Old is a destination

'You can discern the years between 16 and 20. You know a 21-year-old from a 28-year-old, but I bet you can’t mark a decade between 60 and 90. You can’t read the gradations and patinas. Not that old people hide them; you can’t tell because you don’t look. And you don’t look because you don’t care. Really, who cares how old the old are? Old is a destination. There is nothing after old. Just nothing.

Now, just one more thing: take another look at your old person and tell me, what was it that determined that they were old? What made you think they weren’t just young with a lived-in face and a hangover? If you can’t tell what age old is, how do you know when they’ve got there? Do you think they just wake up one morning to discover they’re past everything but care and caring? Old is not a number, it’s not a date. It’s simply the absence of youth, the absence of attraction, interest, new friends, society. The absence of conviviality, warmth, choice, or surprise, or life.'

- A A Gill, 'Old age: state care homes are the final resort'.


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