A Contrast of Elderly Men

I’ve tried to speak to an elderly man who lives around the corner and walks to the local shop most days but he doesn’t make eye contact with me at all. I always smile hopefully. He leans heavily on his stick and is slow as if in pain. He must be well into his eighties and seems so miserable and alone. I wonder if he has anyone in his life. It’s not just me that he ignores – there is another man his age that he passes by without any acknowledgment.

Elderly man number two is a darling. He has a beaming open face with a warm smile and I also see him most mornings, in fact if I miss him for a few days I start to wonder. He also has a stick because he has very bad joints. He’s very happy to talk about his ailments, he has chest problems and recently has had eye surgery and has a very tenuous hold on his sight, but he just keeps smiling. And everyone smiles back. I walked along a little way with him today and he joked with me about being late for work because we were chatting, ‘they won’t pay you’ he said.

I don’t care if I’m a few minutes late, it’s a sad world if I can’t pass the time of day with him. I know his wife dies many years ago but he spends an afternoon with a lady friend sometimes; he twinkled when he told me! This morning he also spoke to a pretty school girl who smiled back and then headed into the shop. I know they love him in there; he hangs out with the dreadlocked shop guy putting the world to rights, getting his milk and bread. Despite his physical problems he still keeps moving, he walks to town – fifteen minutes for me – even if it takes a while, he doesn’t need to rush and I suspect he chats along the way.

So I wonder why elderly man number one is so different, he could just be more reserved, I hope it’s that and nothing worse. But I also hope that I’ll be like number two when I’m getting on a bit (if I’m spared), as we sow so we reap and I really want to keep on talking with anyone who will!

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm, Thoreau.

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36 thoughts on “A Contrast of Elderly Men

  1. Loved this. I have 2 very similar old men where I live, and the same kinds of differences between them. I want to adopt them both. (They probably think I’m terrifyingly creepy, lol ;-))

  2. It’s interesting how different people are, but how, as we age, we become more ourselves, more set in our ways. I think elderly man #1 must be the sum of all he has lived through, whatever that is.
    Everyone has a story … Who knows? Maybe inside he’s laughing at the world; maybe he gets a kick out of the way he makes people work to draw him out!

  3. Yes, some people can be quite a contrast. It always makes me wonder how people see me when I am walking with Simba…hehehehe. Some look at me funny because I am always smiling and waving at them. They must think I’m high! hee hee

  4. I have lived in Florida for awhile and I can attest that the elderly are as differnt as the young.
    Some are friendly and happy to chat; some are not. Those that were bitter when they were younger are more so now that they are older. They take on a sense of entitlement – I’m old, I can be as ornery as I want and no one will call me on it – that’s what they think. I have questioned some of the ones I’ve met that are like that. They say they earned the right to act as they wish.
    I don’t agree at all. I want to be one of those cute little fun happy older woman like Betty White …..
    Aging – a mystery.
    Hugs,
    Izzy

    1. Yes I challenge that kind of arrogance too, being a little older doesn’t give people the right to be rude – I can’t stand rudeness and if someone is I’ll tell them!
      I don’t know who Betty White is but if she’s cute and happy that’s fab!
      Let’s keep right on bouncing 🙂 🙂 🙂

      1. Oh no … I meant the happy one. I was being dyslexic again! Brain is turning to mush. You have a lovely happy face!

  5. Now are you tempted to get #1 to smile and acknowledge you? I wonder what he thinks of the rest of us who see the glass filled to the brim and overflowing with goodness and beauty?!

  6. I once worked with a really cranky man and I would try to get him to acknowledge me. Every day, even though everyone else ignored him, I would say hello in my most cheerful voice. After a year, he started to talk to me. By the time I quit my job, we were friends. Keep smiling and saying hi to Number 1. You never know! And I have a feeling that you would be more like the second gentlemen. You are always so kind.

  7. I like chatting up older people. I had a great encounter not too long ago: http://wp.me/pYeWf-a2

    I think when you’re barely getting by with poor health, you’d probably not have much room for social graces. However, I also know people who are gracious through and through so it’s second nature to them. I also think that a lot of people who have looked back with much regret would not be cheerful on a day to day basis. And so, I think these people walk around feeling cheated, deprived, left behind. And then, there are those who have always had hearts “two sizes too small,” to quote from Theodor Geissel, and are in dire need of some Whos in their lives to convert them. Can you be the “Who from Whoville?”

  8. Corner shops, and even local supermarkets, are unsung social centres for the elderly. At one point you could barely get to the till in one newsagents near here for the phalanx of octogenarians wanting to chat to the owners.

  9. The elderly fascinate me…they have so many stories to tell. I KNOW you’ll be like the second. I try to smile at people as i walk…sometimes their reacctions are funny

  10. hi Gilly,
    I like your article describing two different old men
    and the quotation of Thoreau there:
    “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm”

  11. Reblogged this on Lucid Gypsy and commented:

    I met Bill couple of days ago and I must admit I was relieved, it’s been weeks since I last saw him. It was a foggy morning, 7.45 and I was on my way to work. I heard him before I saw him, although he didn’t sound quite himself. He has a string of people he talks to on his way to and from the local shop, mostly women with nice smiles.
    Over the years I’ve seen him go from walking slowly to using a stick, then a wheelie frame with space for his bread and milk. All change again, he purred towards me in a mobility scooter, grinning from ear to ear. We were equally happy to see each other, he told me that his scooter cost £240 and his friends had chipped in to help pay for it. He laughed when I complemented him on his choice of bright, shiny blue, that matched his sweater. He’d hardly been going anywhere until he got it.
    He looked tired bless him, but he’s still looking after himself and can scoot to see his lady friend now. The last time i did see him he told me proudly that he won’t see 90 again’
    Here’s a post from a few years ago about him.

  12. It’s interesting seeing the names in the comments, Gilly. So many have disappeared from our world. 😦 It must get harder if you’re on your own but some people have a cheerful nature, and some don’t. It’s good to be a member of a walking group, like ours. There are a lot of couples but singles too. 🙂 🙂

    1. Hi Darling, yes I know, people come and go, guess it’s just the way.
      Not everyone is as outgoing as you and I, and it’s hard to change your nature when you’re older I suppose. You and I will always talk to anyone who’ll let us or who can’t escape us 🙂
      Do you get email on your phone? Are you having a good time, I bet it’s lovely knowing you can stay and stay x:-)x

  13. Awww … this is true today as it was way back when you wrote. Can you believe we’ve been on our blogs since 2012. Actually, I don’t know when I started blogging but seeing the date on this post created a curiosity. I think I’ll go check my blogs.
    Wonderful writing, Gilly. You need to write more.
    Issy 😎

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