Saturday, August 29, 2009

Old Is as Old Does

"Age to me means nothing. I can't get old; I'm working. I was old when I was twenty-one and out of work. As long as you're working, you stay young. When I'm in front of an audience, all that love and vitality sweeps over me and I forget my age."
George Burns US actor & comedian (1896 - 1996)

Was there ever a person better qualified to discuss aging better than George Burns? Helen Ginger brought up the subject yesterday on her blog Straight From Hel. The question she put to her readers was: When it comes to writers/authors, what age would you consider as “old”? The were a lot of folks with a lot of comments. But which one is correct? As I commented at her blog, you could ask 10 different people and get different answers.

Today's youth would probably look at Mick Jagger on stage and wonder what all the hoopla was about. Folks my age that grew up listening to the Rolling Stones, Beatles, etc. may (or may not) see the merit of the +65 set prancing about in tight pants and sneakers. George Burns would probably have said "He's still a kid" and joined him up on stage. Christopher Plummer is still gracing the stage in Stratford and on Broadway nearing 80 years of age.

Our 13 year old probably--definitely--thinks of us as geezers (I am nearing 47). My father worked as a painter for 50 years, and it's only been in his retirement that health issues have hit and he's now seeming a bit old. My father-in-law is 84 and has a hobby farm where he raises chickens and turkeys and a pig. He makes no money at it, but the freezer is full and he stays busy. Hmm, is that the key to youth...staying busy? George would probably agree, nodding his head sagely, sucking on a big, fat cigar.

As noted in my last post, my sister has now arrived with her 3 cats, aged 18,15 and 10. I'm no cat expert, but I think that 18 is fairly old for a feline. The oldest one, Harley, has taken to following me about the house, waddling around in a somewhat arthritic way (the cat, not me). It's dark grey coat has taken on an odd rusty hue and looks matted, even though it's not. If you can recall the play or movie version of Cats, one of them had sort of a nasty looking coat. Harley is ignoring the the looks of hate from our greyhound and is cloaked in an aloof demeanor while the "younger" cats hide from and hiss at the large dog. I suppose he's indifferent to the situation and is entitled to his peace. What's the magic number that you consider "old'?

Oh...and apologies to Helen Ginger for using her name alongside the word "aging" in my labels below.

Have a great week end all!


Anonymous said...

18 is positively a Methuselah-like age for a cat.

Keep your body and mind active and you'll stay as young as you want to be. Too many people get no exercise, and no mental stimulation and just rot from the inside out.

With writers you have extremes like Christopher Paolini who wrote Eragon at 15, and Frank McCourt whose first novel, Angela's Ashes, was published when he was in his mid-60s.

There was a movie of Cats? Must have missed that... now Chicago, there's a good musical film.

Laura Eno said...

No magic's a carrot on a stick dangling just beyond reach of where I am. :)

I think the George Burns quote sums it up nicely.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed your quote of the day from Virginia Woolf - took me a minute to unravel what she was saying, but it's perfect for your current post.

Cate Gardner said...

Age is most definitely in the mind, and my mind is stuck at about 21.

Rebecca Nazar said...

At forty-two, I think I'm old. I like getting old.

katey said...

My dad just retired at 56, and I can't believe he gets to stop working so young. He's grouchier than he was 20 years ago, but I figure about halfway to being old. I just turned 29 and I feel older than he is sometimes.

Weird how it's all so relative.

And dude, 18 is totally old for a cat. That guy must be hard core.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Anton, The Cats movie was really a taped version of the London show aired on 'Great Performances' in 1998 (the late John Mills as Gus the Theatre Cat). I don't have the quote from Virginia Woolf to refer to now, but I recall it said something about a goat's beard?!

Laura, I assume that the dangling carrot will always be just beyond your reach.

Cate, Ha! Just as I thought: another case of arrested development (my sister turns 40 in December and still behaves like 17).

Rebecca, You know what? I do too.

Katey, yeah, 56 seems young to retire. I know that my dad could use a hobby or two (and he's pretty grumpy too...I just assumed that it's because he's Scottish!)

Our dog seems intent on following the 18yr old cat about, sniffing after it. Hope it's not because of the 'stench of death' looming like a heavy, grey cloud...

Aaron Polson said...

Age. Yeah.

In the arts, does it matter? Plenty of writers and visual artists have come to their craft late in life and left lasting legacies. Sorry about the alliteration there.

I think there's the "right age" for the artist. If I tried to write 15 years ago, my stuff would have been nonsense. Now it's just sensible nonsense.

Akasha Savage said...

I not sure how old, old is any more! My mother-in-law is very active at 89. My dad is 70 and still does everything much the same as he ever has.

My hubby on the other hand is a grouchy 52 year old!!!!

Danielle Ferries said...

Cats following me around the house would creep me out.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Aaron, You're lasting legacy alliteration statement was right on the mark. There's no age limit to contribution. Your writing may be sensible nonsense now, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time 'til it's well-paying nonsense...

Akasha, grouchy at 52? Is he retired and bored?

Danielle, It is kind of creepy. Especially when he's so old...feels like I'm being followed by a tiny grim reaper in a dusty fur coat!

K.C. Shaw said...

With writing (and many other of the arts), I think you need a certain amount of maturity to really do it up right. Of course, different people mature at different times and life experiences make a big difference. I know that ten years ago I could not have written the characters I'm writing now, even though my skill level with the actual prose was about the same.

And dude, 18 is ancient for cats! Good for that rusty little guy! Give his ears a rub for me. :)

Kat said...

Hi Alan,

I think age is subjective. Maybe it means more to women because we have expiration dates. But if the women in my family are any indication, you only get better as you get older. My mom has far more confidence now, than she had at 30.

For writers and artists...age is's their work that matters. My .02...