We are your templates


When we bang on about our trips
and our memoirs and our blogs
and our grandchildren (the best of kind)
and our ills and pills and volunteering
and our hearing aids and hips
pay attention, don’t switch off
this is the first time we’ve ever been old
and we’re wondering how to do it
not just for us but for you.

I state my age out loud and often
not because I’m proud
but to populate the middle ground
between the ones you know:

the marathon-running nonagenarian
and your tragic memory of someone
whose ending was unbearable
as far as you could tell.

I’m a middle child, an average, a sample
squatting on top of a bell curve
and my name is Legion.
You don’t notice us but we’re OK.
Look at us and know
old age has many faces
let’s keep our options open.

MP3 recording of this poem

Poem and recording and photo CC BY 2.0 Rachel McAlpine. Feel free to share, citing my name as the author.


32 thoughts on “We are your templates

  1. I am always struck by how differently we adjust to aging. Some sure go kicking, screaming, face lifting and hair dying into it. As for me, I earned every wrinkle and my body is lovingly described by my granddaughter as “nicely squishy.”

  2. Haha! I think our brains are tuning into the same wavelength, Rachel. I just love this poem! It says so many things I think but says them poshly (I just came across that word, so had to use it, 🙂 — and it’s perfect for the way you wrote about getting older, so well, elegantly).

    I mean, yes–we haven’t ever been old before, right? so as I tell my 20-something kids–Mitght as well laught, because you’ll be checking out bifocals and –and HEARING AIDS, for Pete’s sake, one day yourselves!

    But thank God, (seriously) they were invented.
    Who’d want to go around half-blind and nearly deaf half their lives?!

    1. Feel free to use the poem if it makes your point! I feel soooo lucky to be living now rather than in the era of ear trumpets and magnifying glasses. The current hearing aids are downright cute.

  3. A fine poem, Rachel. I do wish people would stop regarding old age with shame and dread. It has its pluses and minuses, but doesn’t every stage of life?

      1. Me too Rachel. But what is normal? such a contextual notion. A friend always makes us laugh when she orders a “normal” coffee. She means “regular” of course. So is normal what the majority deems it? Today it’s normal to be healthy and engaged into middle old age, which in times past might have been “normal” at age fifty. I’m still finding my way in this adventure called old age. So grateful to have people like you to converse with along the way.

  4. … 60 per cent of New Zealanders aged 65+ have robust or “average” mental and physical health and social life, so this is “normal” now. (The main determinants are income and housing, which casts a sad light on privilege.)

  5. Like your poem! Normal is a range in a continuum with what some might consider extemes on either end is how I view the term. I think we’re all a bit quirky in somebody’s eyes. Is there anyone who hasn’t wondered at some time in their life if they might be out of step with everyone else — too different?

  6. “this is the first time we’ve ever been old and we’re wondering how to do it”–my favorite line! Oh, this one is a keeper, Rachel. Well done.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.