Simone De Beauvoir Addressing the Concept of Old Age in the Coming of Age

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Simone De Beauvoir goes into great detail on the concept of aging in "The Coming of Age". Beauvoir's main objective in part one is to explain to her readers how the elders live and what happens inside their minds. Beauvoir focuses on the biological aspect of aging and includes the different views of aging throughout various cultures. Throughout “The Coming of Age” Beauvoir has multiple objectives and describes it as “old age seen from without” or “old age seen from the point of view of the outsider.” In order to understand what Beauvoir means by the “outsider” the readers must pay close attention to the details Beauvoir provides. The point of view from the outsider” that Beauvoir describes means how society and citizens view old age. The outsider are contains citizens of a community and the society as a whole. Beauvoir provides several examples of how the outsiders treat the elders. .

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The concept of old age is seen as a big hole that is not independent because it governs one another. One of Beauvoir’s major points in the first part is in order to understand what it means to be old Beauvoir we have to look at the biological meaning, historical time, and different cultures. To be considered being old varies among ages, but Beauvoir states old age at fifty-six years old. There is a biological decline in the body as we age because aging brings a decline to the body. For example, we lose strength, we cannot reproduce, and eyesight decline. The chances of survival decreases and the biological changes can diminish our existence. There are also physical changes with aging, such as wrinkles,etc. There are different concepts of the body due to different theories with aging. Old age becomes an object of scientific analysis and then leads to the discovery of gerontology. Beauvoir explains the scientific differences between supernatural and non-sciences. Also, identifying the conditions that must be identified for old age and the how biological age is an object of science. Most importantly, Gerontology contrasts with “being in the world of old age.”

Beauvoir goes into great detail on how different cultures view the old population. Some cultures respect their elders because they are seen as wise and can teach the younger generation some of their wisdom. For example, in Greek civilization when the king was helped by a council or elders. Homer, one of the men was associated with wisdom because the passage of time had given him experience, wisdom, and authority. Also, in different cultures they believe that the elders have magical powers and respect them because they fear their magical powers. Although, in several cultures the old population is seen as a burden to society. It is observed on certain cultures how the young try to get revenge on the old because of a grudge they hold against them when they were getting raised. Some of the young individuals leave their elders to die and in certain cultures they kill them because they are only another mouth to feed. It is seen as a waste of food to provide the old with nourishment when they are useless and cannot provide anything in return.

Elders are dehumanized and seen as if they are a different species. Beauvoir provides several examples how the old population is out casted from society. For example Beauvoir states, “There are books, periodicals entertainments, radio and television programs for children and young people: for the old there are none (pg3).” As a society, we outcast the elders and do not make the effort to provide them with the same respect or dignity that they deserve. As a society we automatically outcast and stereotype the old. Aging is seen as a taboo in society, but aging is inevitable and will occur sooner or later. It is almost a silence we carry and refuse to talk about aging.

Whether we mean it or not we tend to stereotype the old age and view them as grumpy, boring, and useless. We already have the image of what it looks to be old, such as white hair, wrinkles, not attractive, slow, etc. As a society we do not attempt to walk in the shoes of an old person or perhaps how they feel when we do not even see them as humans just because of their age. Beauvoir goes into the concept of reciprocity and how the other should be the means of a transcendent end, which is death. For example, children still are young and have ends to meet, such as goals and their own decisions to make. As for the old, they have only one end and that is death. Since the old are not working and do not have any projects to accomplish. The old are retired and seen as useless. The old lose their identity by losing the job that they once identified themselves with. Therefore, they must adapt himself to his own identity without having that specific title. For example, someone who once identified himself as a doctor now has to give up that title and role and identify himself as his own being. The elders confront an obstacle when trying to adapt to a new situation, since they do not like change and are used to how their life used to be when they were young and full of life.

In conclusion, we view the old population from the view of the outsider. Since we do not like to see ourselves as old, when in reality we are. There is anger built up when we hear someone say we are old. We like to believe we are young because we feel young and we are going to stay young forever, which is unreal. Society is in denial when we refuse to acknowledge that we are getting old ourselves. It is easier to point to others for their flaws than to look at the flaws we carry within ourselves.

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