A vox pop poll on being extremely old

Drawing of a woman asking four random people about being extremely old.
Me asking random people about being extremely old

Another 25 people did my poll on being extremely old as I walked along the waterfront at lunch time. Waving my phone recorder in their faces I asked them, How old are you now? What will your life be like at 95? What will you be like at 95? And they answered!

To my delight, only one person refused to reply. From the others came such thoughtful and interesting and varied replies. They did contradict my expectation of certain age-related patterns, which is good. Because my play is about the real thoughts of real people, not people in my imagination. Here’s one tiny hint of a pattern that took me by surprise.

Only the youngest spoke about achieving their goals by 95

  • A 16-year-old poet: “It’s hard to say where I’ll be at 99, haha, but I imagine retiring somewhere nice with my husband and sleeping a lot. I hope I’ll be kind and wise at 95 and have lots of stories to read to my grandchildren.”
  • Another 18-year-old: “If I were 95, I can imagine myself being in a house which I’ve been really wanting, with the person I love, just growing old together.  I don’t know, it’s just so beautiful for me, growing old with the person I really love, and having a healthy life as well.”
  • And another 18-year-old: “I’m not sure. I’m studying film, so hopefully I’ll have made things that I’m proud of and stuff. Yeah. I’ll still be in a city. I like the city. I’m not a country person.”
  • And a 17-year-old: “I think if I was 95 I’d probably be living in Australia or maybe Japan, probably up in a very tall building because I like being up tall. I think I’d probably have grandkids by that time. I don’t know, I think by that time I would have accomplished most things I wanted to accomplish, so to be just relaxing or looking after my grandkids when my kids are out at work, something like that.”

Now, it’s not that every young person mentioned achieving their goals by the age of 95 (some obliquely). And my poll on being extremely old was tiny and far from random. But nobody over 18 talked about their goals.

I think that this lack of focus on achieving personal goals may be something special to Aotearoa New Zealand. I wouldn’t mind betting that in certain other countries, for example Korea and the United States and Singapore, there would be more talk about achieving one’s life goals. And for millions, to quote (from memory, the bad short-term sort) from Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, the goal would be just to stay alive. And for those millions, staying alive to 95 would be a massive, heroic achievement.

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10 thoughts on “A vox pop poll on being extremely old

  1. I love that you are doing this. It makes me want to live to 95!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Geoff, that is amazing and so good!

  2. auntyuta says:

    I wonder, when you look at 95 year olds, the ones that are actually alive now being 95 or over. how many of these people do still have some kind of indepence and able to live the way they want to live and definitely are enjoying to be alive?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I interviewed twelve people in their nineties and all of them were glad to be alive. A small sample that was gathered in haste, but very real.

  3. Fascinating

  4. I smiled at the comment on watching grandkids. Doing the math, the grandkids would be in their 50s. Young people do have a different perspective. Living to 95 is an accomplishment not many can do.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I know! I smiled too. But I enjoyed the positivity.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I am reading a fascinating book “Generations” which compares each generation in the U.S. from the Silents(born the 20’s through 1945) through to the kids born at the turn of this century. Those youngest ones do seem to have quite different goals. I look forward to learning more about the change and see if it is similar to what you found doing the poll.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Sounds interesting! And doubtless not identical to generation changes in New Zealand. The differences are surely far more complex than just “old people” and “young people”.

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