Don’t Let The Old Man In!
by Stephen L Doherty
February 18th, 2024
“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage
of opportunity and strength.” —Betty Friedan
Clint Eastwood is 93-years old and still acting in and directing major Hollywood movies. Toby Keith, while playing golf with Clint asked him, “How do you do it, man?” Eastwood responded, “I just get up every morning, get dressed and go out. And I don’t let the old man in.” Toby Keith was so captivated by that simple bit of advice – that he wrote a song about it for Clint Eastwood’s current movie, “The Mule.”
As I was crafting this piece, Toby Keith died. The last song he ever performed ( Toby Keith Performs “Don’t Let the Old Man In” at the 2023 People’s Choice Country Awards | NBC (youtube.com) ) was, “Don’t Let The Old Man In.” It was chillingly beautiful and a reminder to all of us that age is a mathematical calculation but aging is as much about attitude as it is about longevity.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that pushing back against aging is the same as trying to recapture our youth. That ship has sailed. The 70-year old skateboarding in the empty pool isn’t pushing back against “the old man.” He’s trying to pretend the old man doesn’t exist – and will likely pay a horrible price for it physically.
I love Clint Eastwood’s analogy. As we get older, the old man manifests itself as a gradual malaise that descends upon us in advancing years, stunting our desire to be active. And activity is the lead shield to aging’s Kryptonite. The old man’s banging on the front door is our signal to exit out the back door – and fill our days with engaging and stimulating activities. That’s how you shake off the old man’s desire to slow you down, both physically and mentally.
I call it the “power of incremental graduality!” The most onerous component of advancing years is its almost sinister ability to gain momentum. You don’t have the same luxuries of youth where recovery was overnight, and months of malaise could be washed off with a dip in the pool or a trip to the weightroom. As we get older – physical and mental malaise sticks to us and can easily result in not only letting the old man in – but inviting him to stick around. There is no worse houseguest!
So many of us have sports backgrounds where our definition of “activity” is no longer realistic or desirable. As we get older – activity is merely the act of being busy with things we enjoy doing. The old man hates someone constantly engaged with people, places, and fun activities. The old man thrives on weighing heavy upon people getting older with no other plan than … getting older.
The acceptance of aging is a mature state of mind that simply accepts the reality of time that has passed. That said – the acceptance of “being old” is a personal choice greatly influenced by the magical power of constant activity. As long as we have an ever-growing list of things to do – that uniformly satiates our senses while elevating our spirit and zest for life, we will have earned the necessary currency to buy off the old man indefinitely.
Life’s lease will expire someday for us all. Until then, keep that backdoor unlocked for a quick exit when the old man comes knocking…
“Ask yourself how old would you be –
If you didn’t know the day you were born?” –Toby Keith (from “Don’t Let the Old Man In” )