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Lifestyles over 50

How Old Is “Too Old”?

Jul 12, 2023 01:36PM ● By Alan Allegra
This is a difficult article to write, and may be difficult to read. The question of ageism has resurfaced with a vengeance during this decade. You can read political and social overtones into some of the following thoughts, but planting and watering them is not my intention. We all become sensitive about something, be it looks, color, ethnicity, job, political persuasion, gender, relationships, habits, and anything else that makes us distinctive yet completely human. My particular beef at this time is ageism because I’m considered “old.” Hey, if it weren’t for “old,” Antiques Roadshow wouldn’t be such a popular show in its 45th season!

When we say someone is “too old,” we need to know, “Too old for what?” Generalizations are helpful for certain studies, but there are always exceptions.

Human development experts work within four ranges of adulthood considered “late adulthood (60–100+).” They are:

  • young-old (60–74)
  • old-old (75–84)
  • oldest-old (85–99)
  • centenarians (100+)

Each sector has many characteristics in common, which we won’t go into. Are these one-size-fits-all categories?

Joe Biden, U.S. president at the time of this writing, is considered by many to be too old to be president (80) because of his speech and ambulatory difficulties. The implication is that old people are too feeble to handle certain responsibilities. Age has been a campaign issue for other candidates who have proven to be effective politicians, while many younger politicians’ careers have been cut short by violence, sickness, and moral or ethical lapses.

Although not always legal, ageism has played a part in many practices, from hiring to insurance and healthcare to adopting pets. It’s almost as if people have an expiration date on their birth certificate. I was once rejected as a candidate for a staff position at a church (where I was formerly a staff member) because they wanted someone younger, and was told that outright.
As always, we can turn to the Bible to get a look at what God has to say about “old age” and whether He thinks seniors are inept, second-class, and even disposable.

Here are three verses that are favorites of senior saints:
“You shall rise before the gray-headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).
“The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).
“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1–2).

What if someone told Caleb he was too old (85) to seize the mountain of Hebron (Joshua 14)? How the world of art would be diminished had Grandma Moses (77) thought she was too feeble to pick up a paintbrush! Look for one of the most accomplished Founding Fathers’ signature on the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution (Ben Franklin, 70 and 81). Where would Charlton Heston be if Moses gave in to ageism at 120 (Deuteronomy 34:7)? 

A manager at NASA told John Glenn he was “a little bit too old” to go to the moon (50s), so he waited until he was 77 to become the oldest person to go into space.

A quick Google search for “80 most influential Americans over 80” makes for some enlightening reading (if you know how to use a computer and have your reading glasses, haha!).

The point is, don’t let anyone tell you that you are too old to do something if you can actually do it safely and well. Take comfort in the words of Psalm 92:12–15:
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.