How I Am Secretly An Elderly Woman

Old Woman Reading (x1958-2)
John Van Vliet. Old Woman Reading. 1631. Etching.

Recently, I learned a new piece of vocabulary: “octogenarian.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it refers to “a person whose age is in the eighties.” The word encapsulates how I often feel internally. Although, physically, I am a young lady, I have always been an old soul at heart.

Some may find this idea odd and even morbid. Perhaps this arises from our culture’s persistent glorification of youth, as if one’s value ends when the wrinkle cream no longer works, and we settle into slow routines. Feeling like an elderly woman at seventeen does not mean I am not enjoying my youth. It does not mean I am not pursuing my dreams and anticipating the future with excitement. It does not mean I no longer run energetically, laugh merrily, and embrace life’s vibrancy (activities that older women can, in fact, do). It just means I possess a different perspective and persona than most young people my age.

Now I know not all women are alike, especially those of an older age. But, in my experience, I have noticed some common characteristics of elderly women which I keenly relate to.

1. Overstimulation

As I have expressed before, I do not like flashing lights and loud noises. Although it appears popular among youth, I would not choose to dance sporadically or dwell in crowded spaces. I would much rather sit in my armchair with a novel, a mug of cinnamon tea, and my cat at my feet. Or, if I desire to be social, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea over a conversation at a coffee shop. Or a stroll in the evening. These low-stimulus environments allow me to focus better on my friend and the topic at end. I await the day when I can blame my sensitivity on my age. 🙂 

2. Depth of Thought
I like to reflect a lot. On my week, my relationship, my current mental and emotional state. I am constantly contemplating strange avenues of thought. With their wealth of experience, some elderly women, I have noticed, have little fear of the absurd. They can approach all kinds of topics — from grocery shopping to funeral planning — with ease. I hope to emulate their capacity to entertain the strange and profound with openness and reflect on their memories with compassion. 

3. ’60s music 
I love ’60s music. Especially the rich voices of Bille Holiday, Etta James, and Ella Fitzgerald. And the lyrical profundity of Simon & Garfunkel. They wrote a song entitled “Voices of Old People” (a collection of elderly people reflecting) which seems fitting to share in this post. 

4. Slow living
Many elderly women have established rhythms, ways of life they have adopted for some time. They have reached a point when they can genuinely care for themselves and participate in activities they enjoy. While I am nowhere near retired, I desire to replicate an older woman’s self-care habits and slow routines. After the rapid pace of a school day, I steady my racing mind and weary body by putting away devices, completing my toilette, and curling up with my book or journal. This simple routine has helped calm my mind and prepare me for a tranquil sleep. Being the granny I am, I fall asleep early and rise before the house awakes. I understand the value of studying but also the value of rest. As I enter my senior year of high school, with its chaos and exhaustion, I am committed to maintaining healthy routines to ensure my elderly soul can find renewal.

5. Letter Writing

I love writing letters. I love pouring my thoughts onto a page, letting my hand follow with measure and frenzy. Words feel more real, more alive when transcribed in a physical copy. It reflects intentionality and thought.

6. Sharp Eyes
I am observing the world behind my invisible reading glasses. Eyebrows raised, smile quivering, and mind knitting together inferences. I know what the children are up to. I know what the adults are up to. In the realm of animals, I love bird-watching (another elderly pursuit). I love watching them dip from tree to ground, skip in the grass, and gaze back at me. Animals or humans, I delight in studying my surroundings. I hope to one day attain Miss Marple’s level of surveillance. 

And you, reader? What is your mental age? In what ways have you felt like an elderly soul? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I love to hear from you.

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