I’ve been reminded of my age recently and it’s made me think about what it means, to me, to be 68. I am officially elderly, but except in some ways, it sure doesn’t feel like it. I am noticing that I get tired much more easily than I used to. Once, I could walk all day when out photographing on a trip somewhere. Carrying a bag of camera gear on my shoulder, too. It would have weighed up to 5Kg. Now, I’m 30% – 50% heavier and my back muscles hurt, so I have to sit down and rest frequently. I can only walk for an hour or so, unfortunately. If I could lose weight and do more walking, I’d be fine, but …
In my twenties my mind was pretty sharp, in the sense that I could cope with maths and physics concepts, almost visually “seeing” equations and formulae in space in front of me.
I started work at Channel 7 in 1966 at age 19 and also started seven years of part time study at Tech College. I well remember on one occasion in about 1980 needing to know whether flux density in a magnetic circuit followed a power ratio or a voltage ratio in logarithmic terms, i.e. was it 10LogB2/B1 or 20log B2/B1 ? I solved this by using my uni physics to deconstruct the formula right back to MKS units and somehow working it out on paper. And I was right. How I did it, I don’t know. There’s no way I could do that now, so that’s definitely a lost ability, to break things down logically and deduce an answer. But it’s not something I need to do now anyway.
A noticeable difference is how well I write. By that I mean I’m pretty good at this type of writing. I’m no creative writer. I haven’t written any books, except for the 11 photo books I’ve done, which have some text. But I sure can bang the words out. Once I start, it just flows. For the 50th anniversary school reunion last year, I needed to produce material for the magazine I was making. I wrote 40 pages (A5 format) of autobiography of my life since school, about 20 pages of Life at the Hut (the boys’ hostel), and another 18 pages of what I remembered about life at school in Northam. I also wrote a three page humorous poem, a two page serious poem and added another three pages of previously written material.
I have a lot to say and my memory is very sharp. I remember the things I remember, of course, and other people will say, “Remember such and such, or so and so …” and I don’t remember, but that’s very normal, I think. It so happens that my typing speed matches my thinking speed, so it just flows onto the keyboard, which is handy.
I think my mind is kept sharp by several things: first and best is using this computer. There’s never a dull moment, as things go wrong and problems need solving. This is aided by the years and years of experience at solving these kinds of problems. I deliberately chose the hard path with PCs, reasoning that I had to learn. And I did. I became a computer guru at work. Luckily, in my opinion PCs are much easier to use and troubleshoot than they were in the late 80s and 1990s. There were so many limits then, so many work-arounds to be used, so many traps to fall into. I’m not saying it’s easy now, but it’s much easier.
Another thing that I think keeps me sharp is always doing the mental arithmetic, rarely using a calculator. Every day, every single day, I mentally retrace my steps and write down every cent I spend in a note book. Then I check the grocery items, one by one, remembering and checking, then I do the addition of the till receipts, making sure I haven’t missed anything and that I’ve got the list right. This also acts as a simple diary. I can go back over it years later and remember certain things.
Another aspect is that I’ve done so much travelling! I’ve been to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia (Bali and Java), Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, USA, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland … my memory fails me now, I might have missed something. I’m very happy about this experience and it helps tremendously when I read books or watch TV – I can say, “I know that place, I’ve been there.” Nice..
Later: yes, I did miss a few countries: Hong Kong (twice), Austria (twice), Fiji, Vanuatu (New Hebrides then) and New Caledonia (Noumea).
One bad thing is that I never married, or found a partner. Something went wrong early in my life (I know what it was), which made it impossible for me to get close to anyone. Big regrets, there, I can assure you. I’m 100% straight, no problems there, but there’s always been a barrier. Work kept me company and my dogs were great company from 1998 to 2013 but all that’s gone, passed on, and I must admit, I’m lonely as hell. That’s a bad aspect of getting older.