17.1 C
Byron Shire
March 31, 2023

The ageing thing

Latest News

Is polluting a lake in a national park to support new housing ok?

From Byron Bay to Evans Head to Casino the questions about how we deal with what is politely termed ‘effluent’, and how that may or may not destroy our local environment, demand real and urgent answers.

Other News

Share flood stories at Mullum Farmers Market

To mark the anniversary of the 28 February 2022 flooding of Mullumbimby, which was followed by continued flooding throughout...

Helping our elders on April Falls Day

April Falls Month is an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of falls and to promote the latest best practice fall prevention strategies. The overall campaign goal is to get active and improve balance for fall prevention.

Feros stolen

The Feros board have failed to explain why the existing buildings cannot be redeveloped as a purpose-built, top-of-the-range, aged-care...

Arson Squad extradite a man from Qld over alleged arson attack – Casino

Arson Squad detectives have extradited a man from Queensland and charged him over an alleged arson attack in the state’s Far North Coast earlier this month.

Closing the Gap on Aboriginal health in the Byron Shire

Close the Gap aims to reduce disadvantage experienced by Indigenous peoples with respect to child mortality, childhood education, life expectancy and health.

Cartoon of the week – 29 March 2023

The Echo loves your letters and is proud to provide a community forum on the issues that matter most to our readers and the people of the NSW north coast. So don’t be a passive reader, send us your epistles.

Richard Hil through life. Photos supplied.

Mandy Nolan’s wonderfully quixotic article about turning 55 and loving the ageing process took my day by storm – sort of. 

If I understand her correctly, ageing is a kind of clarion call to gratitude and acceptance – those beguiling Buddhist mantras – as well as a royal F-you to those who opine about one’s chronological status.

There’s no doubt that ageing is fascinating.

As it progresses, you become increasingly mindful of bodily and other changes, over which most of us have little or no control. Various bits begin to wear out, fall off, sag or morph into shapes and sizes that simply amaze, and occasionally horrify. 

But there’s more to ageing than personal transformation. Demographic trends around the world are telling us that populations are getting older, birth rates are declining and, in some cases, total numbers are shrinking. The general effects of all this are profound.

Age-related demarcations are being radically redrawn

The age-related demarcations of old, young, not-so-young and every stage between are being radically redrawn, and with growing ranks of ‘the elderly’ and ‘seniors’, social identities are being rethought. (That said, I’ve just looked up some synonyms for ageing, and they’re truly awful: ‘declining’, ‘crumbling’, ‘stale’, ‘slumping’!).

An obsession with wellbeing has taken hold, too. Bookstores are full of self-help books urging the over-somethings to do this or that, or become this or that, according to some ill-defined cultural script or biomedical model. There’s not a tome in sight inviting you to grow old disgracefully. 

On 10 July this year I’ll hit 70 – hopefully. In my world, ageing is a mixed bag. It’s certainly not as brilliant as Mandy seems to suggest. It brings with it the organ recitals, the increasing visits to medical personnel, the grief and sadness of losing friends and family.

And then there’s getting out of bed in the morning… And the design faults; you might have the time and inclination to do what you’d like to do, like drink, sleep all day and fornicate, but the body’s a determined refusenik.

Becoming invisible

Being older also prompts various unsought comments from people who like to remind you of exactly where you sit in the chronological order. I’ve had people refer to me as ‘young man’, or look at me with that ‘there, there dear’ countenance, and worst of all, render me and others in my age group invisible. It happens, right? It’s not necessarily deliberate. It’s stereotypes and social mores playing out according to familiar positionings when it comes to ‘the aged’.

I giggle at it all, mainly because I’ve developed a sort of anthropologian shield. But I don’t like it when I witness the same stuff aimed at people I know. I think I get most upset when witnessing someone, say, in their 80s, rendered voiceless by subtle exclusionary put downs.

I’m told that this sort of thing is mostly experienced by women. I don’t know about that. It happens to blokes too, who can also get hit with the ‘old white man’ tag. That said, there are complex historical reasons why said ‘tagging’ is experienced differently across social groups. 

How people treat you matters

If you’re utterly secure in yourself, unconcerned by what other people think, then, hey, all this bullshit might just bounce off you. But it’s often hard not to be positioned and ‘othered’ in ways that can impact your lived experience. Our identities, after all, are formed through social interactions – how people treat you matters. 

As for looking into mirrors and at photographs or, heaven forbid, seeing yourself in 3D fitting rooms, well, you take your chances. Too much self-scrutiny of the compare-and-contrast sort can lead to problems.

To prevent existential meltdown, I have taken to peering into a single mirror with subdued lighting and an abundance of self-delusion. I tell myself that the looks thing is superficial, but few in an individualistic culture like ours really buy that one, do they?

Personally, I’m eternally grateful to Keith Richards for setting the bar so low when it comes to being seventy-plus. He gives people like me hope. I’m reminded too of Daniel Klein’s observation in Travels with Epicurus that at some stage in everyone’s life there’s a reckoning with one’s face. 

Wrinkles tell a story or two

Maybe, as Mandy suggests, it’s not so much a reckoning as fascination with where life has taken us. Those wrinkles tell a story or two. It’s easy (or not) to write off ageing as a social construction, which doesn’t mean a lot when you’re being patronised.

I also find it unhelpful to think of stages of life with discrete characteristics. The idea that ageing corresponds with wisdom isn’t all that true, either. I’ve met airheads in their seventies and super bright and wise teenagers. In truth, by the time we get into our latter years we’re a smorgasbord of life experiences and personal attributes. That’s what makes ageing interesting. 

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Ageing: I’ve recently pushed into the 70 bandwidth, that is scary. Is my IQ still numerically greater than my age? How sagged are my cheeks, does the mirror tell me or will I be shocked when a friend tells me “ÿou look bloody old” Am I spending most of my day watching the Idiot Box. You decide to flick the remote, dig out those jeans and head to a pub with a band. Not only does your facial features cause concern/distress, but the issue of cheeks arise AGAIN, butt cheeks this time, they just don’t fill the jeans like they used to in my 30’s& 40’s. Should I give the band a miss and reach for the remote for a footy game, any code, guys or gals. You get to the venue and quickly survey the dance floor and bar for a comparison of other simliar aged D’Heads who may embarrass themselves more than you will when the James Brown hit Get Up Offa That Thing rings out with the lyrics “get your back off the wall”. Best way to handle the day and indecision … W. T. F… Good health & enjoy your day.

  2. I recently found myself in a little yellow fire truck that had become slightly airbourne. In my 20s, this would have been super awesome. Being in my 40s, I did not like it. I did not like it at all. After escaping incineration, the first thing I thought about was not my wife, nor my daughter. It was Mandy bloody Nolan opining about getting old. Thanks Echo


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Appeal to locate man last seen at Casino on way to Tweed

Police are appealing for public assistance to locate a man from Grafton missing from the North Coast area.

Do you still need help to get two rooms fixed after the 2022 flood?

More than 80 Lismore residents have had help getting a few rooms in their flood-impacted homes re-sheeted and habitable following the devastating 2022 floods.  The...

$15,000 fine and warnings over illegal logging in Kyogle Shire

Urbenville-based logging company Rojech Pty Ltd were fined $15,000 earlier this month over logging operations near the entrance to the Border Ranges National Park in Kyogle Shire.

No street gathering policy for Ballina Shire

A majority of Ballina Shire councillors have voted against a Greens-led motion for a new policy enabling resident-led street closures for gatherings and play.