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Older People Are Holding Nothing Back About What It's Really Like To Get Old

With a little luck, all of us will be old one day. But until that day comes, it's hard to really know what it will be like. For example, what kind of new challenges will we grapple with when we're 70, 80, 90+ years old?

Illustration of a disheveled man with a small cloud above his head, striking a contemplative pose
New Line Cinema / ©New Line Cinema/courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

Well, Quora has a large community of older people who have discussed exactly this in spaces like Aging with an Attitude (including threads here and here). Let's take a look at some of the most insightful things they had to say about the most challenging parts of growing old:

1."The hardest part of my getting older, now at 90, is being alone. I came from a very large family, easily about 200 when counting both my father's and mother's sides. Sadly, there are just two left, my older sister and me. Sometimes, when something happens today that excites me, I reach for the phone to call one or two of the sisters who are gone. And then I remember and put down the phone without dialing."

"I am pretty conditioned to the facts so though it bothers me just a little, I truly don't fret over it very much. I just remember to take each day with as much as I can handle, because I never know what can happen next."

Lilian Taylor, Quora

2."You age on the outside but forget to age on the inside. It's like those movies where a young person and an old person change bodies. Imagine you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see a 70-year-old 'you' looking back. How would you feel? That's exactly like being old. The person inside is still you. You haven't changed your sense of self. You still expect the same things of yourself. It's just that the world sees you in a completely different way."

Robert Leonetti, Quora

3."Do you want to know what really makes me angry about getting old? It's not being young anymore. This is the cruelest trick nature has up its sleeve, and you don't find out about it until you get there. At that point, it's too late to do anything about it. You have all the wisdom in the world, but no one wants to listen to an old person."

"You become invisible to every man, woman, and child on the planet. Younger people want us to go away because they don't want to look at their future. We thought we were always going to be young. We thought it was never going to happen to us, but it does. Sadly, it will happen to you too."

Cyndi Perlman Fink, Quora

Elderly person sitting on a park bench, holding a cane, viewed from behind, in a contemplative pose
Runstudio / Getty Images

4."It's the fact that you aren't taken seriously anymore. My partner and I have been called 'cute' on more than one occasion. People assume I need help walking across a street (on a green light, clear day, and with no cellphone in my hand). I've been advised to 'keep busy' (until I die?) and treated as if I'm out of the loop technically and socially. Expectations about my mental and physical ability have dropped with no reasonable cause. I find I'm justifying myself constantly (more push-ups in the gym, etc — which, I guess, isn't so bad)."

Bonnie Lavigne, Quora

5."Old lady arms. You know, that dimply, loose skin that just hangs around even though I'm thin. I also miss my natural red hair, but that's not a huge deal, and I don't mind a few wrinkles. But I absolutely HATE not feeling comfortable in sleeveless clothing!"

Vickie Blank, Quora

6."Family, friends, and acquaintances drop dead all around you every few weeks/months. Recently, some of 'the guys' got together in a nearby city for lunch. They all grew up together. The seemingly healthiest of them all, well, he died in his sleep two nights after this get-together. Everybody is still in shock because this social group has plenty of unhealthy members, and no one understands how this healthy one's heart could simply stop beating without any signs/symptoms, without a doctor seeing that something was wrong. Grief is continuous with us. And the more people you know, the more often this happens. So try to treasure every person you know; any time you see them, it may be the last!"

Anne H., Quora

Elderly woman embracing a younger woman, both smiling, conveying a warm, familial bond
Martinedoucet / Getty Images

7."I cared for my wife when she was sick, and I was by her side when she died. Losing her sucked. Losing the good things about that life sucks. Watching the world get meaner sucks. An aging body hurts and can't do what the still young feeling mind would like to do. But it's not all bad. Learning to love deeper is fantastic. Embracing peace into your being is wonderful."

"I have friends and family who like to watch Fox News and get all jacked up. They don't see that they are giving away a huge part of their life to unnecessary bitterness. That sucks. I don't watch the news at all, except the weather. It's my life, and I'll spend whatever time I have being happy. If I can't fix it, then I'm not going to fret over it. Peace is a very valuable thing.

I don't fear death. I do worry about living like a potted plant. I eat my vegetables and exercise. But time can be a nasty bitch. That sucks."

Mark Stead, Quora

8."Losing your mate. I was married for 52 years, and he died in 2021. I'm having such a hard time living without him. I miss him so much. I knew someday one of us would die, but I always thought it would be me, not him."

Joy Holt, Quora

9."That favorite restaurant you and your significant other love to visit? You better enjoy it now; it will probably be closed in a couple of years. Those wonderful neighbors you used to do cookouts with? They moved to Florida, and you will never see them anymore. Casual conversations while you're waiting in line at the grocery store? Forget it; everyone's staring at their phone. (Oh, and by the way, you will be doing 'self check-out.')"

Michael Driessen, Quora

Elderly man wearing a 'Vietnam Veteran' cap sitting in a park, looking thoughtful
© MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

10."Your memory fades. By noon, I can't recall what I had for breakfast!"

Jon Potter, Quora

11."I reach over to feel my wife sleeping beside me in the dark. I can hear her. I can feel her side rise up and down as she breathes. I remind myself this, along with all the small experiences that make life, well, life, will end. I wish it didn't have to end. But there's not much anyone can do about it. So we should try to take one day at a time. I have tried in my later years to do things that are physically and psychologically difficult in an effort to stop living like I am already dead. In the end, I really only want one thing: for everybody to be happy (whatever that looks like)."

Jim Wilson, Quora

12."Younger people today don't want to be with the old folks; they would rather be with their phones. When I was young — I'm now 91 — I loved being with old people, hearing stories, and learning from them."

Henry, Quora

A person seated with legs crossed, texting on a smartphone
The Good Brigade / Getty Images

13."This dropping dead thing is the thing that bothers me the most. I often tell people that at my age I can go at any moment, and they don’t like to hear it, or they think it is morbid, but it is just a fact. So, that is my only complaint, really, if you even call it that. I am ready; I have lived my life, and my main goal now is to continue to be useful."

"I always try to remind my son that I may not be here tomorrow. I think he thinks I am trying to manipulate him or make him feel guilty for not spending time with me, but what I am trying to do is get him to realize that when I DROP, he will have tremendous guilt, as I do now, for my neglect of my parents. I don’t want him to spend his life thinking back and feeling bad, so I always tell him, 'I love you, and I forgive you, and I hope you will forgive me for anything I ever did to upset you.'

He thinks I am dramatic, but honestly, I had no preparation for my mother’s passing; I wish we had said that to each other so much. Tell everyone you even halfway like how special they are every day, and tell your loved ones you love them every time you talk to them."

Bella Taylor, Quora

14."I just turned 69. Never in my whole life did I think I would reach this age. Now that I am a senior citizen, my body hates me. Aches and pains I never thought could exist started popping up. My body used to fight for me. Now I'm being told it's my turn. No more eating like a 20 or 30-year-old — weight that was easily maintained is harder to keep in check."

Randy, Quora

15."Living on a pension that fails to resemble or match a monthly wage."

Ian McClymont, Quora

An older man in a sweater pulls off his glasses and wipes his wet eyes

16."One of the most frustrating things about becoming an older woman is that you become almost 'invisible' to people, especially to most men. When we are young women (20s to 30s), men pay a great deal of attention to us because of how we look. Our level of sexual attractiveness indicates whether a man will look twice or dismiss us as uninteresting and not worth investing time with. As a young woman, it's hard to imagine that the day will come when men won't flirt with us anymore, or at least not like they used to."

"The thing everyone discovers is that we feel exactly like the same young woman on the inside; it's the outside of our body that reminds us that we aren't young anymore. It's looking in the mirror and finding yourself saying, 'When the hell did THAT happen?'"

India J. Mitchell, Quora

17."Pain. Doing *exactly* the same thing that's never hurt before in your daily life, and now, suddenly, you can't do it anymore without pain. And then you have to figure out — is this now 'normal' pain that you need to push through to keep your daily routine? Or do you now have to 'adjust' to your old age and accept you can no longer do the thing that causes the pain? It's a blast!"

Elizabeth M. Chapman, Quora

18."I'm almost 68 and amazed at how fast it happens. In the past year, I can't believe how much I have aged. And my body isn't as strong or resilient as it was just a year ago. The hardest part for me is looking in the mirror. Maybe it's vanity, but I miss seeing a youthful face. Now, wrinkles and spots have taken over. Not to be a total downer — my mind is in good shape. I'm still interested in many things, I like to learn, and I would love to travel. I have a long bucket list but I'm not sure this body could keep up. I was better at being young."

Louise Piper, Quora

Woman in glasses reading a book on a couch with decorative pillows
Nitat Termmee / Getty Images

19.And finally: "Eyesight! I had Lasik surgery at 45 on one eye, and for about 15 years, it was great. I didn’t need glasses at all. Then, gradually, I began to need reading glasses again. There were so many labels, directions, and articles, all in tiny print; some so small I couldn’t read them even with magnification. I rarely had my readers with me when I needed them, so I began buying them in multiples and leaving them all over the house. Even so, the glasses were rarely at hand when I needed them, and I was forced to go track down a pair."

"I’m 73 now, and while I’m fine with mid-range vision and can type away on my computer without any visual aid, my near-sighted vision gets worse. Distance isn’t too bad, but even that is not as acute as it once was. Forget night vision. I HATE driving at night. My eyes can’t adjust fast enough when an oncoming car has its headlights on."

Melanie Procopia, Quora

Some entries have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Now let's flip the script. What's something you enjoy about being older? Let us know in the comments below or via this anonymous form.