YOUTH NOW

We Need to Rethink Our Ideas About Aging

How old we are shouldn’t determine who we are

Mansoor Iqbal
GEN
Published in
7 min readSep 17, 2018
Credit: Fernando Trabanco Fotografia/Moment/Getty

TThere’s an old-school video game we all know in which you guide your little plumber along in a straight line. Once you pass a certain point, you can’t go back; only the path ahead can be rendered. Behind lies nothing but pixelated memories.

Now compare that to the huge scope of an open-world game. There’s ostensibly a main quest, but the real joy comes from exploration, from getting lost, from going back to revisit something in the light of newly acquired information or skills or just out of sheer curiosity.

Our traditional idea of a linear progression from “youth” to “age” is like the former. We pass through each stage — youth, adulthood, middle age, late middle age, old age — dealing with their expectations in sequence. Once a level is complete, it is done, no matter how much you might have enjoyed it or want to have a go at doing it better. There’s an accepted order and set expectations, and seemingly we don’t question them.

If you have any assumptions about what aging means, you’re probably wrong.

This is a horribly limiting way to live our lives. What if we wanted to start from the bottom in a new career in our forties? What if we wanted to try casual dating in our fifties? And what if we felt ready to pioneer bold new approaches to senior management in our twenties? I believe all those things are possible, if only we could relax the tyranny of expectation bound up with our understanding of “youth” and “age.”

If you have any assumptions about what aging means, you’re probably wrong.

How old we are doesn’t and shouldn’t determine who we are. This is particularly pertinent in a world where we are living longer, healthier lives and where birth rates are falling. Our aging population means it’s more important than ever that we maximize our opportunities to be happy and productive. To achieve this, we must think of people as individuals rather than defining them by their age.

We all know people who don’t conform to the set expectations of their physical age. One friend felt she was done with being “young” when she…

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Mansoor Iqbal
GEN
Writer for

Quasi-cultural London-based words guy. Tropical fruit enthusiast.