May 15, 2019

"A friend who is still creative in his eighties points out what he calls the geriatric possessive: people past eighty, he says, are expected to say, 'I’m going to take my bath,' 'I’m going to take my walk.'"

"We can counterpoise that to the pediatric possessive: 'You’re going to take your bath,' 'It’s time for your nap.' Only in midlife do we feel secure enough to enumerate actions as existing individually outside our possession of them: 'I’m going to take a bath,' 'I’m going to take a nap.' A bath and a nap exist, briefly, outside our possession of them—they’re just around for the taking, we suppose, and always will be."

From "Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger?/With greater longevity, the quest to avoid the infirmities of aging is more urgent than ever" by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.

47 comments:

BarrySanders20 said...

The middle aged fat guys in the SNL Bears fan skit said "I had my heart attack."

tim maguire said...

Aging is inevitable, decrepitude is not. An article? Bah! There's a whole book about it!

Lucien said...

The geriatric possessive denotes routine. Grandpa takes “his walk” every day at about the same time for exactly the same distance. One only hopes to hear him say “I’ going to get my blowjob. But maybe when Howard Stern is older.

AlbertAnonymous said...

It’s always “my drink” even, or perhaps especially, when it’s only for medicinal purposes.

tcrosse said...

Adam Gopnik can kiss my ass.

Michael K said...

Every day my basset hound Juliet get her walk about sunset. She's about 9 or 10 (we adopted her) so I guess she is about 80 in dog years.

AJ Lynch said...

Althouse- You must have a perspective on this. You are one year older than me and you are fit, get exercise daily. I try to do that too but am still working so exercise is not as often as you do. Anyway, have you found that a good number of people our age have just given up when it comes to keep moving and doing things?

tim maguire said...

Lucien said...
The geriatric possessive denotes routine. Grandpa takes “his walk” every day at about the same time for exactly the same distance.


That makes a lot of sense. Granpa's walk isn't just any old walk, like walking to the store. It's a specific walk and the people who know him know what he means when he says it.

Dave Begley said...

Question to Ann. Is the blog more intellectually fulfilling than teaching law?

I saw Warren Buffett and Charlies Munger earlier this month. Warren will be 89 and Munger is about 93. Both as sharp as ever. And funny as hell.

Darrell said...

I always have a pocketful of BBs, in case I find myself walking down a staircase with people like Gopnik.

Craig said...

Muh Russia!

Seriously, we can't let people forget about this mass delusion that was perpetuated for 2 years by the Democrats and the media.

Bilwick said...

Another one is "my shows"--meaning televisiom shows. I have a friend in her eighties who started asking me if I intended to watch "your cartoons." (She was referring to the Sunday night line-up of animated television shows on Fox.) It's now become a joke between us with me telling her, "Now it's time for me to watch my 'toons."

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.'


keep those telomeres long! Keep those senescent cells at bay!!
Cut out the crap-- Restricted Calorie regimen
HA,NAD,AMPK,HGH,etc

Temujin said...

When I cease to be curious, you can toss that dirt over me.

n.n said...

Aging is inevitable, decrepitude is not.

That was the traditional standard, where men and women would think, teach, vote, work, and play until their last breath.

Caligula said...

"Aging, like bankruptcy in Hemingway’s description, happens two ways, slowly and then all at once." Or more accurately, mostly people today remain young-old for a very long time: they get old, wrinkled and grey, yet retain most of the physical mobility and mental dexterity they had in middle age.

Until something happens: a chronic illness or two, a degenerative disase for which little if any mitigation is possible. The transition from young-old to old-old is often abrupt: a fall, a heart attack, a stroke.

And eventually either a sudden death or a diagnosis of terminal illness. For the biological truth remains that the outcome of aging is death.

What's different today isn't that people live longer (there have always been a few people who lived to be very old) but that most people will live longer. Which means there are far more very old people and, as old people vote and spend. government and commercial resources are made available on a mass scale.

robother said...

As Shakespeare and the Preacher might have observed, the old age possessive returns at some point (in a nursing home or Alzheimer's wing) to the pediatric possessive. "Time for your bath, Mr. Reagan." Maybe the "MY walk" is primitive magic deployed against that usage.

rhhardin said...

"Plus, if you open a checking account before June 14, 2019, you're automatically entered to win 1 of 8 coffee makers."

I can remember when every checking account got a coffee maker.

Earnest Prole said...

When a bath and a nap are the highlights of your day you become very possessive of them.

Heartless Aztec said...

I was born in 1954 and I'm only 20 years old! Still doing the same things I did then only with more wisdom. Some things are more difficult - athletics - and some things are easier - women.

Fernandistein said...

people past eighty, he says, are expected to say, 'I’m going to take my bath,' 'I’m going to take my walk.'"

I'm going to make my comment about how passive phrasing sucks.

CJinPA said...

A friend who is still creative in his eighties points out...

I'm not a fan of writers getting anecdotes from their friends. His friend has no more insight into what people past 80 "are expected to say" than anyone else past 80. I appreciate that he spoke to a few "experts" but this all seems manufactured.

wild chicken said...

Another one is "my shows"--

In Texas an elderly lady would say, "I gotta go watch my story" when she wanted to catch her favorite soap opera.

Michael K said...

The transition from young-old to old-old is often abrupt: a fall, a heart attack, a stroke.

Yes, I have a chapter in my book about surgery on the elderly. You have to avoid all complications, even minor ones. I think my oldest major surgery patient was 106 and she had a common bile duct stone. She lived with her daughter who was 84.

John Scott said...

Looks like the secret is to become a basketball announcer. Marv Albert 77, Dick Vitale 79, Hubie Brown 85.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

a geriatric kleptomaniac wants to take someone else's bath

bagoh20 said...

I'll tell you what they don't say: "I'm going to take my orgasm."

Jamie said...

The oddest version of this geriatric possessive that I've heard so far came from my mother-in-law just a week or so ago. She was talking about waking up in the middle of the night because, I don't know, her husband's CPAP machine was whistling or something. She has taken sleeping medication for forty years or so. What she said was, "So in my stupor..."

For some reason that phrase - "in my stupor" - keeps coming back to me. It's just... weird.

Speaking of, does anyone have any insight into the "victim possessive"? "My bully," "my rapist"? I've wondered for years why that phrasing seems to pertain.

wholelottasplainin' said...

bagoh20 said...
I'll tell you what they don't say: "I'm going to take my orgasm."
*****************

Geriatric wisdom:

"Trust no fart. Waste no erection."

madAsHell said...

I still remember that Sorority chick that told me she was going to be young forever.

I almost think she was Seinfeld's inspiration for George Costanza. She had other nutty ideas as well, but she did look good in her underpants.

rhhardin said...

If you're speaking of others, there's a pronoun problem. Her bath, his bath, xe's bath.

stevew said...

Interesting is our host's decision to use the particular excerpt she did in the post. Seems to me to be a tangent to the main points of the article.

I read the article, it's pretty long and covers a lot of territory from how aging affects people: how it comes on gradually (literally minute by minute) but also that the arrival of the restrictions and infirmities accelerates as we age, that we tend to eschew the aids and help available because to accept them is to admit and to advertise that we are old*, and discusses how some of the research and ideas about how to slow or arrest aging.

Quite fascinating. I'm getting older and notice things I am no longer able to do as comfortably as I once did. I do not yet refer to "my" walk or shower or whatever, still in the "a" period of life, so I'm not too old yet. Which is nice.

* my wife and mother in law have been squabbling about getting a LifeAlert (or similar device). Mom lives alone (she's widowed) and my wife worries about trips and falls and such. Mom counters that she is quite fit with no severe or unusual physical issues, which is true. She did admit that part of her objection is to wearing one of the "old person's" contraptions.

Skeptical Voter said...

Ah heck, I just take a nap, without announcing things. One of my late friends said that the best thing about retirement is naps.

MadisonMan said...

Articles about staying younger and fighting aging are the worst. Embrace the changes that age foists upon you! Don't try to avoid them.

I'm going to take a nap now.

Paul Mac said...

"Only in midlife do we feel secure enough"

What hogwash. Sure these are used sometimes in these groups more often. But plenty of older people are 'secure enough' to not refer to things as my. And plenty of middle aged folks use them, my nap and my bath are definitely possessively felt and referred to by many moms. There is no reason to believe this is related to insecurity than to time having made something a habit enough to justify the possessive pronoun. And on the young end kids are being taught to distinguish many things and nuances of command, saying your bath reinforces direction, insecurity need not enter into it, and really doesn't I assure you from parenting I've observed. I simply assert all this needing no more actual evidence to do so than he offers support for his nonsense thesis.

Why no skepticism and cruel neutrality on this?

Yancey Ward said...

My maternal grandfather was physically active- gardening, fixing leaks in the roof of his home right up until he was 86. His doctor put him on a new blood pressure regimen, and he couldn't walk well due to vertigo, so spent most of the day seated except to go to the bathroom- he was bedridden within 2 years, and died a year after that. You have to stay physically active.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Geriatric wisdom:

"Trust no fart.
... especially an Old Fart

Yancey Ward said...

I am going to take my shit.

Paul Ciotti said...

Paul Mac

You got it absolutely right. The article was foolish to make a distinction between taking "my walk" and taking "a walk." They both mean the same thing and neither indicates anything about one's level of insecurity.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Geriatric Trolls

"Your bowel movements are crap"
"Dementia is stupid"
"Our bodies are falling apart, and you're exercising?!?!"

Leslie Graves said...

I’m going to go read my Althouse.

Nobody said...

It’s because a bath and a walk have become big things to look forward to. I remember I worked at a bank once when they still had passbooks and at the beginning of the month the oldsters would come in to "visit their money,” as the joke went among the CSRs.

Fen said...

I'm wondering, if the walls ever come down, how far life expectancy will snapback. I already knew we were a little spoiled and taking capitalism for granted in increasing our life expectancy, but I was shocked at the numbers I found:


(Era)
(Life expectancy at birth in years)
(Life expectancy at older age)

Paleolithic
33
total life expectancy at 15 would not exceed 34 years.

Neolithic
20-33
total life expectancy at 15 would be 28–33 years

Bronze Age and Iron Age
26
total life expectancy at 15 would be 28–36 years

Classical Greece
25-28
total life expectancy at 15 would be 37–41 years

Classical Rome
20 to 30
If a person survived to age 20, they could expect to live around 30 years more.

Medieval Islamic world
35+
Average lifespan of scholars was 59–84 years.

Pre-Columbian Southern United States
25–30

Late medieval English peerage
30
At age 21, life expectancy of an aristocrat was an additional 43 years.

Early modern England
33–40
34 years for males in the 18th century.

Pre-Champlain Canadian Maritimes
60
Samuel de Champlain wrote that in his visits to Mi'kmaq and Huron communities, he met people over 100 years old. Daniel Paul attributes the incredible lifespan in the region to low stress and a healthy diet of lean meats, diverse vegetables and legumes.

18th-century Prussia
24.7 for males.

18th-century France
27–30

18th-century Qing China
40

18th-century Edo Japan
41

19th-century British India
25

Early 19th-century England
40

1900 world average
31

1950 world average
48

2014 world average
71.5

....

Note how, with the exception of the outlier Canada Maritimes, the progression is a very gradual increase, if not almost flat. Until the spike that almost doubled in the last 20th century. I don't know statistics enough to present scientifically, and I edited out some notes and rounded some numbers to post it in a format that wasn't cluttered. You can find the origninal detailed chart here

It's amazing how much certain peoples accomplished with only half our lifespan to work.

Fen said...

And obviously, wiki should not be considered a primary source, but still... wow.

Unknown said...

Joe Biden is gonna take his election now...

He would be 82 upon exiting office of Pres after first term

He's been running for the job since 1986...

Unknown said...

Slow Joe - stupid and old

Alred E Buttplug - Little beta boy wants alpha job

Rockport Conservative said...

At the age I am now, 82, and at age 16, I would never have thought of saying taking my bath. It's always been a bath. It has always annoyed me as a woman to hear someone say, my hysterectomy, or any other surgery as MY anything. Maybe because I've had so many of them. I don't want to take possession of them.