Growing old

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Quotes about ageing.


  • The land of the living was not far removed from the domain of the ancestors. There was coming and going between them, especially at festivals and also when an old man died, because an old man was very close to the ancestors. A man's life from birth to death was a series of transition rites which brought him nearer and nearer to his ancestors.
  • It was one of the deadliest and heaviest feelings of my life to feel that I was no longer a boy. From that moment I began to grow old in my own esteem — and in my esteem age is not estimable.
    • Lord Byron, from The Works of Lord Byron, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1901), vol. V: Letters and Journals, ch. XXIII: "Detached Thoughts" (1821-10-15 – 1822-05-18), paragraph 72 (p. 445)
  • One great thing about getting old is that you can get out of all sorts of social obligations just by saying you're tired.
  • Gross well says that children are young because they play, and not vice versa; and he might have added, men grow old because they stop playing, and not conversely, for play is, at bottom, growth, and at the top of the intellectual scale it is the eternal type of research from sheer love of truth.
    • G. Stanley Hall, Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education (1904), p. 235. The reference to “Gross” is apparently to Karl Groos, Die Spiele der Thiere (The Play of Animals), 1896, p. 68, "die Thiere spielen nicht, weil sie jung sind, sondern sie haben eine Jugend, weil sie spielen müssen." (“The animals do not play because they are young, but they have a youth because they must play.”)
    • Variously attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr or Jr), Herbert Spencer, or George Bernard Shaw, but this is apparently the original source.
    • Variant: We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." (G. Stanley Hall, according to
  • And the 24 elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God who sits on the throne and said: “Amen! Praise Jah!” Also, a voice came from the throne and said: “Be praising our God, all you his slaves, who fear him, the small ones and the great.”
  • Maybe theoretical physics is degenerating but I don't know into what. Let me just say something first. I have noticed when I was younger, that lots of old men in the field couldn't understand new ideas very well, and resisted them with one method or another, and that they were very foolish in saying these ideas were wrong — such as Einstein not being able to take quantum mechanics. I’m an old man now, and these are new ideas, and they look crazy to me, and they look like they’re on the wrong track. Now I know that other old men have been very foolish in saying things like this, and, therefore, I would be very foolish to say this is nonsense. I am going to be very foolish, because I do feel strongly that this is nonsense! I can’t help it, even though I know the danger in such a point of view. So perhaps I could entertain future historians by saying I think all this superstring stuff is crazy and is in the wrong direction.
    • Richard Feynman, interview published in Superstrings: A Theory of Everything? (1988) edited by Paul C. W. Davies and Julian R. Brown
  • One of the duties of old-age, is the management of time. The less that remains to us, the more valuable we ought to consider it.

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