Curious Kids: why do people get old?

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Laurie Buys, Australian Catholic University

Why do people get old? – Emily, 8 years old, Victoria

That’s a great question, Emily!

Who do you think is old? Is it anyone older than you, like an annoying older brother or sister? Is it your mum? Your grandpa? Anyone with wrinkly skin?

Or is it someone who might have had lots of birthdays and still has lots of fun?

Maybe you know an older person who likes using TikTok. Maybe they like dancing or riding a bike? Or maybe they laugh at the same jokes you do.

You see, being old means different things to different people. If someone has had a lot of birthdays, they may not actually feel old.

The government might call them old and expect them to stop working. Even then, they don’t feel old.

In fact, some people who have had a lot of birthdays, learn new things, never stop working, and have years of great adventures.

Of course, some older people, just like some younger people, can feel lonely. Or perhaps they have a few health problems. Maybe they have sore knees and can’t walk as far and as fast as they used to.

But mostly, they can do things they want and live long, healthy and happy lives.

So, we’ve covered a lot. The word “old” means different things to different people. Not everyone feels or acts “old”. But some do.

Great, but why do people get old?

I’ll give you two answers.

I could say getting old is all about your body. When people get older, their body’s cells might not work in the same way. This could explain why some older people get diseases like cancer. Or I could say some of their body parts wear out a little, and may not work as well. That’s why some older people don’t hear so well.

Grandfather holding granddaughter's hand while walking
Older people can help us learn new skills. RODNAE Productions/Pexels, CC BY-SA

But there’s another answer I’d like you to think about.

We know most older people are busy doing things and often help out with their families. Your grandparents might even pick you up from school or teach you to make yummy cakes.

So maybe the reason why people get old, after all those birthdays, is to share all the amazing things they’ve learned along the way.

Maybe the real reason why people get old is to be there to help young people as they grow old.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to [email protected]

Laurie Buys, Professor of Healthy Ageing, Australian Catholic University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.