Ageing: it’s a thing—poem

cartoon of old woman in a bottle labelled Oldie #2970 being studied by three young scientists

Old people are under scrutiny as never before

Ageing was once a thing of the body
a thing of the mind
and a personal thing of the heart

but while we were sleeping our way through life
ageing became a public issue
a cause, a career, a competition
a project, a problem, a policy
a charity, a chart

an apocalypse, an -ism.
Ageing became a horror show
a health club, a self club.
Ageing became a vocation
and a dirty word…
ageing became a thing.

How do you feel about the deluge of research and reports about ageing? Please share your experience in comments!

CC BY 2.0 Rachel McAlpine


34 thoughts on “Ageing: it’s a thing—poem

  1. Ingrid Ward says:

    Ageing has definitely become something most try to put off as long as possible – how futile is that? It’s like trying to stop the sun rising every day. I have learned to embrace the ageing process, not fight it, and as a result I am actually really enjoying growing older. It certainly doesn’t have to all down hill, but of course, we always have a choice as to which way it goes.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      So trues. Yet how many theories and choices. So many studies and reports.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks for this reminder that we are all individuals, not statistics!

  2. Sadje says:

    Aging is living.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      A natural inevitable life process.

      1. Sadje says:

        Exactly. People who are alive age, those who are dead don’t. It’s that simple. It’s a blessing to go into old age.

      2. Sadje says:

        Indeed. A part of living life. Just like growing up.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes and we are aging from birth. I guess we should be pleased that the end of life is considered worthy of attention at last.

      1. Sadje says:

        Yes indeed. As it should have been.

  3. Jodine says:

    I’m embracing my grey hair, letting it grow out naturally. If I want to spruce it up a bit, I just put a semi in, so theirs no regrowth and it continues to be natural

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      So where do you fit into the scientists’ spreadsheets?

      1. Anonymous says:

        I’m sorry but I dont know what you’re talking about lol. I just read your post on aging and responded…?

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Ah, your comment is lovely. In my poem I am mystified by the fact that we are all being studied! Do you know what I mean?

  4. Jodine says:

    Regrowth, as in when it grows out I mean. Not like a permanent

  5. Rachel McAlpine says:

    What a good way to express that!

  6. Aging. What it meant to me at 40, when people started to look at me differently, or more accurately began to look through me, around me, over me, and under me… what it meant to me during my 40s when the grey began to creep in and the first lines on my face deepened, that was the prelude, the honeymoon period.
    By 60 the aging experience had become bi-polar. There was the way I was treated, my context, instead of competent and intelligent, I was treated as “cute”, and the slightly placating public smile became more and more a natural defence against the subtle disapproval of the world. Then there was the reality of my body loosing the lustre of youth, “at your age” was turned upside down, no longer a plus, but increasingly a struggle with time, a body, mind, and soul experience. Aging involves facing physical changes as profound as those experienced during early childhood, except you are fending for yourself. The people around you are often disgusted and/or frightened by the changes they see, and the smiling support one might have enjoyed through the changes of childhood is just not there through the changes of old age.

    I once observed a professional who made a career out of “helping” the homeless. A high salary, funding for research, paid for travel to conferences, publications, and high status were enjoyed, describing the experience of homelessness… the homeless remained homeless and their numbers increased. We may be looking at the same phenomenon with the experience of aging.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Your description of the ageing experience moves me. The comparison with childhood growth is telling–ouch, you’re right, and the change from support to repulsion is clear. In each case the language and tone implies that it’s through our own efforts that we are growing older. “What.a big girl you are now!” And we are admired or despised accordingly. I feel another poem coming on…

  7. 1rhymescheme says:

    Collectively, we spend so much time fighting against things we cannot control. Trying to stop the passage of time. Life is so much easier when we accept what is, and let things be. But society puts so much pressure on us to struggle against it all. I’ve made a conscious decision to allow the aging process to happen gracefully. I accept my grays, my wrinkles, my lumps, my spots. And now, after cancer, I accept my flat chest. Does anyone else? Who the heck cares!?!

    Thank you for your words.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hooray. Your graceful acceptance must bring you freedom and strength, I think.

      1. 1rhymescheme says:

        Most days. 😉

  8. JOY journal says:

    Aaaaahhh. I agree. Aging has become a disease that needs to be cured and death is now akin to a failure of character. What nonsense!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      The push for immortality disgusts me… Yet I consciously try to live my healthiest life. Confused? Guess so.

  9. Ageing – an inevitable part of life! But you are right, it has become yet another ism to be put under the microscope rather than just embraced!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It all seems weird to me at times, this acute focus on growing old and constant analysis. And yet I appreciate the new knowledge! It’s hard to keep one’s balance.

  10. Saying you can’t fight aging and you have to accept it, I understand. And I do.
    But embracing the aging process? The grey hair? The body changes?… You amazed me ladies. Because I do not embrace it at all. I do not like twatching my face sliding down South. I do not like having an aching more fragile body. I do not like having a brain which needs time and assistance. I do not like my granny’s hair…
    And many other things!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I think it’s a movable feast. Some days… Thank you for your honesty!

  11. To quote Judy Collins, I’ve looked at life from both sides now…and it’s life’s illusions I recall…
    Luckily, I still have time to think about those illusions – and to keep looking at life until I reach another side.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That sounds like a fine plan.

  12. rothpoetry says:

    As we baby boomers get older aging becomes a lucrative business in our society! The days of the Walton’s is long past!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      How very true.

  13. I read somewhere that ‘ageism’ is the only ‘ism’ directed against ourselves. That is, ‘racism’, ‘sexism’ and so on are about vilifying the ‘other’ whom we will never/cannot become. However, if we live long enough, we will all become aged. Thus, I think, ageism is really a prejudice against the inevitable, against the life process itself. Great poem.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s very true. Which makes it so weird when we perceive old people as the “other”. (Thanks!)

  14. pamela978 says:

    As more of us fit into the category of “old” there are those who would like to make money from the phenomenon. I am trying to be graceful about the whole process…my first “aging” crisis at 25 when I turned a quarter of a century. Feeling more painful and limited in driving at night and having to have a lot of expensive and painful dental work hurts…but hearing from my Old college friend that he is the same does help.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Well , it’s the first time we’ve ever been old so no wonder it’s discombobulating. Companions help!

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