Open Thread

Open Thread Update: The Unwritten Rules of Aging

Wow! Readers all over the world opened their vaults and shared their own unwritten rules about aging – to the tune of more than 60 comments – a record!

What is most inspiring about the comments (read them all  is how many folks describe how they handle their varying physical capabilities with grace and cheerfulness.

Reader Jacquelyn sets the tone.

“I think mindset has everything to do with how well we age. Being around other like-minded (and often younger) people helps me see myself as more confident and I am grateful every day for the energy and drive I still have.”

And Mattie H. sets an inspiring example…

Only if they ask…I say ‘a surgical error changed my life to the slow lane but hasn’t ruined it and this (very pretty) cane is my BFF”, give a smile and ask about them. I also take zoom classes, serve on boards and write a community paper column.

Words Matter

I avoid using the word “old” at all costs. Same goes for “elderly”, “woman of a certain age”, “aged”.


I do not use phrases as: “back in the day”, “I remember when”, “the good old days”.

-Charles J.

I don’t use the term ‘senior moment’ especially, “I’m having a senior moment”.


I like the pithy ones…

Don’t give advice unless you are asked to give it.


My unwritten rule of aging.. don’t use 1 finger typing on the smart phone – only “old” people do that.


..and for the last word on avoiding talking about our aches and pains…

Long-winded comments about infirmities and other health issues are called ‘organ recitals’ here in New Zealand.

-Mick C. 

All the comments are by turns touching, funny, informative, wise and inspiring…all truly about Aging with Attitude!  We’ll keep the comments open and I hope more folks read and add theirs. Meanwhile, thanks for your wit and wisdom!

We’ll close with this lovely thought from Reader Joyce.

I have no unwritten rules to aging. I enjoy it all and feel blessed for my life. It just gets better and better and I’m loving it.


Original Column:

I went out to dinner with a bunch of friends recently.  It was one of those places where the sound has no place to go so it bounces all over. Every table was full, there was (loud) music and we were near a noisy bar.  I had trouble even hearing the gal sitting next to me.

I felt awkward saying “What? What?” so I finally  explained  my hearing loss and showed her my hearing aid and the apps that manage it.  She showed polite interest, but I think I went on a bit too long in my explanation.

The Unwritten Rules of Aging

Thus was born my first Unwritten Rule of Aging:

Physical conditions get a very brief mention, if at all. If a close friend asks, or if they share first, I will discuss, but otherwise I’ll keep it short. I might explain that unless they are looking in my eyes I probably won’t hear them, and that hearing aids don’t give the equivalent of 20/20 hearing.

Why the rules?

I’ve decided that extended conversation about my infirmities plays into stereotypes or even ageism – and it’s just plain boring except to my nearest and dearest.

Your turn

But that’s me. How about you? What are your  unwritten rules about aging – the ones you have or the ones you with others had?  Share yours in the comments!

Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send  Open Thread suggestions to


Photo: vorDa via Getty Images


67 responses to “Open Thread Update: The Unwritten Rules of Aging

  1. A hip replacement gone wrong changed me from an active 76 year old to a now 79 year old using a cane. I warn those I haven’t seen before this happened so they aren’t shocked when they see me. Only if they ask about it I say ‘a surgical error changed my life to the slow lane but hasn’t ruined it and this (very pretty) cane is my BFF”, give a smile and ask about them. I also take zoom classes, serve on boards and write a community paper column. No more travel but love staying home.

    1. Thank you. I recently developed painful arthritis in one knee and need a cane. I love to take long, brisk walks and can no longer walk to the corner. I’ve talked about it to everyone. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m going to cut back on talking about it.

  2. I do not use phrases as: “back in the day”, “I remember when”, “the good old days”. I only reference back to past history as anchoring or comparison to a current or historical event. History is important and connecting past and future events has value, but we can’t relive the past, we go forward.

  3. Hi Verge, Thank you for that oh-so-relevant
    thread on those unwritten rules of aging. I so
    enjoyed reading all the comments; very true
    and validating for me. I am new to Senior Planet
    but feel I’ve found a media for my voice! I am
    researching hearing aids at this time and dragging my feet; I have yet to talk with anyone
    who is happy with their purchase! Thanks to all
    the helpful input tho. Am looking forward to
    more on Senior Planet.

    1. I have hearing aids and the truth is when you are talking n noisy place it’s really difficult to focus. I am very happy with my hearing aids. Most of time I hear just fine and have no issues. Miracle Ear is what I got 2+ years ago. Pricy but all exams, cleanings etc are free.

    2. Carol, I’m quite happy with my hearing aids!, which I’ve had since age 42. A bout with flu led to hearing loss when I was 12. Yes, they aren’t perfect, but without them, I’m almost deaf. The blue color makes it easier to find one if dropped – but when on, my GP couldn’t see them even looking for them, if that matters to you. For me, bei ng able to hear is more important. Aids don’t signal age nearly as much as ‘Huh?,’ trust me. I could go on, but I’ve already broken some aging rules ;’).

    3. Carol,
      I suggest you get tested . I was tested at my medical insurance workout facility. At that time I had a 40% loss.
      I went to a local hearing business, not an MD but educated, certified hearing specialists. I was fitted with hearing aides. The cost was about $2500 for the pair.
      They were great but the cost of the next grade up was 5k to 7k. Too much!
      In the meantime I move to Utah and went to Costco. The hearing aids are good and the service is excellent.

  4. I’m 84 now; my hearing, even with hearing aids, is not so good; and driving to get to meetings doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I like Zoom discussions with the CC (closed captioning) enabled, which allows me to follow philosophy and book conversations. The increased use of Zoom and other discussion apps since the COVID shutdown has allowed me to connect with people all over the world. I love it!

    1. I currently wear the Signia’s Styletto model, the rechargeable one. I use the rechargeable model; it was programmed to my last hearing aid test. The app controls volume individually or together, balances between sharp and soft sound sensitivity (those high pitched sounds can sound very shrill and grating) and some directionality, although the app is a bit spotty on that score and it doesn’t really help in noisy settings like a restaurant. They are pretty pricey.

    2. When the law changed and I could buy real hearing aids online, I bought a pair of Lexie on sale from Bose for $600. They use batteries but are programmable with my cell phone and work okay. They help with conversation but not for movies or concerts. When I go to a movie theater, I use the free closed-captioning glasses when available.

  5. I’m newly retired at 70. I never thought of myself as old while working. Now I think about it a lot.I joined the “new beginnings” center and see “old” people and don’t see myself like then. How wrong is that.
    I celebrated I made it to 70! I haven’t figured out the rules about aging,. I’m happy I made it to 70 and keeping myself active and engaged.

    1. Hi Jackie! I am another Jackie and I totally agree with you. The times I’ve visited the senior center in town I also see a lot of “old” people. I have been retired for several years and at 71 still see myself as a vibrant person. So I don’t it’s “wrong” to feel that way. I think mindset has everything to do with how well we age. Being around other like-minded (and often younger) people helps me see myself as more confident and I am grateful every day for the energy and drive I still have.

  6. As I add years, I surround myself with people and things that are joyful. If I can avoid the negative in situations and relationships, I make every effort to do so. I start my day each day by saying, “Lord, what are we going to do today?”

    1. I, too, surround myself with people and activities that enrich me. My quilting, sewing, and crafting are my delight but I choose carefully how and when to share them beyond club and guild members. As for restaurants, I skip them to avoid COVID and stay well. Don’t mind saving money. Always hated noisy spaces. Can picnic outside with friends most seasons.

  7. Boy, do I ever know what you mean! I wear a very good pair of hearing aids and I can adjust them with my phone. But when you are in a restaurant with hard floors, wall and ceilings, it gets pretty loud! Luckily, I am usually with people who don’t like really loud restaurants either, so it works out.

  8. I am 87 years old, in fairly good health, not a complainer, and a happy, positive person. I learned a long time ago that the blank look in people’s eyes when they bothered to ask how I was doing…they really didn’t care .. and if I started to list my ailments and fears, the subject was quickly changed. Now I just respond “I’m good” should anyone bother to ask how I feel. It has become quite apparent that the health of an old person is of no interest to most people. Old people are invisibl

  9. One of my favorite unwritten rules on aging is to never remind my friends/family that they’ve already told me a story or other tidbit. I used to find it so annoying to continually hear the same things over and over, but I’ve learned that it’s better to hear it too many times than not at all! This also helps my memory because there are sometimes I don’t remember the entire story and/or more details are disclosed the 2nd time around! Others may also get offended and stop sharing altogether!

    1. That is very thoughtful of you, Teresa. On the other hand, many times I will say, before I start a story, “stop me if I already told you this” because I know
      it’s so boring to hear the same story twice, and I don’t want to be that boring person. I’m happy when someone will tell me politly, oh yes, I remember that
      before I go on boring them to death.

    2. Good point about reinforcing memory by listening to a story you’ve already heard. I have also stopped telling others that they are repeating their stories since I read a suggestion that people repeat some stories in order to process it, to come to a fuller understanding of what it means to them, For example, you’ll hear someone who has lost a loved one talk about the moment of their demise – over & over. Instead of thinking them morbid or unhealthy, have compassion for their need to understand.

  10. When my Mother began going to the local senior center she said all they talked about was their bowel movements. Yuck! She also told me that when men get impotent, they are not even interested in talking with women. My personal experience is that they are *never* impotent in their minds! They don’t even admit it to themselves.

  11. I don’t use the term ‘senior moment’ especially, “I’m having a senior moment”. I have always forgotten names, and even nouns when I was younger. I might do it a bit more now.

    Like you, I don’t like to play into the stereotypes. I just move on and tell the story without the name.

  12. Another rule: Your body is changing daily. Expect it, accept it. One day my knee hurt; I had it X-rayed. Arthritis. Then it was a finger, or two or three fingers. I wasn’t quite as good at opening tight lids. Now we’re into OTC pain killers, Mediterranean Diet (for real this time), Yoga, stretching . . . . .
    Then there will be the day you notice your hair is getting thinner, seeing more hair on the brush, “volumizers,” etc. Expect it, accept it!
    And we won’t even talk about wrinkles.

  13. I will never say aloud “I am no good with technology.” Or “I am not good at math.” I use a smart phone with a digital camera to create fiber art and nothing uses math more than designing a quilt. I host a global Zoom group whose membership is made up of stitchers of all ages, many over the magic number of age 55 when women are supposed to disappear. We do not accept the stereotypes that allow others to freely dismiss our art and our skills.

  14. I mildly disagree. It is sharing, not dumping my challenges. I am 76 with no problems. I am not a kvetch. It is isolating to just read up on PubMed, NIH, etc. and not compare notes. When someone shares with me, I feel honored to just listen. If it is too much, and I don’t have experience, I gently suggest the professional magazines and suggest she write up a list of questions and call the MD office — the nurses are great!

  15. One of my unwrittten rules of aging that I am working on implementing is not mentioning aloud that I am old. The truth of that probably easily goes unsaid but the actions might continue to fight against the preconceptions as you go about living.

  16. I have had reasonably good luck asking the server to have the music turned down, explaining that we were a table of 70-somethings with some hearing loss. In a pinch, I’ve mentioned the ADA (as, for instance, when I had called ahead to ask whether I could bring two people in their late 80s, with considerable hearing loss, and been assured that they would turn down the music, but then they didn’t. Ultimately, they did, but only after I mentioned the ADA and my prior phone call to them).

    1. I don’t have hearing loss at 65 but I have never liked loud places. Especially restaurants. But if someone wants to go out to eat at one of those places I just go and smile and nod! ‘Cause I can’t hear what they’re saying but I may as well enjoy the meal and being being around people. And people watching is fun!

  17. I don’t say that I am old or that I cannot do something because of my age. I don’t talk incessantly about aches, pains, meds, or other physical or psychological changes that occur as we go through life.

  18. Oh, Virge, I totally get it. I am essentially deaf in my left ear, and wear hearing aids in both ears. In noisy environments, like you, I’m forever asking, “What? What?” If I’m walking with my partner we position ourselves so she’s to my right so we can converse easily. If I can, I simply avoid noisy environments, and relish being in the quiet out of doors, forest bathing and the like.

  19. Dont look into the mirror and say, ” all I see are my wrinkles and saggy skin”. Embrace the beauty that was there and is now just a little older. Don’t think you are not as good as you once were, there are still things and passions you can pursue. You can do the hard things.

  20. Although I do feel that the support and empathy from our Nearest and Dearest is very important when we may be struggling with an illness or infirmity, I very much agree that the endless “organ recital” that can sometimes happen when we all take turns around the dinner table yakking about our sore elbows and tired joints is a bore. So…the unwritten rule makes good sense to me! Keep it brief!

  21. I try very hard to avoid bringing up really old stuff….like jobs I’ve had; places I lived; or what my life was like when my daughter was a baby……especially when I am with “new” friends. I want to live in the present and I am more interested in what they are doing now rather than our lives 40 years ago.

  22. Don’t finish someone’s sentence or give them a word if they are having trouble finding it *unless* you are asked. It demeans the speaker. Be a little patient. Next time the one forgetting the noun or the name could be you!

    1. I avoid using the word “old” at all costs. Same goes for “elderly”, “woman of a certain age”, “aged”. These words serve no real purpose, and play into our society’s often negative assumptions & prejudices. I’m still vibrant, still learning and contributing to my community. I won’t continue a relationship with anyone who wants to put me out to sea on an ice floe!

      Thanks for all you do!

  23. I am surprised this person agreed to go to a restaurant where there was such a noise. I am 70+ and can hear well.
    However I can’t go to noisy restaurants and I share this information
    in advance.
    If I am invited to a venue which is important to attend, I call in advance
    and ask if there is a quiet place in the restaurant. Sometimes there is.
    However, I don’t think there is anything bad about talking about one’s hearing issues as long as its not too long a talk- We all have health issues

  24. I think that the work is in finding balance. As we age and encounter new physical challenges, we have to spend some of our energy figuring them out – researching them, adjusting to them, working on our beliefs and attitudes so that we still see ourselves as having good quality of life, etc. Yet, we don’t want to become that person who only talks about health issues and become self-obsessed. I’m still working on it.

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