I often respond to Google items that appear in my blog stats – this is one such: Why do old people get grumpy?
The answers to that question are legion – almost as many as there are old people. One thing that makes old people grumpy, though, is young people asking stupid questions like this! There are some valid generalisations, though.
It’s said, with a great deal of truth, that old age isn’t for wimps. When you reach a certain age, and this age is different for everybody, your body begins winding down towards death – in effect, it wears out – and the result is pain, which can often be severe and intransigent. And that’s for previously healthy people – those of us who are growing old with chronic illnesses, that we may have had for most of our lives, as in my case – and there are a lot more of us than you might think – are far worse off and, for us, the pain of the aging process, added to our existing pain, can be almost intolerable at times.
Then there are the psychological problems, as you comes to terms with the fact that your body can’t do things it could do only a couple of years ago, and that your brain isn’t as sharp as it once was, and you can’t do anything about it. The result, for many, is depression. I deal with it by not taking it personally, and not getting worked up about it. There is, after all, bugger all I can do about it. Update, August 15 2011: I wrote this post three years ago and, now 66, I firmly believe that for many, it’s a case of use it or lose it.
The principal reason, though, is the one that affects us all – the time of our death is getting closer every day.
When you’re in your teens, or twenties, your death feels unimaginably remote, and quite rightly, too – young people shouldn’t be focussed on their own mortality. Once they turn 40, most people realise that the time of their death is probably a hell of a lot closer than their birth. Hence the “mid-life crisis”. Once you hit 60, however, your own end is thrown into sharper focus, and that’s not a cheering prospect.
Then there’s sex. The vast majority of people under 40 view old people as asexual beings, when nothing is further from the truth – speaking personally, I’m still as horny as I ever was, but that leaves me with a problem – women of my own age, with few exceptions, do nothing for me. I know that’s ageist, and wrong – so sue me, it’s how I feel (Were I married, and was growing old with somebody, I might well feel different, but I’m not). But no matter how you feel, as you age, opportunity diminishes – either because it becomes more difficult to socialise, or because there are fewer available potential partners. Or both.
Mind you, there’s a world of difference between being a bit grumpy and developing a grudge against people who are younger and fitter than you. Some old people really are miserable, surly bastards but, in general, that’s probably not because they’re old – they’ve probably always been like that. Others, though, take aging extremely personally, and they really do develop a grudge against younger people, which is a bit sad. And a lot pointless.
Then you have the old farts who, because they have failed to die (yet!), feel that they have more rights than mere mortals, and use their age to get away with stuff that, when they were younger, would have earned them a good slap. And don’t get me started on those old pillocks who feel they have to tell everyone they come across how old they are. Here’s a tip – nobody cares!
For the most part, I confess I feel grumpy and disenchanted (the more so lately (15/8/11), as I appear to be dying), but – and this is important – I keep it to myself as much as I can. There is no point in bemoaning my lot, because it won’t change anything, so I do my best to be as outgoing and pleasant as I can, though I’m not saying I always succeed – it’s nobody’s fault that I feel shitty, so there’s no point in taking it out on everyone else. Unfortunately, too many old people take the opposite view, and the result is that the rest of us are tarred with the same brush – hence grumpy old people.
One thing that pisses off old people big time, though, is the belief, among young people, that they invented sex. No you didn’t – we did ;-)