The rise of the new unyoung — a poem

Over-65s music fans at WOMAD New Zealand 2015

Music fans over 65 at WOMAD New Zealand 2015: just like normal people

It’s the lot of our lot to figure it out
nobody but us, the oldish,
the unyoung, the new old, can work it out
how to be the age we are
when the age we are and the age we’re in
are doubly strange. In the past
a few individuals survived
to a hundred years or more
but generations didn’t.
The very old were rare
tapped by Her Majesty the Queen
asked for advice—and they all knew a trick
like Marry your childhood sweetheart
or Drink whiskey every day
(they never say, Be the Queen or Have my genes)
and people would listen with respect
and carry their advice away.
As I grew old, old age grew common
it happened so fast
that a whole cohort was caught by surprise
so we flounder around
explaining ourselves and sharing our tales
shocked to recall our grandparents’ ways
their stillness, their rarity
their ancient-seemingness
the last of a geriatric elite.
Look around you now
and meet the new old everywhere
so many that even we are aghast.

MP3 recording of this poem

14 thoughts on “The rise of the new unyoung — a poem

  1. The onset is slow, but the arrival is a surprise. Where did that vivacious young beauty go? And who is this newly appeared stranger? And who will appear next?

    1. How tru and how beautifylly expressed.

      1. Two typos in one sentence! But I think the effect is charming, don’t you?

  2. cedar51 says:

    actually it does seem like a mystery – “how long have I got, and what should I do?” Since my 60s, I have cut back on so many things I was doing – things that I thought a younger person could handle better, sometimes I felt I had done enough of the “helping” – I’ve no idea what I was going to do “then”, though…and it’s still a bit of a mystery.
    I’m not really a team person, so thinking of getting involved anything else always seems to mean I have to get in with people in my age group or similar…and unfortunately, I’m not even interested in my own age group – nor wanting to be around a lot of any group…

  3. Love this!

  4. Joared says:

    My aging has seemed like what I mostly experience as a fascinating gradual process. I was surprised initially with unwelcome vision and hair color changes. Your poem does describe some of the surprise of it all. Even the most understanding and empathetic among the younger generations will only fully comprehend older aging until they have the experience, I think.

    1. It is all very strange. That younger people cannot understand it is healthy, I think: that’s not their job.

  5. alison41 says:

    You express our status so neatly. I think we need to devise a collective noun for ourselves – I don’t like ‘wrinkiies’ or ‘geriatric’ and ‘unyoung’ is kinda clunky – . I quite like 3rd Agers – stolen from the name of the University of the 3rd Age. I wonder if it exists in NZ? its well supported in Cape Town.

    1. U3A is thriving in NZ, with as many variations in style as there are words for the last third of a century.

  6. I’m with you. Well, not at the concert, but intellectually!

    1. Safety in numbers?

  7. I love the idea of unyoung…I’ve been there for a number of years, but haven’t called myself unyoung. Great term.

    1. I like that it sounds like “onion”, too.

  8. Unyoung and Proud. I like it, Or is it Onion and Proud.

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