Service of At Your Age

July 25th, 2019

Categories: Age, Behavior, Illness, Old, Youth

You hear the expression, “at your age,” at both ends of your life. When you were young, did a parent, teacher or babysitter ever say, “You should know better at your age!”

At the other end of the spectrum, “Three of the most dreaded words in the English language for those over 65 are ‘at your age,’ ” wrote Helen Rabinovitz, a recent follower of this blog. This post was her idea.

“My most recent encounter was at urgent care,” she wrote. “I’d been coughing for weeks and finally went to see a doctor. She stood in front of me—she was about 35–arms crossed and said…. ‘you realize, Helen, that AT YOUR AGE bronchitis can be dangerous.’”

She went on: “Of course I’ve also heard… ‘isn’t that too spicy to eat at your age?’ or ‘Shouldn’t you dress more conservatively at your age?’”

She added: “This makes me wonder…how old is ‘at your age?’ At what point do all of us poor, old and decrepit folks know that we’re actually ‘at your age’ old? Have you ever been frustrated when someone, who hasn’t had your life experience, says that to you? I’d like to respond, ‘at your age’ you should have better manners!!!”

Did people say those words to you when you were little? Do they in your middle years?  Do they irritate you too? We are expected to be inclusive in every other part of our lives. Will the sexagenarian and septuagenarian candidates for president and other high office help us overcome the age hurdle?


6 Responses to “Service of At Your Age”

  1. ASK Said:

    If it will make Ms. Rabinowitz feel any better, my doctor said the same thing about my bronchitis…when I was 31 years old, a long time ago. Now if anyone says to me…”at your age,” I would stick my tongue out at them!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You have the remarkable ability to make me smile regardless of my mood before I read your comments! I can’t top this.

    But I recall that my father had a fit when I started learning to downhill ski in my late 30s. He was sure I’d break something if not my neck! After that I cross country skied–I’ve not done either in ages.

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    First and foremost the use of “At your age” is generally employed as a criticsim or at best is patronising. We have all heard it at different stages of our life. It may even have been used in a positive fashion to say that there is so much to look forward to. However, even little ones
    and adolescents may feel offended if stated as a comparison.

    When used as in such a blunt fashion with “older” people, (always a relative term and a judgment call), implying that one ought to know better, it tends to be tactless and maybe even depressing. It can painfully wound one’s vanity, depending on the indiviual’s self-image. It can convey a disrespect for the person being spoken to as if they are not wise enough to know better. At best it seems to be tactless.

    Despite the fact that average life spans have increased, and more people may be “at your age”, whatever that may be, it seems at best not very tactful and at worst counterproductive or unbalancing to proffer criticism, guidance, instruction or advice referring to the other party’s age as the reason for our your remark.

    We are experiencing what seems to be an unequaled epidemic of rude, obnoxious, inappropriate behavior emanating from our titular leadership down. If we look at the age of POTUS it is virtually impossible to think of anything that could overcome the age hurdle. Other candidates for the Presidency may offer hope because they might generate thoughts of maturity. In the meantime, both maintaining a sense of humor and trying to share precautionary or positive guidance without this simplistic yardstick might help..

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You point out the irony that chronological age and maturity don’t always go hand-in-hand–the head of state as one example. But that’s unusual.

    Education also doesn’t mean that someone is aware of the impact of their words–or even that they care. I am pretty sure that had I been Helen when the 35 year old doctor said, “at your age,” I wouldn’t have pointed out how the words made me feel. When I’m sick, or even in for a checkup, I just want to leave. I have white coat syndrome.

    Life experience is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a shame that more corporations don’t harness it when it is offered. Economic pressures may be one reason: the younger and less experienced will cost less in salary [and health insurance]. At the same time young folks also need to work to survive and with technology that has eliminated so many jobs, this is increasingly hard to do without proper training.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Lucrezia wrote on Facebook: Best to ignore the age hurdle. Anyone having the effrontery to ask the “at your age” question, deserves no response. Re those running for office, ability to do the job should be the first qualifyer, not his/her age.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Anecdotally I think that older women have a more difficult time running for office than do men and the insults have nothing to do with ability. Take Hillary Clinton whose fashion choices were consistently the subject of nasty remarks. RBG, though not elected by the public, is the brunt of unkind old-age comments instead of admiration by some. The top is off the jar where making insulting cracks about others is concerned headed by the snarker-in-chief. It’s the lazy person’s way to argue

    This attitude and approach moves in to the news business world where older women are taken less seriously than men. How many Lesley Stahls, Judy Woodruffs and Andrea Mitchells do we have as compared to the men of a certain age in the TV news industry?

    I also suspect–but cannot prove–that men hear fewer comments starting with “at your age.”

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