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Old Age

  • Sometimes [the expression] old age has a kind of harrowing beauty. But elderly — ugh!

  • Old age makes caricatures of us all.

  • ... old age is more bearable if it can be helped by an early acceptance of being loved and of loving.

  • Old age is the verdict of life.

  • So this was what life did to you, was it? Squeezed you dry, and then cast you aside in your old age, a pulp, a bit of discard. Well, they'd never catch her that way.

  • There are no old people nowadays: they are either 'wonderful for their age' or dead.

  • I didn't fear old age. I was just becoming increasingly aware of the fact that the only people who said old age was beautiful were usually twenty-three years old.

  • We are adhering to life now with our last muscle — the heart.

  • ... I think that the worst unpleasantness of age is not its final fact ... but the tediousness of preparation, the accumulating number of defeats.

  • ... if you don't want to get old, don't mellow.

  • Years ago I said to myself: 'There's no such thing as old age; there is only sorrow.' I have learned with the passing of time that this, though true, is not the whole truth. The other producer of old age is habit: the deathly process of doing the same thing in the same way at the same hour day after day, first from carelessness, then from inclination, at last from cowardice or inertia ...

  • ... when you start to bore yourself and others, that's when you begin to get old.

  • ... forgetting things is what gives old age a bad name, that and old age.

  • Is this the final treachery of time, that the old become a burden upon the young?

  • Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force.

  • Old age is a great trial, John. One has to be so damned good!

  • Old age is not an illness, it is a timeless ascent. As power diminishes, we grow toward the light.

    • May Sarton,
    • "Lighter With Age," The New York Times ()
  • I suppose real old age begins when one looks backward rather than forward ...

  • ... certain very old people reach an age where every funeral becomes some sort of insane confirmation of strength, rather than of vulnerability, as it is when we are in our thirties or forties and our friends die.

  • I wore old age like a tunic / too heavy for my shoulders.

    • Rosario Castellanos,
    • "Hecuba's Testament" (1969), in Julian Palley, trans., Meditation on the Threshold ()
  • If old people did not turn foolish life would be too sad for them.

  • Meanwhile, I am enjoying to the full that period of reflection which is the happiest conclusion to a life of action.

  • Getting old in America ... best to do it somewhere else.

  • I feel so great an age as mine requires three things: great faith, great patience, and great peace.

    • Charlotte Elliott,
    • letter (1870), Leaves From the Unpublished Journals, Letters, and Poems of Charlotte Elliott ()
  • Is life's evening long and dreary? / Gone the treasures once possessed? / Is thy spirit faint and weary? / Does thou long to be at rest? / On this sweet promise fix thy sight: / 'At evening time it shall be light.'

    • Charlotte Elliott,
    • "Lines for the Aged," Leaves From the Unpublished Journals, Letters, and Poems of Charlotte Elliott ()
  • The body, after all, older and wiser than soul, being first created, and, like a good horse, if given its way would go home by the best path and at the right pace.

  • Life has taught me that the greatest tragedy is not to die too soon but to live too long.

  • The happy problem of our time — longer life.

  • ... it is when a man has to soak his biscuits in his tea that he knows he's old.

  • Not the white hairs, but oh the end, the end!

  • ... to him, as to all old, there came gradually the knowledge that there were not many more days in which to work, not many nights left in which to lie down to sleep, and there would soon be a dawn to which he would not wake.

  • The aged are terrible — mere heaps of cinders on the grass from which none can tell how tall the flames once were or what company gathered round them.

  • Old age ain't no place for sissies.

    • Bette Davis,
    • with Michael Herskowitz, This 'N That ()
  • ... 'old age' is always ten years more than we are.

  • ... keep moving. It's hard for old age to hit a moving target.

  • One of the penalties of longevity is that some of the dearest and most familiar faces depart, leaving gaps which cannot be filled.

  • Every age has its joys. If we could climb trees in our old age, probably every treetop would be full of elders swaying in the breeze.

  • ... an old woman ... is a person who has no sense of decency; if once she takes to living, the devil himself can't get rid of her.

  • ... while we all desire to live long, we have all a horror of being old!

  • I am old and I feel and look old.

  • You end up as you deserve. In old age you must put up with the face, the friends, the health, and the children you have earned.

  • Most old people ... are disheartened to be living in the ailing house of their bodies, to be limited physically and economically, to feel an encumbrance to others — guests who didn't have the good manners to leave when the party was over.

  • ... who will care for / this body / when I cannot?

    • Doris Ewert,
    • "Washing a Foot," in Ruth Roston, ed., Never Like You Plan ()
  • When trembling limbs refuse their weight, / And films, slow gathering, dim the sight, / And clouds obscure the mental light, — / 'Tis nature's precious boon to die.

  • The very phrase, 'growing old,' is a contradiction. Old age sets in only when there is no longer any growth of mind or personality. As long as we are learning, developing, contributing, producing or enjoying, we are maturing, whether we are sixteen or ninety-six. We become old when we are no longer capable of improvement, regardless of calendar years.

  • Society turns away from the aged worker as though he belonged to another species. That is why the whole question is buried in a conspiracy of silence. Old age exposes the failure of our entire civilization.

  • And indeed, it is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life's parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny ...

  • Sign of old age: distress at all leave-takings, all separations. And the sadness of memories, because I'm aware they're condemned to death.

  • Old age was growing inside me. It kept catching my eye from the depths of the mirror. I was paralyzed sometimes as I saw it making its way toward me so steadily when nothing inside me was ready for it.

  • ... the last steps of life are ever slow and difficult.

  • Do we all become garrulous and confidential as we approach the gates of old age? Is it that we instinctively feel, and cannot help asserting, our one advantage over the younger generation, which has so many over us? — the one advantage of time!

  • ... nobody ever intends to be old.

  • I can think of nothing sadder / Than to feel, when days are few, / There's nobody left to lean on, / Nobody older than you!

    • Florence Smith,
    • "Song," in Hazel Felleman, ed., The Best Loved Poems of the American People ()
  • Ripe old age, cheerful, useful, and understanding, is one of the finest influences in the world.

  • For millions, the retirement dream is in reality an economic nightmare. For millions, growing old today means growing poor, being sick, living in substandard housing, and having to scrimp merely to subsist.

  • Why the increasing emphasis by professional age experts and the media on — and public acceptance of — the nursing home as the locus of age when, in fact, more than ninety percent of those over sixty-five continue to live in the community?

  • The Chinese are a knowing people; and I daresay that is why they once made a religious odor about old age; to prevent their sons from seeing their own future.

  • Old age is perhaps life's decision about us ...

  • In youth money is a convenience, an aid to pleasure. In age it is an absolute necessity, for when we are old we have to buy even consideration and politeness from those about us.

  • ... in all the world there are no people so piteous and forlorn as those who are forced to eat the bitter bread of dependence in their old age, and find how steep are the stairs of another man's house.

  • On that first day when we look back, either happily or with remorse, to the stony ways over which we have traveled, losing concern for that part of the journey which is yet to come, we have grown old.

  • How strange it is that life must be nearly over, before one fully learns to live!

  • When we come to the sundown road, we need all the love we have managed to take with us from the summit of the hill.

  • For I have scattered seed / Shall ripen at the end; / Old Age holds more than I shall need, / Death more than I can spend.

  • Dread of one's own aging leads to fear and dislike of old people, and the fear feeds upon itself. In Western society this cycle of dread has been going on a long, long time.

  • ... one keeps on forgetting old age up to the very brink of the grave.

    • Colette,
    • "My Mother and Illness," My Mother's House ()
  • And what then is old age? I shall learn. But when it comes I shall no longer be able to understand it.

    • Colette,
    • 1928, in Enid McLeod, trans., Break of Day ()
  • ... the impatience of the old is the worst impatience of all.

  • ... old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you're aboard, there's nothing you can do.

  • Life becomes useless and insipid when we have no longer either friends or enemies.

    • Queen Christina,
    • "Maxims" (1680), in Henry Woodhead, ed., Memoirs of Christina, Queen of Sweden, vol. 2 ()
  • It is better to have laughed and leaked than never to have laughed at all.

  • Old age was a forced retreat. You carried with you as much of what you had been as you could. Some of it — often the best of it — you had to abandon.

  • ... the country of the aged is a land few people think very hard and seriously about before the time of life when they sense that they're arriving there. Somehow, throughout much of life, being old seems to be something that happens to other people.

  • Another secret we carry is that though drab outside — wreckage to the eye, mirrors a mortification — inside we flame with a wild life that is almost incommunicable.

  • We who are old know that age is more than a disability. It is an intense and varied experience, almost beyond our capacity at times, but something to be carried high. If it is a long defeat it is also a victory, meaningful for the initiates of time, if not for those who have come less far.

  • Some people will tell you that the old live in the past ... such people as Marvin, who is somehow comforted by the picture of old ladies feeding like docile rabbits on the lettuce leaves of other times, other manners.

  • She was looking only for comfort now, and she was completely resigned to the knowledge that this is the beginning of old age.

  • That's the purpose of old age, Meggie. To give us a breathing space before we die, in which to see why we did what we did.

  • The public, as a whole, finds reassurance in longevity, and, after the necessary interlude of reaction, is disposed to recognize extreme old age as a sign of excellence. The long-liver has triumphed over at least one of man's initial handicaps: the brevity of life.

  • There was just time, in this reprieve before death, to indulge herself to the full. ... She could lie back against death and examine life.

  • Old age would be the most happy of the stages of life, if only one did not know it was the last.

  • [On old age:] A good and pleasant time. It is true you are shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator, and, if you have really played your part, you are more content to sit down and watch.

  • Old age — that's when a woman takes vitamins A through G, and still looks like H.

  • The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.

  • [On old age:] You wake up one morning and you got it.

    • Moms Mabley,
    • in Mary Unterbrink, Funny Women: American Comediennes, 1860-1985 ()
  • ... if old age in the shape of waning strength says to me often, 'Thou shalt not!' so do my years smile upon me and say to me, 'Thou needst not.'

  • I'm in my anecdotage.

  • Although he had painted a wondrous heaven to sufferers whose life on earth was a hell, rarely had he found anyone eager for release. Not even the old; sometimes they were the most frightened and clung like birds to the bars of their cage.

  • If you want to be a dear old lady at seventy, you should start early, say about seventeen.

    • A. Maude Royden,
    • in John Pringle, ed., The Radio Listener's Week-End Book: A Selection of Notable Broadcasts of the Last Five Years ()
  • ... nothing is so sad as the injustices of old age.

  • Science has salvaged scrap metal and even found vitamins and valuable oils in refuse, but old people are extravagantly wasted.

  • I find Lady Ponsonby, the wise judge, the firm Liberal, more and more delightful; at last one feels she is getting old — she is eighty-two. She is like a fine flame kindled by sea-logs and sandalwood — good to watch and good to warm the mind at, and the heart too.

    • Edith Sichell,
    • 1914, in Ethel Smyth, Impressions That Remained ()
  • She was an old woman now, and her life had become memories.

  • The art of being officially old seems to lie in cooperative submission.

  • Old age worry is its own climate, she reflects. Up against the wire, as you are, the proverbial bus is less of a concern: it is heading for you anyway.

  • Currently more money is being spent on breast implants and Viagra than on Alzheimer's research. So in the very near future there should be a large elderly population with impressive breasts and magnificent erections, but no recollection of what to do with them.

  • Youth troubles over eternity, age grasps at a day and is satisfied to have even the day.

    • Mary Gilmore,
    • in John Colmer and Dorothy Colmer, eds., The Penguin Book of Australian Autobiography ()
  • ... it ultimately doesn't matter which disease gnaws away at the body — it looks the same. The flesh surrenders, grows exhausted, and the eyes ask why.

  • ... it is a mistake to talk of the twilight of age, or the blurred sight of old people. The long day grows clearer at its close, and the petty fogs of prejudice which rose between us and our fellows in youth melt away as the sun goes down. At last we see God's creatures as they are.

  • The young see what they wish to see. The old see what they do not wish.

  • Old age is somewhat like dieting. Every day there is less of us to be observed.

  • I am old and years are peeling / petal-wise, undone. / I am old, and feeling / presses dry and fever-sprung. / Bless me now, Earth, warm me deep. / I am old, would sleep.

  • Old age is a strange country, and most of us enter it unwillingly.

  • ... Davey and Aunt Emily ... sat there, smugly thinking that they had always looked exactly the same. Quite useless to discuss questions of age with old people, they have such peculiar ideas on the subject. 'Not really old at all, only seventy,' you hear them saying ...

  • In old age the secret springs of human nature are apt to come out.

  • Old people who live too long come to resemble turtles. As though time turned in a curve, and down they go to the reptiles again. Not the little wet naked frog they were born. But the tortoise. Cold eyes, sagging circles of skin, the nose becomes beak. The shell of sleep.

  • Old age is the night of life, as night is the old age of the day. Still, night is full of magnificence; and, for many, it is more brilliant than the day.

    • Anne Sophie Swetchine,
    • in J. De Finod, ed., A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness ()
  • Old age is not one of the beauties of creation, but it is one of its harmonies.

  • We are not old unless we desire to be ...

  • [On being the oldest living human being:] God must have forgotten me.

  • The tragedy of age is not that we are old, but that we are young.

  • ... come what may, / I have had my day!

  • When death consents to let us live a long time, it takes successively as hostages all those we have loved.

  • The old age of women is bearable only on condition that they do not take up any room, do not make any noise, do not demand any service; on condition that they render all the service that is expected of them, and actually have no existence except for the good of others.

  • One can savor sights and sounds more deeply when one gets really old. It may be the last time you see a sunset, a tree, the snow, or know winter. The sea, a lake, all become as in childhood, magical and a great wonder; then seen for the first time, now perhaps for the last. Music, bird songs, the wind, the waves: One listens to tones with deeper delight and appreciation — 'loving well,' to borrow from Shakespeare's seventy-third sonnet, 'that which I must leave ere long.'

    • Helen Nearing,
    • "Twilight and Evening Star," Loving and Leaving the Good Life ()
  • He moved, she noticed, frail as trailing smoke on soft autumn days, and she feared she would soon lose him, like smoke rising through the trees, not as a ripping flash of summer lightning, but softly one evening.

  • Why can't we build orphanages next to homes for the elderly? If someone's sitting in a rocker, it won't be long before a kid will be in his lap.

  • Old age isn't a disease; it's another stage of life.

  • If you want to understand some of the attitudes we have in America about women or old people, study fairy tales.

  • The word 'old' has come to mean obsolete. On the other hand, our culture values aged wine and antiques. It's time we write our own job description.

  • It's time for us old women to rip to shreds the veil of invisibility that has encased us. We have to fight the societal stereotype that keeps us on the periphery, outside the mainstream. We have experience to offer, judgment, wisdom, balance and charm.

  • The tragedy of growing old is not that one is old but that one is young.

  • Old age is another country, a place of strangeness, sometimes, and dislocation. There's a lot to be done in this country, and a great deal of pleasure there. There are friends, some of whom are sick and needful of you, as you will be of them someday. The world itself is very beautiful. It's a place where you have a lot to do. But you have to do it knowing that sometimes you will be afraid of this new country.

    • Grace Paley,
    • in Beth Benatovich, ed., What We Know So Far ()
  • They are the most painful tears in the world ... the tears of the aged ... for they come from dried beds where the emotions have long burned low.

  • There is no old age. There is, as there always was, just you.

  • ... old people fear living far more than they do dying.

  • There is something irreducible about old age ... for it comes not alone but shackled at the ankle in a three-legged race with death. The shadow of mortality that looms over oldness makes it repulsive to some people, morbidly attractive to others.

  • Wisdom does not automatically come with old age. Nothing does — except wrinkles.

  • Old age is not synonymous with being 'glad to die.'

  • Eighty's a landmark and people treat you differently than they do when you're seventy-nine. At seventy-nine, if you drop something it just lies there. At eighty, people pick it up for you.

  • When you get to be my age, all your friends have either died or moved to Florida.

  • I want to live to be / An outrageous old woman / Who is never accused of being / An old lady.

    • Julia Kooken,
    • "Outrageous Old Woman," in Jeanne Tetrault and Sherry Thomas, eds., Country Women ()
  • What fortune teller would ever have had the nerve to predict that the best years of my life would turn out to be my old age?

  • We look on those approaching the banks of a river all must cross, with ten times the interest they excited when dancing in the meadow.

    • Hester Lynch Piozzi,
    • 1817, in A. Hayward, ed., Autobiography, Letters, and Literary Remains of Mrs. Piozzi (Thrale), vol. 2 ()
  • About the only thing that comes to us without effort is old age.

  • We are old — it must be so, / Oft they say it — they must know.

  • ... old folks is the nation.

  • Youth is the time of getting, middle age of improving, and old age of spending.

    • Anne Bradstreet,
    • "Meditations Divine and Moral" (1664), in John Harvard Ellis, ed., The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse ()
  • My age I will not once lament, / But sing, my time so near is spent.

    • Anne Bradstreet,
    • "I Had Eight Birds" (1678), in Jeannine Hensley, ed., Works of Anne Bradstreet ()
  • You will wake up and search, and you will find no one. You will remember that you once could remember, but you will not be afraid. The words will be blotted out, but the rhythm will persist. You will remember that death is one of the adventures that were promised to you, and that immensity bears you and enfolds you as softly as the down of a bird's nest.

  • Never lose sight of the fact that old age needs so little but needs that little so much.

  • [On her 101-year-old sister and herself, at 103:] We have a lot to do ... People don't understand this. They think we're sitting around in rocking chairs, which isn't at all true. Why, we don't even own a rocking chair.

    • Sadie Delany,
    • in Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth, Having Our Say ()
  • Old age appears hideous to us until we have to choose between it and death.

  • I always loved being with older people. Now they're so difficult to find.

  • Old is where you haven’t gotten to yet.

  • Old age is a powerful disguise.

  • Let's buy a pack of cards, good wine, bridge scores, knitting needles, all the paraphernalia needed to fill an enormous void, everything needed to hide that horror — the old woman.

  • They [great individuals] accept old age, and thereby deepen the narrowed channel that remains open to them.