The Age of the Old Guy

Posted on April 13, 2018


Ok, I’m not being sexist here. The title could be the Age of the Old Girl. Old Lady sounds like a sitcom line from a comedy of years ago. Old Person sounds so impersonal and antiseptic. Old Human Being might be the choice of the super sensitive, modern Progressive, but they’re not writing this.

I use “guys” like my grandchildren, Sam and Henry Richmond, out in Portland, Oregon use it.

“Hey, guys,” where we going to eat? Or, “hey guys,” as in generic guys, to include mom, dad, grandad, granny, etc.

Ok, so where we going with this guys? The short answer is to describe and analyze a bit of the dominant statistic of our age: old is in.

For you old guys, you may need to squint a bit, or clean your glasses. Old is in. How about some statistics?

Americans ages 65 and older will more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by mid-century.

Older adults are working longer. In less than ten years, 27 percent of men and 20 percent of women will be in the labor force. I suspect a lot more are “working,” but not necessarily in the specific category of “labor force.”
The guy working as a starter at the local golf course is working, and getting something for it, but is not in the “labor force,” like granny flipping burgers at your favorite fast food outlet.

You guys are doing interesting things, some very important. The current president of Peru was elected in 2016 at the age of 76 and is still riding herd over a bunch of complainers. The U. S. President is 71 and he has a lot of complainers too. A lot of the world’s leaders are in their seventies, some in their eighties (Raul Castro is 86), and a few African patriarchs in their nineties.

But most of us aren’t Presidents or CEOs of some cantankerous people or whining stockholders.

And, most, I would suspect, don’t do Millennial things (Millennials, Generation X, Y, Z, etc.) like video gaming, hanging out, opioids, and are not addicted to our ear buds, cell phones, digital devices and almost universally inoculated against standard human relations like speaking and listening to each other.
What do we guys have going for us?

The average life expectancy has increased from 68 years in 1950 to 79 in 2013. Phewwww. In 1950 I would have been statistically dead for about 7 years!
Surveys done by bean counters show us all the pitfalls.

We are fatter.

African American and Hispanic guys who fall below the poverty line—about 20 percent—are about double the rate as among non-Hispanic white guys, about 10 percent.

A lot more of us are divorced than our parents and grandparents.

Many of us live alone, more than half the ladies 85 or older for example.
And the list goes on, from many more guys wandering around with Alzheimer’s than in the past to frequent encounters with new electronic doo dads that simply mystify us.

So, why write “old is in”? Because for so many of us, spared diseases and debilities, we can bring to bear both experience and wisdom in our lives to cope, and in many ways, even take advantage of so much God has put before us.

For example, my wife and I are learning to play the piano, with absolutely no expectation of doing a recital for our piano instructor or in any other way benefitting from this grace. We are slowly mastering the keyboard, learning about harmony and melody, fingering and counting. We now can play a tune even others recognize. There is no way I could have been doing this when “working,” especially as an academic administrator, which many liken to “herding cats.”

Try telling a cat that her teaching reports are lousy. Hissss, hissss, what do you know!?

One of my retired guy friends makes birdhouses. Another goes on mission trips. We are all engaged in some form or another, still “working,” but work tends to define and give value to guys’ lives.

It’s the same with girl guys. Many are rewarded and enjoy family-oriented activities built around granny.

I know my professional girl guys will object to edifying and extoling the virtues of taking care of homes and children, but we guys are wired differently. That, in fact, is the truth.

But, as Oscar Wilde noted so aptly, “the truth is rarely pure and never simple.” We old guys understand Wilde’s wisdom perfectly.

Published as “We live in the ‘Age of the Old Guy‘” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday March 4, 2018