How It Feels to Be Old

Posted by Laura Ng on

Old Age Simulation ⬇️

How It Feels to Be Old

I didn’t think much about the weight this title carries until I embarked on my research and spiralled into the depths of the internet documenting loneliness among seniors across the world. As I racked my brain and thought about how to encapsulate the highs and lows of ageing in a single blog post, I realised one thing - I can’t. I can’t do that because I’m not old, and there is only so much that I can understand about it until it happens to me. 


The first idea that comes to mind when I think about being old is the inevitable deterioration of one’s body. Over the past few years, more and more ageing suits have been designed and tried on by the younger generation in an attempt to better empathise with the elderly. They include weights that mimic the gradual loss of muscle mass on the ankles and wrists, bands that restrict movements on joints like the knees and elbows, glasses that simulate age-related eye conditions, shoes that provide less balance and even gloves that contain electric pulse generators which cause one’s hands to shake involuntarily, mirroring the condition of someone with Parkinson’s. While the ageing suits take a toll on their young bodies and help them to recognise the difficulties faced by old people, it does not reveal the extent of emotional stress that ageing entails.

 


 

On top of experiencing declining dexterity and mobility problems, people who tried on ageing suits admitted to feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, as the sensory impairments prevent them from being independent and connecting with others. Many wanted out of the ageing suit after a while, and some even felt mad at the people around them who at the time had a body that worked better than theirs. Now imagine seniors in our society who, unlike these people, cannot do anything to turn back time. Unfortunately, the prevalence of ageism in our society makes the elderly feel increasingly unseen. Most of their loved ones have passed away, with those remaining suffering from health problems in some way. The most mundane everyday tasks such as opening a packet of biscuits require full concentration and take twice as long to complete. Life no longer feels as meaningful as it did before.

Of course, one thing to note is that the effects of ageing do not come as suddenly as the putting on of an ageing suit. We don’t go to sleep one night and wake up old the next day. Because ageing is gradual, seniors learn to adapt over time. That being said, the road to acceptance is not always smooth. Having once been providers and givers, seniors often find it hard to grapple with the loss of respect, mobility and cognitive ability. The frustration that they go through can be overwhelming, thus they turn to stubbornness and ego as a way of holding on to that last bit of control that they still have. Lots of articles I came across talk about our ability to remain on intimate terms with younger versions of ourselves. Research has shown that seniors who feel younger than their age have thicker brain matter and endure less age-related deterioration. In contrast, people who feel older than their chronological age are more at risk for hospitalization, dementia and death. Even with new challenges, a big surprise about being old is that it's not so different from every other age. Life goes on - we still get to dress ourselves up, spread happiness and learn new things every day. Our personalities and characters don’t have to change!

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that there is no way I can fully grasp how it feels to be old. While that holds true, my idea of ageing now is so much more than just having a weaker body. I have a newfound appreciation for the seniors in our society who go beyond societal expectations to live the lives they choose. To a certain extent, a part of me is also excited to grow old. After all, what may appear to others as “doing nothing” may very well be a relief to no longer have places to be, goals to achieve, or quotas to meet.

 

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