Thursday, March 20, 2014

Growing old: the silly side

Old people’s stories, I suspect, proffer more oomph than young people’s stories.  
They share richer wisdom.

Send more potent messages.

Tug stronger on hearts.

They offer valuable lessons for all of us—stories that would bless our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids—if we’d just write them.

What stories can you write about becoming elderly?

Keep in mind that growing old is a touchy subject.

Kenny Rogers nailed it when he said, 

Growing older is not upsetting; 
being perceived as old is.”

If you’re my age, you know the surprise—the dismay, hurt, sadness—of being perceived as “old.” I guess there are two reasons for that. (1) Young people assume being an old-timer is a negative thing, and (2) you don’t consider yourself an old-timer anyway.

Harsh words, these: old as Methuselah, old as the hills, older than dirt, old fogy, past one’s prime, aged, antiquated, hoary, tottering, feeble of mind and foot….

But we are so much more than those words! Oh, yes, we are.

So, shake up your readers a little. Challenge their preconceived notions of being old

Plan on writing several vignettes and remember to do this for your readers: “Make ‘em cry, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em wait” (Wilkie Collins). But start with something funny.

Humor endears you to your reader.

Funniness makes you seem real. You are no longer a vague author lurking in shadows. Instead, your reader has spent a happy time with you and, as a result, she likes you. He wants to know you better.

Laughter is a universal language, a common connector, a shared experience.

Somehow, laughing together earns you a right to be heard later, when you and your readers need to consider the serious stuff.

Humor can lighten the mood when writing about heavy topics—and old age has its heartaches. Humor can provide much-needed perspective and balance.

So, start with something funny, or at least amusing, about growing old. Make ‘em laugh.

Perhaps your grandkids think of you as an important businessman or a dignified pastor or a very proper little old lady. But do they know about your funny side? Practical jokes you pulled? Outrageous hilarity?

Here are a few smile-worthy quotes I’ve collected over the years. Perhaps they’ll give you ideas for your “old fogy” vignettes.

“I believe you should live every day as if it’s your last. That is why I don’t have any clean laundry—because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of her life?!”  (Cathy Ladman)

“‘Old’ is when your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and you’re barefoot.” (Phyllis Diller)

“I got my doctor's permission to take an aerobics class for seniors. I bent, twisted, gyrated, jumped up and down, and perspired for an hour. But, by the time I got my leotard on, the class was over.” (author unknown)

“Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades. Over the years they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures. Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards. One day they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, ‘Now don't get mad at me....I know we've been friends for a long time.....but I just can't think of your name! I've thought and thought, but I can't remember it. Please tell me what your name is.’ Her friend glared at her.  For at least three minutes she just stared and glared at her.  Finally she said, ‘How soon do you need to know?’” (author unknown)

“You know you’re getting old when someone tells you your pantyhose are wrinkled and you aren’t wearing any.”  (author unknown)

“I had to give up jogging for my health. My thighs kept rubbing together and setting my pantyhose on fire.”  (Roseanne Barr)

“Mid-life women no longer have upper arms; we have wingspans. We are no longer women in sleeveless shirts; we are flying squirrels….” (author unknown)

“Women over 50 don't have babies because they would put them down and forget where they left them.” (author unknown)

Surprise your readers. Give them a chuckle. Maybe you need to shake them up and change how they view elderly people those enjoying their golden years.

Write your stories on old age and, in at least one vignette, make ‘em laugh.

If you’re still a young ’un, what have you learned by watching friends, colleagues, or loved ones get on in years? Have they surprised you? How have they role-modeled for you that old people can still be young at heart, even comical?

Your stories are important. They can be anchors for your kids, grandkids, and great-grands as they help loved ones through old age—and as they face aging themselves someday.


  1. So true! I know I don't like it when others think of me as old when I feel I'm just getting started, lol. I also know I've spent a lifetime of thinking of others as old and they probably didn't like it either. I've been meeting a number of seniors lately who are really inspiring me with all that they do and what they are still learning. These are seniors over 80, almost 90. It gives me a lot of inspiration. I like your suggestion too about "shaking it up a bit". Now if I could just find the time to get back to the writing. I'm afraid I didn't make much progress on it as I've had to deal with other things.

  2. Hi, Penny, what a blessing it must be to meet such dear senior citizens. The older ones do have many things to teach us, right up to the end. I know it's hard to find time to write, but jot down ideas or stories you hear from the seniors and set them aside for when the time comes that you do have time to write. You have had so many interesting, rich experiences in your life, Penny. Bless your heart.