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Old young

By Nickunj Malik - Jul 19,2017 - Last updated at Jul 19,2017

I realised, quite recently, that when I got married, my mother had not even turned fifty. She reached that milestone another two years later but looking at her pictures, one could easily mistake her for a much older woman.

She had a few strands of grey hair that she refused to dye for the longest time. In fact, I had to escort her to the corner beauty parlour on her 50th birthday for her first hair-colour appointment because she was too shy to approach it on her own. Once there she almost changed her mind and I had to do a lot of handholding during the entire procedure. But basically, after that one trip, she gave up on trying any more treatments and pretended to be a geriatric forever.

All the people of her generation were like that. They did everything too early; graduated from college early, got married early, had kids early. By the time they reached their half century mark, age wise, they had accumulated such a vast array of experiences that they were not quite willing to do anything other than retire. The result was that they declared themselves old much before they actually got old.

Compared to those young-olds, my peer group comes across as the old-young. We are over fifty but not yet elderly. Research states that by 2100, the ratio of 65 plus folks to working age people will triple. The Economist magazine claims, “In the rich world at least, many of the old are still young. They want to work, if more flexibly and they want to spend money too. The current binary way of thinking, seeing retirement as a cliff edge over which workers and consumers suddenly tumble bears little relation to the real world. Governments and companies should take note. Finding a word to describe youthful old age as a distinct phase of life — how about “pre-tiree” — might sound like a frivolous exercise but it could have as powerful an impact on attitudes as the emergence of “teenagers” in the 1940s”. 

Right! I love the term “pre-tiree” which is so much better than “retiree”. The former is an ongoing active phase as compared to the passivity of the latter one. It is both encouraging and energising and does not compel one to make any drastic changes because of one’s chronological age. As long as one is able to do something, one should carry on doing it, is the mantra. 

It holds true for the post-tirees too who are busy doing nearly anything and everything, if they are fit and healthy! Including accessing the social media networks, being obsessively active on Facebook and sending links of strongly worded politically right wing propaganda pieces via chat groups like my octogenarian father-in-law does. There is seldom a week that passes without me receiving absurd write-ups such as “Hitler NOT Gandhi should be given credit for Independence of India in 1947 from the British Raj”! Demeaning the father of our nation is a favourite pastime in my homeland these days, so instead of responding, I delete these forwards immediately, but here I digress.

“I think I am pre-tired,” I announce to my best friend.

“I also feel so tired,” she agrees.

“Not tired, pre-tired,” I emphasise.

“Before tired?” she asks.

“It is the prime of my youthful old age,” I explain. 

“What is that?” she quizzes. 

“It is a new stage of life,” I continue.


“Ok! The new tired,” she concludes.

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