The Shelf Life of Older People

by Jeff Weiss

As I hear more words and phrases associated with people getting older, I am constantly intrigued and sometimes mystified about some of these descriptors. The other day, a friend of mine told me that her father, who is still quite vibrant and in his mid-70s, was nearing the end of his “shelf life”. Apparently, someone thinks that his expiry date is just around the corner!

This made me laugh and cringe at the same time, and it got me thinking about other things that have a shelf life.

Milk and other dairy products have a distinct shelf life with a clear “Best Before” date stamped on their labels. This also applies to many other consumable products and I am often hesitant to purchase products that don’t have a “Best Before” date on them. After all, what’s in them that isn’t going to spoil after some point in time?

As the term “shelf life” most often refers to the length of time that something can be stored without being unfit for use, I thought I would flip the term on its head and identify things that actually get better with age. To that end, below is my Top 10 List of things that I believe only get better with time:

  1. Cheddar Cheese
  2. Seedlings
  3. Jeans
  4. Cast Iron Skillets
  5. Flannel Sheets
  6. Wine
  7. Fine Leather
  8. Bath Towels
  9. Rock ‘n Roll Music
  10. Whisky

I then started to think about all of the things that happen to us as we get older. Yes, it takes more time for my body to recover after a 2-hour tennis match and yes, I don’t have as much stamina to stay up until 4:00 in the morning partying with my friends. However, there are so many other things that actually get better as I get older. Things like my friendships with both long-time friends and new people coming into my life, my patience with people and situations around me, and my marriage that just keeps getting better the more time I spend with my wife.

The bottom line is let’s keep the term “shelf life” for things that really do go bad as they get older. The thought that the worth of individuals diminishes with old age is long out-of-date and expired many years ago.

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