Gulf News readers are seen during the debate. Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News

You are supposed to have a constant sombre expression on your face, a well-paying job, happy children and a solid retirement plan. Yet, you prefer to go bungee-jumping, enjoy senseless humour with the ‘young ones’ and take the calculated risk more than once in a while.

There is a growing breed of people who are refusing to let their age show in their daily lives. From Helen Mirren and Madonna to that fun aunt of yours next door, these are people who may have lived long, but refuse to accept that they are ‘over the hill’.

How helpful is it to not act your age? To have the perspective of someone 20 years younger?

This month, Gulf News readers came into the newspaper’s head office to debate whether not acting your age leads to a more fulfilling life or one filled with avoidable mistakes. Join the debate at readers@gulfnews.com 

 

Acting your age has a positive impact on your quality of life.

Jelena Damljanovic
At heart, I feel like I am in my early 20s, and honestly, that has a very positive impact on my life — I feel better about myself. Maybe back in Serbia, when I was working I was probably acting older than my age. Here, your whole life, environment and situations are different. I think people should just act the way they feel — if that is older than your age, then it is fine; if it is younger, then just be happy.

Marilyn Kanade
I agree. There is really no need for you to act your age. But there are a lot of things that you need to do to stay young. Otherwise, you could just grow old overnight. You have to motivate yourself. I guess it gets harder as you grow older, but I have no problems at all in thinking and staying young. Also, I have two boys who keep me going. It has not been easy, but I’ve learned that in Dubai you have everything available. So, if you need something it is going to be there, whether you want to go run in the park or keep yourself entertained. Those are the things that keep me young, so I really don’t think about my age. It is just a number to me.

Montserrat Martin
I still don’t understand the definition of ‘acting your age’. Talking about a woman, earlier the right thing to do was getting married when they turned 18, so situations are always changing, and so is our understanding of ‘acting your age’. For instance if you see a young person being responsible and well-spoken, you think: “That’s fantastic!” But if you see an 80-year-old woman going to the beach in a G-string, you think: “Oh my God, what is wrong with her?”

Jowita Szablowska
I think we should act our age, because we have gathered all the experiences that have shaped us. We shouldn’t try to not do certain things and behave in an infantile manner, just because it is ‘hip’ or because the media tells us to do such things. Not only should we act our age, we should also look our age. In the past few years we have started looking at the world through a screen, whether it is TV or internet. And all that is shown there is younger people. There is nothing wrong with growing old, it is the cycle of life. You should grow old properly, you should keep yourself occupied and not try to be like someone people want you to be. You should absolutely act your age. Those who are acting younger are not using the experience they’ve gathered.

Piotr Szablowski
Some things about being young you should pick and try to stay with them for as long as possible; and some things about growing old you should embrace and learn from. If you don’t do that, then you are blindly following others, trying to stay young for whatever reason.

Sunil Chawla
I think there are two sides to it — the mental and the physical. Most people don’t want to physically age. Mentally they age because of the trauma, the worries and stress. I for one, might look older but there is always a child in me. I’ve got more humour in my life than anything else. The physical part is different — you can’t prevent that ageing, but mentally you can. In fact, the more time you spend with the younger generation, the more you realise that you don’t know anything. If you spend time with the younger generation, you will become young and you do become more informed and wise. Most of the people I meet would like to be young, but they can’t because it has a lot to do with your confidence levels. You keep wondering what the world will think. “If I am fooling around with young people and cracking jokes which are stupid, will others wonder if I am intelligent enough?”

Society is gradually re-writing the rules of what it means to be old.

Marilyn Kanade
I think a lot is changing around us. For example, in the work force, a lot of people realise that the young minds don’t have the wisdom and experience that an older employee has. That perspective is changing, that is why the age limit for retirement in some countries has been pushed further. Still, around me people who are 30 or 40 years old sometimes panic about their age. I tell them that it is just a mindset, they can go do whatever they want to do. It is just about being positive.

Piotr Szablowski
I agree that you have to keep some things from your youth, because if you don’t keep a young mindset, you will never take a risk. But also, you want to go with your instincts that have come with age.

Montserrat Martin
I am from the Canary Islands, and I remember in the 90s going to the beach, and seeing a woman over 80 years old. She had actually gotten breast augmentation done, and I am sure she felt like a million dollars. But, then I thought, who am I to judge? She is feeling good, so good for her.

Jelena Damljanovic
Yes, it is important to act younger but maintain your responsibilities. I have a group of friends, they all have very serious jobs, but at night they are part of a rock band. After hours, they are re-living their youth, and in the morning they wake up put on their ties and go to work. You definitely do become a lot more cynical as you grow older, but you need to fight that.

Marilyn Kanade
For me, it is easy to not be cynical, but I do know that it is tough for some people. With my children, sometimes they just tell me: “Mom, you’re not understanding.” And I actually ask them to explain their perspective to me. But there are also times, when they turn to me for help. I love to take risks and my sons and husband do encourage me a lot. As you grow old, it gets harder, but so what? There is a lot that can keep you going.

Those who act younger are often in denial about ageing and death.

Jelena Damljanovic
My friend, who just turned 30, was worrying about her age, and I clarified to her that the only humiliating thing about turning 30 is that now when you fill out a form, you do not tick 20-30, you tick the 30-40 box. That’s it. I think somebody like Hugh Hefner might be in denial, but people who consciously do things and make sure they don’t push it too far are not.

Montserrat Martin
It really depends on people – some people are born tired. They live their entire life tired. I need to tell you that I am absolutely petrified of dying. I have to deal with that fear every night. But even then, every time someone tells me that there is a problem, I tell them it is not, it is just a situation. It is just how you look at life.

Jowita Szablowska
Exactly, I don’t think someone like Woody Allen is in denial. Every two years, there Is another movie from him! As long as you have something to achieve, even if it is a small goal, then you are not in denial of anything.

Piotr Szablowski
I don’t know really, I might be in denial myself. I am getting older, and I’ve never worn a suit for more than five occasions in my life! So, I don’t know if that is being in denial, but sometimes when I see people who are my age and look like me, I do think they look a bit odd!

Sunil Chawla
I don’t think so; I think such people are well aware of what is happening. But there are others some people who don’t want a bubbly, youthful life. It is a very personal thing, some people just become very serious when you crack a joke.

Montserrat Martin
Life is too short. Living is just like any other exercise, you do something for too long, you become an expert in it. Similarly, the older you get you are able to understand people better, where they are coming from and what they have to offer you as a person.

Jowita Szablowska
There is a really good quote [by Mark Twain]: “Age is the case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” And that is what a youthful spirit is all about.