40 Common Older People Habits That Young People Just Don’t Understand
They'll get it someday.
People like to say that age is just a number, and, for the most part, that’s true. We all know someone who’s more vibrant than those half their age. But while your years lived may not be the best indicator of health or happiness, your age does tend to lead to certain behaviors.
Once you’ve reached middle age, you’ll notice some new habits and quirks that you swore you’d never adopt. It’s almost like after you pass a certain birthday, you become part of a new tribe, taking on new traditions and rituals that make sense only to those within the inner—and older—circle. So, read on for 40 things older people do everyday that make absolutely not sense to younger generations.
Today, if a young person calls somebody and it goes to voicemail, they’ll just hang up. And if it’s urgent, they’ll send a text.
But old people don’t see the point of this. If they have something to tell you, they’ll leave a long—and yes, maybe rambling—message on your voicemail. And they expect you to listen to all of it!
It’s not necessarily that old people get hungry earlier. It’s that many restaurants and diners have senior discounts or blue plate specials, where diners of an advanced age can enjoy meals that cost considerably less. As you age, you’ll love a deal and then you’ll understand the allure of saving money and being finished with dinner and still having several hours of daylight left.
You might think 70 degrees is in no way jacket weather, but older people have different definitions of what constitutes cold. As we age, the walls of our blood vessels start to lose their elasticity, which decreases circulation and causes us to feel colder faster. So respect your elders and keep that thermostat up, will you?
When an old person takes a photo, it’s because they want to remember a specific moment or experience, whether it’s being surrounded by the people they love or seeing some beautiful part of the world they might never get a chance to visit again. They rarely if ever take take a selfie—and if they do, it’s from a very unflattering angle.
When you’re young, you’re OK with just a general idea of the weather on any given day. For example, do you need a jacket and snow boots, or just a pair of shorts?
But old people need more details, and they like to get updates every hour—or, depending on the weather severity, every few minutes. It’s not enough to know more about weather events than a TV meteorologist, they also want to discuss the weather with anyone willing to listen.
Everything about a luxury cruise ship is tailor-made for older people: the all-you-can-eat buffets, the cheesy entertainment, the shuffleboard, and the rich array of things to complain about (the rooms are too cramped, the lines are too long, the sun is too hot). It’s basically an older person’s paradise.
A cup or two won’t cut it. Old people drink enough tea in an average day to fill several bathtubs. And now you know why they’re up all night for repeat visits to the bathroom.
Old people are not only still using one of the earliest social media platforms, they’re enthusiastic users. Whether it’s photos of kids and grandkids, links to news stories (often times “news” stories), and occasionally even memes, they just can’t get enough of Facebook. And yes, said memes are usually just variations on the same adorable cat saying pithy things.
Most old people agree that GPSes are all designed by people with no sense of direction. And such systems certainly don’t know about the shortcuts every older person has devoted a lifetime to learning. To old people, there’s no substitution for their own memory, with an occasional assist from a trusty and dog-eared copy of the Rand McNally atlas.
Bingo may seem like a slow-moving pastime for anyone with too much time on their hands, but it’s anything but. It can be fraught with drama, with more nail-biting twists and turns and a lot more strategy than you might expect. Don’t be fooled by players’ somber expressions. An old person playing bingo is experiencing more excitement than athletes feel playing a full-contact sport!
Email may be faster, but it’ll never compete with the thrill of receiving an actual paper letter. If it’s handwritten, all the better.
Writing a letter takes time and effort, not just in penning it, but also taking it to the post office and buying a stamp and making sure you put it in the right mail slot. It’s proof that somebody cared enough about you to do more than fire off a cold, impersonal electronic letter.
Mr. Rogers wasn’t alone in his penchant for slipping out of his shoes and into a cozy pair of house slippers every time he walked in the door. Old people love the warm foot embrace of slippers after a long day of pounding the pavement—or even just walking outside to get the paper. Those sore dogs deserve a break!
It’s rare to find anyone over 50 who has completely given up on a landline—whether it’s because they don’t have WiFi and “need it for AOL” (another thing old people love) or because, they wonder, “What if there’s an emergency?”
Don’t bother explaining why having a cell phone would be more useful in an emergency, or that most calls that come through on a landline are bill collectors and pushy salesman. Old people would rather live in a house without a roof than one without a landline.
It’s a strange irony that the older you get, and the fewer responsibilities you have, the more inclined you are to wake up early. Even if the kids moved out long ago and they’ve been happily retired for years, an older person will be up at the crack of dawn every morning anyway, fully dressed and ready for the day even before the sun comes up. You lazy millennials should give it a try!
If your pockets are filled with enough nickels, dimes, and pennies to pay for just about anything with exact change, it’s an easy bet that you’re probably closer to 70 than you are to 20.
We’ve heard explanations that old people pull up their pants well above their waists because they lose muscle mass as they age. So, the clothing that once fit perfectly is suddenly as baggy as a pair of Charlie Chaplin slacks. There may be some truth to that—or it could be that old people’s torsos are just shrinking, and their waists are now just a few inches from their nipples.
Now and until the end of time, old people will love Angela Lansbury. That’s just an irrefutable scientific fact. Just like getting an AARP card is a sign that you’re officially old now, so is suddenly realizing that you’ve DVR’d Murder She Wrote—and you intend on watching every last episode.
Everyone should be taking more naps, but for old people, it’s not just an occasional guilty pleasure. They take naps like it’s their job, like they’re literally being paid to do it. An old person doesn’t take a nap because they’re tired; they take a nap because it’s 2 p.m. and, hey, that’s nap time!
Old people love to talk about their ideal childhoods, where they got to run free and unsupervised, taking risks without helicopter parents stopping them, and always drinking from the hose. There’s something about “drinking from the hose” that has become a metaphor for the idyllic innocence of childhood, an experience that kids today apparently just won’t have. (Why that’s such a bad thing, we’re not sure.)
Some people start to shrink as they get older, but their sunglasses go in the opposite direction. It may seem like an aesthetic choice, but it’s actually not because they’re taking their fashion cues from Bono.
It’s mostly practical. As eyes age and cataracts become a reality, bigger sunglasses are needed to block harmful UV rays from every direction.
For old people, a not-yet-open mall is like a private walking trail where the scenery is a veritable forest of empty Gaps, Macaroni Grills, and Jamba Juices. A mall at dawn can be a remarkably peaceful place, as we all eventually learn when we reach old age and we’re looking for someplace safe to exercise at 6 a.m.
The mere sight of a Jell-O mold with fruit trapped inside of it might make a young person’s stomach churn. But give it a few years and your entire perspective will change.
Jell-O involves almost no chewing, so it’s nutrition without requiring the heavy lifting of processing complex flavors or digestion. When you’re old, you want life to be a little less complicated. And nothing simplifies a meal like Jell-O does.
Cursive is becoming a lost art, but old people refuse to let it go quietly into the night. They’ll write in cursive whenever possible—when signing a check, or writing a letter, or even just leaving a note on a Post-It. And they’ll make sure every young person they meet hears about the bygone era when cursive was still regularly taught in schools and every kid took pride in mastering the complex cursive S.
Not only do older people not feel guilty about staying in on the weekend, every Saturday where they manage to avoid going out is considered a victory. If you’ve lived a full life, you’ve had more than enough experiences dancing until 2 a.m. or drinking with your friends until sunrise. Growing older means you have the luxury to say no, you won’t make it to that party, you have an appointment with a bowl of popcorn and your favorite Netflix series.
It’s not that they avoid using online schedulers to keep track of their appointments. But a wall calendar just seems so much more… official.
Besides, it also helps to strengthen your memory. Studies have shown that when students take notes with pen and paper rather than typing them on their laptops, it helps them retain more of the information they’re getting in class. It’s that same principle that makes old people so drawn to paper calendars. When you write down an appointment with a pen or pencil, you’re more likely to remember it.
An old person will gladly leave the house without wearing makeup, even if they’re heading to a social occasion. It’s just not a priority anymore.
But both older men and women wouldn’t dream of walking outside without first slathering their bodies in sunscreen. An old person does everything in their power to avoid skin cancer and melanoma—and they’re chastising their younger selves for not doing the same.
We don’t know what the creators of Werther’s Originals are putting in their candies, but it’s hooked generations of older people. They love it so much that we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, now 75 years old, never performs without filling his pockets with hard candies.
Most of us have received at least one letter from a parent, with a story carefully cut out of their local newspaper, meant to inform us about some issue they think we’ve been woefully uninformed about.
Even though they could just share it on Facebook, they want you to take that physical clipping seriously. When a newspaper clipping shows up in your mailbox, you can’t scroll past it as you would on social media. You’re holding onto something tangible, and it’s a little more difficult to ignore it. Old people understand that.
In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, 71 percent of people over 65 voted, but just 46 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made it to the ballot box, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. And this is hardly a one-time occurrence. In general, older people take their voting rights seriously, and young people stay home. After all, especially for older women and people of color, voting wasn’t always a right they had.
What is it about a restaurant booth that’s so special? The food doesn’t taste better, and the service isn’t more expedient, but it is more cushiony. Older people will always pick a booth over a table when dining out, and unlike their younger counterparts, they’re willing to wait as long as it takes to get one.
In 2019, paying for your groceries with a check is the equivalent of delivering a message with carrier pigeon. Like most technology, old people don’t trust debit cards, let alone Apple Pay. As long as banks still make checkbooks, there will be old people who want to use them.
As old people have learned, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as sitting on your couch with a physical newspaper and doing the crossword with a pencil. Scoff at it now all you want, but the time will come when Twitter and Instagram and texting and all the other smartphone distractions fade away, and you’ll realize that none of it comes close to the pure bliss of a lazy weekend morning spent finishing a crossword puzzle printed on paper.
The debate of how to properly fold a fitted sheet has lasted for centuries. Young people really couldn’t care less. Fold it or just stuff the thing into a drawer until it’s needed, it really doesn’t matter to them.
But old people actually practice how to fold fitted sheets and have techniques they take pride in, which they’ll gladly demonstrate if you show even a modicum of interest.
Younger generations may think it’s enough to send someone a thank you text or email, but this would be unthinkable to their parents and grandparents. You’re not properly thanking someone unless your sentiments are expressed in a card and delivered by postal mail to their address. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it does have to be in written and it does need to show up in their mailbox. Bonus points if it’s written in cursive.
You’ll never catch an old person falling asleep in an old T-shirt and some boxers. When they’re ready for bed, they always make sure to dress appropriately, which means a full set of matching pajamas—the tops always match the bottoms. Once you reach a certain age, a pair of cozy PJs is like a warm glass of milk—it signals tp your brain that it’s time for snoozing.
Young people host parties where there’s loud music, limitless booze, and dancing. Old people host dinner parties, where a meal is the centerpiece, alcohol is marveled over and consumed in moderation, and everyone is home by 9 p.m. Plus, nobody wakes up the next morning and can’t remember how they got home or what happened to their shoes.
Most people under 40 send one of those picture postcards for the holidays with a collage of snapshots of their family and a vaguely festive greeting like “’Tis the Season” or “Love and Joy.” But old people take it a few steps further with a single-spaced letter about everything they’ve done over the past year, including details about recent surgeries or their grandson’s softball games or that trip they took to Niagara Falls.
Whatever all the hipsters are wearing this season, you can bet that old people won’t be following their lead. Trends come and go, but older people will always just be more comfortable in a pair of khaki chinos. And yes, they’ve seen that Saturday Night Live commercial parody of “mom jeans,” and they honestly don’t care if you’re making fun of them.
Give an old person a choice between watching the latest superhero blockbuster or a movie in black and white starring Humphrey Bogart or Clark Gable, and they will always pick the latter. Avengers: Infinity War will never wow an older person the same way that the 100th viewing of The Maltese Falcon will.
One of the most amazing attributes of older people is their refusal to think of themselves as old. You may look at them and think, “Oh my gosh, they’re ancient.” But in their heads, they’re anything but. They have their whole lives ahead of them! Anyone 10 years older than them, or even 20 or 30 years older? They’re the old ones. And for more on life in the golden years, here are 50 Questions You Should Never Ask Someone Over 50.
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