Posted in Essay, General Interest, John Anstie

When I’m Sixty-Four

Will you still need me, will you still feed me …

At the time of writing this, when the Beatles and the Stones were playing out yet another rock and roll battle at the Grammy‘s, I was reminded of this song, which, if not their greatest hit, is one of their most memorable because it passes the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test‘.

In the fifty years since their major ‘battles’ for supremacy in the charts, in which these two famous bands were engaged, our life expectancy has increased by almost ten years*. So, the perspective of a young man in the mid-1960’s of someone in the seventh decade of their life, would have been of an old grouch off the end of the scale of life. At sixty-four, however, I find myself with better prospects of success for carrying out my ambitions in retirement, than I would have had fifty years ago.

Life expectancy, the quantity of life, is, whichever way you look at it, merely a statistic and is of little value on its own; we need quality of life as well. I watch as my 95 year old step-mother soldiers on, despite the continual but manageable ailments, with which she has to cope. Her complaints are nothing if not a physical body that is slowly wearing out, but they remind me that old age is not for the faint-hearted. I am conscious of the aches and pains that I have to deal with already, but, in my more insightful moments, I am constantly grateful that they are occasional or, if regular, not chronic (and by ‘chronic’, I mean permanent, lifelong conditions).

Perhaps the most important point about this is the effect that living with illness or pain, be it arthritis or any one of several age related chronic conditions, can severely reduce the quality of our life. I know that I truly have little to complain about, but I am acutely aware that I still, sometimes, have a grumpy disposition, which leads me to appear rude and dissatisfied, even when I know I am not dissatisfied – setting aside a kind of world-weariness that comes from my daily observations of what the human race is up to – but sometimes I need some help not to allow myself to become a grouch, especially with my wife of nearly forty years, who doesn’t deserve it.

If there were a universal prayer that I’d like to say here, it would be: please grant me a greater equanimity and remind me that I should be grateful for the ability, I know I already have, to see and enjoy the beauty, both visible and invisible, which is in so many parts of our lives. Above all, let me not forget to afford the elderly my understanding for them.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?”

Source: England and Wales, Total Population, Life Tables

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).


product_thumbnail-3.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.


“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John enjoyed being fit and sporting. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines as Gordonstoun, giving shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. This fitness was enhanced by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, by selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a forty-eight year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and a mixed barbershop quartet. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strapline sort of reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iVolunteer ”

10 thoughts on “When I’m Sixty-Four

  1. Funny that I have thought about this song so many times in the past few months. I am turning 70 which seems to be a pivotal age for me. I agree that age is a matter of our perception/definition of ourselves, but I also know (as a closet sociologist) that social perceptions and reactions impact on our experience of age. Insurance billing forms informed me that I was a geriatric patient when I turned 65 – a real kick in the stomach. Health has been shown to be the greatest determinate of quality of life. When I have my bad-body days I feel like I’m 90, on good days I can convince myself that I’m no different than when I was 50. But I still, somewhat fearfully, ask; will you still love me, will you still feed me, will you still respect me, will you still notice me, when I’m 74, and what about 84? What a great topic and essay.


  2. I agree, Linda, on pure songwriting ability, but there are those who’d argue the Rolling Stones had greater appeal. In truth I liked both, for different reasons: songwriting vs raw rock appeal. 😉


  3. Thank you, Jamie. It’s true, it seems like yesterday (another of my favourite Beatles songs!) that I was courting as a teenager and smooching to the sounds of the mid-sixties – admittedly, “When I’m Sixty Four” is not quite that sort of track.

    Thanks for dropping in, Priscilla, you are right, in the end, age is neither of any consequence nor is it relevant. It is our mindset that matters; our perspective is determined by our attitude to life and everything around us. You are wise to remind me of that.

    Liz, make sure you do keep on rocking – out or on out, whichever presses your buttons 😉 – and that reminds me, I’d love a rocking chair, but preferably one that won’t wear the carpet out! Thanks for your time.

    Victoria, grouchiness comes naturally to me and you’re right, it’s not that easy to stop it, but this little essay was, amongst it’s other purposes, intended to put a marker down for myself, to remind me to maintain my self-awareness for as long as possible … I’m sure that rocking chair might help you know 😉


  4. From the far side of 64, my response would be “More than ever.” I love Priscilla’s comment…live it as it comes. And your advice about dispelling anything like grouchiness and trust me, that’s not always easy!


  5. You really rate today John. As I started to respond I said no, this needs to be written in word first (I was going to say on paper first – but who uses paper?). Rarely do people in my opinion speak words that are truly wise. Words so wise that they might go down in the annals of history. Oddly I read some off these words last week (they might have been from Scillagrace). Your words here, are indeed that wise. They are very, very wise. As I read them I thought about last night when David came up to the library, and asked me what I was doing. Well, really honey! I am “rocking out or rockin’ on out” depends upon your perspective. I was in, yes, my rocking chair that is really a glider just “rockin away to numerous great old songs that I was listening to on my iTunes library. He chuckled, I kept on a rockin!


  6. “Life expectancy” is a peculiar term. Do animals expect life or do they simply live it as it comes? My husband died at 47; the family cat is going on 18, has cancer, and despite evidence of very poor quality of life, doesn’t seem to be miserable. Human heads and hearts have a lot to say on the subject, but it’s all about our own perception…which is never right or wrong or true or untrue. Peculiar.


  7. Unbelieveable how quickly the time has passed, how the world has changed, and how we have and haven’t changed … and the true loves remain despite the occasional grouchiness and the chronic/characteristic aches, pains, wrinkles and gray hair that come with maturity, eh? 🙂 Delightful essay, John.


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