is fine if the intention is to show respect, but the intonation was more likely a condescending “How can I help you dear?”.
In no particular order of degree of surprise, let me share one week’s experience. On the bus a young woman offered me her seat (I think she was pregnant!), the barber offered to trim my eyebrows and advised me that I have a good head of hair for my age, the café staff gave me a seniors’ discount without asking, and the check-out person at Bunning’s notified me of the seniors’ day on Wednesdays.
All good and beneficial encounters, but why was I confronted? Do I view being identified as ‘ageing’ as an insult rather than a mere milestone in life’s journey?
It’s simple – at 60 I hadn’t viewed myself as projecting an image of an older community member. Through later introspection I realised that I was carrying a negative and outdated view of what being older was.
Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it… but I’m not that mature yet.
I think we all have our thirty-something voice in our head and carry our forty-something appearance in our mind’s eye, but I’ve learnt that it’s not only a mirror or reflective surface that reminds us of our age, it can also be a well-placed adjective.