Quotations about   elderly

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Age is truly a time of heroic helplessness. One is confronted by one’s own incorrigibility. I am always saying to myself, “Look at you, and after a lifetime of trying.” I still have the vices that I have known and struggled with — well it seems like since birth. Many of them are modified, but not much. I can neither order nor command the hubbub of my mind.

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author, psychologist
The Measure of My Days (1968)
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The good things of youth are strength and beauty, but the flower of age is moderation.

[Ἰσχὺς καὶ εὐμορφίη νεότητος ἀγαθά, γήραος δὲ σωφροσύνη ἄνθος.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 294 (Diels) [tr. Freeman (1948)]
    (Source)

Diels citation: "294. (205 N.)"; ; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium IV, 115, 19.

Alternate translations:

  • "The good things of youth are strength and beauty; moderation is the flower of age." [Source]
  • "Strength and beauty are the blessings of youth; temperance, however, is the flower of old age."
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When we are children, we have childish interests, but do young men miss them? And when we are middle-aged, do we want what young men want? Similarly, old men are not remotely involved in the needs of middle age; they have their own. Therefore we may argue that as the concerns of each earlier stage of life fade away, so eventually do those of old age. And when that happens, we have had enough of life and we are ready for death.

[Omnino, ut mihi quidem videtur studiorum omnium satietas vitae facit satietatem. Sunt pueritiae studia certa: num igitur ea desiderant adulescentes? Sunt ineuntis adulescentiae: num ea constans iam requirit aetas, quae media dicitur? Sunt etiam eius aetatis: ne ea quidem quaeruntur in senectute. Sunt extrema quaedam studia senectutis: ergo, ut superiorum aetatum studia occidunt, sic occidunt etiam senectutis; quod cum evenit, satietas vitae tempus maturum mortis affert.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Cato Maior de Senectute [Discourse on Old Age], ch. 20 / sec. 76 (44 BC) [tr. Cobbold (2012)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

Truly me thinks that the satiety of all things makes also a satiety of life. There are certain studies in children, shall young men desire them? there are others in youth, shall age require them? and there be studies in the last age: therefore as the studies of former ages fail, so do the studies of old age, so that when the satiety or fulnesse of life commeth, it bringeth also a fit time for death.
[tr. Austin (17th C)]

By living long we come to a Satiety in all things besides and this should naturally lead us to a Satiety of Life itself. Children we see have their particular Diversions; and does Youth, when past Childhood, pursue or desire the same? Youth also has its peculiar Exercises; and does full Manhood require these as before? Or has Old Age the same Inclinations that prevailed in more vigorous Years? We ought then to conclude, That as there is a Succession of Pursuits and Pleasures in the several Stages of Life, the one dying away, as the other advances and takes Place; so in the same Manner are those of Old Age to pass off in their Turn. And when this Satiety of Life has fully ripen'd us, we are then quietly to lie down in Death, as our last Resting-Place, where all Anxiety ends, and Cares and Fears subsist no more.
[tr. Logan (1734)]

The distaste with which, in passing through the several stages of our present being, we leave behind us the respective enjoyments peculiar to each; must necessarily, I should think, in the close of its latest period, render life itself no longer desirable. Infancy and youth, manhood and old age, have each of them their peculiar and appropriate pursuits. But does youth regret the toys of infancy, or manhood lament that no longer as a taste for the amusements of youth? The season of manhood has also its suitable objects, that are exchanged for others in old age; and these too, like all the preceding, become languid and insipt in their turn. Now when this state of absolute satiety is at length arrived; when we have enjoyed the satisfactions peculiar to old age, till we have no longer any relish remaining for them; it is then that death may justly be considered as a mature an seasonable event.
[tr. Melmoth (1773)]

In fine, satiety of life, as it seems to me, creates satiety of pursuits of every kind. There are certain pursuits belonging to boyhood; do grown-up young men therefore long for them? There are others appertaining to early youth; are they required in the sedate period of life which we call middle age? This, too, has its own pursuits, and they are not sought in old age. As the pursuits of earlier periods of life fail, so in like manner do those of old age. When this period is reached, satiety of life brings a season ripe for death.
[tr. Peabody (1884)]

On the whole, as it seems to me indeed, a satiety of all pursuits causes a satiety of life. There are pursuits peculiar to boyhood; do therefore young men regret the loss of them? There are also some of early youth; does that now settled age, which is called middle life, seek after these? There are also some of this period; neither are they looked for by old age. There are some final pursuits of old age; accordingly, as the pursuits of the earlier parts of life fall into disuse, so also do those of old age; and when this has taken place, satiety of life brings on the seasonable period of death.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

As a general truth, as it seems to me, it is weariness of all pursuits that creates weariness of life. There are certain pursuits adapted to childhood: do young men miss them? There are others suited to early manhood: does that settled time of life called "middle age" ask for them? There are others, again, suited to that age, but not looked for in old age. There are, finally, some which belong to old age. Therefore, as the pursuits of the earlier ages have their time for disappearing, so also have those of old age. And when that takes place, a satiety of life brings on the ripe time for death.
[tr. Shuckburgh (1895)]

To put it in a word, it seems to me
'Tis weariness of all pursuits that makes
A weary age. We have pursuits as boys,
Do young men want them? Others yet there are
Suited to growing years, are they required
By those who've reached what's termed "the middle age"?
That too enjoys its own, but are they fit
For us old me? We have our own of course,
And as the others end, just so do ours,
And when it happens, weariness of life
Proclaims that ripeness which precedes our death.
[tr. Allison (1916)]

Undoubtedly, as it seems to me at least, satiety of all pursuits causes satiety of life. Boyhood has certain pursuits: does youth yearn for them? Early youth has its pursuits: does the matured or so-called middle stage of life need them? Maturity, too, has such as are not even sought in old age, and finally, there are those suitable to old age. Therefore as the pleasures and pursuits of the earlier periods of life fall away, so also do those of old age; and when that happens man has his fill of life and the time is ripe for him to go.
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

It seems to me you have had enough of life when you have had your fill of all its activities. Little boys enjoy certain things, but older youths to not yearn for these. Young adulthood has its delights, but middle age does not desire them. There are also pleasures of middle age, but these are not sought in old age. And so, justas the pleasures of earlier ages fall away, so do those of old age. When this happens, you have had enough of life, and it is time for you to pass on.
[tr. Freeman (2016)]
Added on 15-Dec-20 | Last updated 15-Dec-20
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Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author, psychologist
The Measure of My Days (1968)
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In short, while you have Strength, use it; when it leaves you, no more repine for the want of it, than you did when Lads, that your Childhood was past; or at the Years of Manhood, that you were no longer Boys. The Stages of Life are fixed; Nature is the same in all, and goes on in a plain and steady Course: Every Part of Life, like the Year, has its peculiar Season: As Children are by Nature weak, Youth is rash and bold; staid Manhood more solid and grave; and so Old-Age in its Maturity, has something natural to itself, that ought particularly to recommend it.

[Denique isto bono utare, dum adsit, cum absit, ne requiras: nisi forte adulescentes pueritiam, paulum aetate progressi adulescentiam debent requirere. cursus est certus aetatis et una via naturae eaque simplex, suaque cuique parti aetatis tempestivitas est data, ut et infirmitas puerorum et ferocitas iuvenum et gravitas iam constantis aetatis et senectutis maturitas naturale quiddam habet, quod suo tempore percipi debeat.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Cato Maior de Senectute [Discourse on Old Age], ch. 10 / sec. 33 (44 BC) [tr. Logan (1734)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

To conclude, use that strength which you have while you have it; but when it is gone, require it not, unlesse you thinke it a seemly thing of young men, to require their child-hood againe, and ancient men their youth; There is but one course of age, and one way of nature, and the same simple, and to every part of age its own timelines is given; for as infirmity belongs to child-hood, fiercenesse to youth, and gravity to age, so the true ripe∣nesse of age hath a certaine natural gravity in it, which ought to be used in it own time.
[tr. Austin (17th C)]

In a word, my friends, make a good use of your youthful vigour so long as it remains; but never let it cost you a sign when age shall have withdrawn it from you; as reasonably indeed might youth regret the loss of infancy, or mahood the extinction of youth. Nature conducts us, by a regular and insensible progression through the different seasons of human life; to each of which she has annexed its proper and distinguishing characteristic. As imbecility is the attribute of infancy, ardour of youth, and gravity of manhood; so declining age has its essential properties, which gradually disclose themselves as years increase.
[tr. Melmoth (1820)]

In fine, I would have you use strength of body while you have it: when it fails, I would not have you complain of its loss, unless you think it fitting for young men to regret their boyhood, or for those who have passed on a little farther in life to want their youth back again. Life has its fixed course, and nature one unvarying way; each age has assigned to it what best suits it, so that the fickleness of boyhood, the sanguine temper of youth, the soberness of riper years, and the maturity of old age, equally have something in harmony with nature, which ought to be made availing in its season.
[tr. Peabody (1884)]

In fine, enjoy that blessing when you have it; when it is gone, don't wish it back -- unless we are to think that young men should wish their childhood back, and those somewhat older their youth! The course of life is fixed, and nature admits of its being run but in one way, and only once; and to each part of our life there is something specially seasonable; so that the feebleness of children, as well as the high spirit of youth, the soberness of maturer years, and the ripe wisdom of old age -- all have a certain natural advantage which should be secured in its proper season.
[tr. Shuckburgh (1895)]

Use then the gifts you have:
When gone, regret them not: unless as men
You are to ask for boyhood to return,
When older ask for you: there still must be
A certain lapse of years; one only way
Nature pursues, and that a simple one:
To each is given what is fit for him.
The boy is weak: youth is more full of fire:
Increasing years have more of soberness:
And as in age there is a ripeness too.
Each should be garnered at its proper time,
And made the most of.
[tr. Allison (1916)]

In short, enjoy the blessing of strength while you have it and do not bewail it when it is gone, unless, forsooth, you believe that youth must lament the loss of infancy, or early manhood the passing of youth. Life's race-course is fixed; Nature has only a single path and that path is run but once, and to each stage of existence has been allotted its own appropriate quality; so that the weakness of childhood, the impetuosity of youth, the seriousness of middle life, the maturity of old age -- each bears some of Nature's fruit, which must be garnered in its own season.
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

In short, enjoy the blessing of bodily strength while you have it, but don't mourn when it passes away, any more than a young man should lament the end of boyhood, or a mature man the passing of youth. The course of life cannot change. Nature has but a single path and you travel it only once. Each stage of life has its own appropriate qualities -- weakness in childhood, boldness in youth, seriousness in middle age, and maturity in old age. These are fruits that must be harvested in due season.
[tr. Freeman (2016)]
Added on 30-Nov-20 | Last updated 30-Nov-20
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I want to tell people approaching and perhaps fearing old age that it is a time of discovery. If they say, “Of what?” I can only answer, “We must find out for ourselves, otherwise it wouldn’t be discovery.”

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author, psychologist
(Attributed)
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The crucial task of age is balance, a veritable tightrope of balance; keeping just well enough, just brave enough, just gay and interested and starkly honest enough to remain a sentient human being.

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author, psychologist
The Measure of My Days (1968)
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Always it is, that the hearts in the younger men are frivolous,
but when an elder man is among them, he looks behind him
and in front, so that all comes out far better for both sides.

[Αἰεὶ δ’ ὁπλοτέρων ἀνδρῶν φρένες ἠερέθονται·
οἷς δ’ ὁ γέρων μετέῃσιν ἅμα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω
λεύσσει, ὅπως ὄχ’ ἄριστα μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισι γένηται.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 3, ll. 108-110 [Menelaus] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Lattimore (1951)]
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Alt. trans.:
All young men’s hearts are still unstaid; but in those well-weigh'd deeds
An old man will consent to pass things past, and what succeeds
He looks into, that he may know, how best to make his way
Through both the fortunes of a fact, and will the worst obey.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 113-16]

And youth itself an empty wavering state:
Cool age advances, venerably wise,
Turns on all hands its deep-discerning eyes;
Sees what befell, and what may yet befall,
Concludes from both, and best provides for all.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Young men are ever of unstable mind;
But when an elder interferes, he views
Future and past together, and insures
The compact, to both parties, uninfringed.
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 124-27]

For the minds of younger men are ever fluctuating; but for those among whom a senior is present, he looks at the same time both backward and forward, in order that the best results may accrue to both parties.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

For young men's spirits are too quickly stirr'd;
But in the councils check'd by rev'rend age,
Alike are weigh'd the future and the past,
And for all int'rests due provision made.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 130-34]

Young men's minds are light as air, but when an old man comes he looks before and after, deeming that which shall be fairest upon both sides.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Ever unstable are the hearts of the young; but in whatsoever an old man taketh part, he looketh both before and after, that the issue may be far the best for either side.
[tr. Murray (1924), #95]

The minds of the younger men are always flighty,
but let an old man stand his ground among them,
one who can see the days behind, the days ahead --
that is the best hope for peace, for both our armies.
[tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 131-34]

Always in fact do the spirits in younger men flutter unsteady;
but with an elder among them, at once the before and the after
he can observe, so that things will become far better for both sides.
[tr. Merrill (2007), ll. 108-110]
Added on 26-Aug-20 | Last updated 24-Nov-20
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JUST DISCOURSE: Do not bandy words with your father, nor treat him as a dotard, nor reproach the old man, who has cherished you, with his age.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
Clouds, ll. 998-999 (423 BC) [tr. Athenian Soc. (1912)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • JUST ΛΟΓΟΣ: "[Learn] not to contradict your father in any thing; nor by calling him Iapetus, to reproach him with the ills of age, by which you were reared in your infancy." [tr. Hickie (1853)]
  • RIGHT LOGIC: "Nor dare to reply when your Father is nigh, nor 'musty old Japhet' to call / In your malice and rage that Sacred Old Age which lovingly cherished your youth." [tr. Rogers (1924)]
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At twenty a man is a Peacock, at thirty a Lion, at forty a Camel, at fifty a Serpent, at sixty a Dog, at seventy an Ape, at eighty nothing.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], #276 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down;
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among: —
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) English clergyman, historian, essayist, novelist (pseud. "Parson Lot")
“Water Babies,” Song 2, st. 2 (1863)
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Forgive us immortals our sins of pride, child. We all age like cheese, growing strong and tasty but also covered in the mould of good intentions gone grey.

Gail Carriger (b. 1976) American archaeologist, author [pen name of Tofa Borregaard]
Imprudence (2016)
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Yet somehow our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) American writer
My Several Worlds (1954)
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Years ago we discovered the exact point, the dead center of middle age. It occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net.

Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960) American journalist and humorist
Nods and Becks (1944)
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She shrugged. “I don’t mind getting old.”

“I didn’t mind getting old when I was young, either,” I said. “It’s the being old now that’s getting to me.”

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Old Man’s War (2005)
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If you want to be adored by your peers and have standing ovations wherever you go — live to be over ninety.

George Abbott (1887-1995) American director, producer, dramatist
(Attributed)

Quoted in his obituary in The Times of London (2 Feb 1995)
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I hate that I’ve become one of those old men who visits a cemetery to be with his dead wife. When I was (much) younger I used to ask Kathy what the point would be. A pile of rotting meat and bones that used to be a person isn’t a person anymore; it’s just a pile of rotting meat and bones. The person is gone — off to heaven or hell or wherever or nowhere. You might as well visit a side of beef.

When you get older you realize this is still the case. You just don’t care. It’s what you have.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Old Man’s War (2005)
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When young, we trust ourselves too much, and we trust others too little when old. Rashness is the error of youth, timid caution of age.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, #363 (1820)
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An awful debility,
A lessened utility,
A loss of mobility
Is a strong possibility.
In all probability
I’ll lose my virility
And you your fertility
And desirability.
And this liability
Of total sterility
Will lead to hostility
And a sense of futility.
So let’s act with agility
While we still have facility,
For we’ll soon reach senility
And lose the ability.

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“When You Are Old and Gray”
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When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you’re older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.

Isidor Feinstein "I. F." Stone (1907-1989) American investigative journalist and author
International Herald Tribune (16 Mar 1988)
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YODA: When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not, hmm?

Kasdan - 900 years old you reach - wist_info quote

Lawrence Kasdan (b. 1949) American screenwriter, director, producer
Return of the Jedi (1983) [with George Lucas]
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Some old women and men grow bitter with age. The more their teeth drop out the more biting they get.

George D. Prentice (1802-1870) American newspaper editor
Prenticeana (1860)
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Age is never so old as youth would measure it.

Jack London (1876-1916) American novelist
“The Wit of Porpotuk” (1907)
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Oh, knock it off, Bud; there’s no virtue in being old, it just takes a long time.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough For Love [Lazarus Long] (1973)
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I was walking through Central Park, and I saw an old man smoking. Nothing makes a smoker happier than to see an old person smoking. This guy was ancient, bent over a walker, puffing away. I’m like, “Dude, you’re my hero! Guy your age smoking, man, it’s great.” He goes, “What? I’m 28.”

Bill Hicks (1961-1994) American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, musician [William Melvin "Bill" Hicks]
Performance, Oxford Playhouse (11 Nov 1992)
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People who live long, who will drink of the cup of live to the very bottom, must expect to meet with some of the usual dregs.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to M. Le Veillard (15 Apr 1787)
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The problem with aging is not that it’s one damn thing after another — it’s every damn thing, all at once, all the time.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Old Man’s War, ch. 1 (2005)
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What the object of senile avarice may be I cannot conceive. For can there be anything more absurd than to seek more journey money, the less there remains of the journey?

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“On Old Age” [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]

Alt. trans.: "Advice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey's end."
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Age is always advancing, and I’m fairly sure it’s up to no good.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
White Night (2007)
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Beware, Charlie, old men only lie in wait for people to ask them to talk. Then they rattle on like a rusty elevator wheezing up a shaft.

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) American writer, futurist, fabulist
“The Time Machine” (1955)
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The old — like children — talk to themselves, for they have reached that hopeless wisdom of experience which knows that though one were to cry it in the streets to multitudes, or whisper it in the kiss to one’s beloved, the only ears that can ever hear one’s secret are one’s own.

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) Irish American playwright, Nobel laureate
Lazarus Laughed (1927)
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None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher and writer
(Attributed)

First attributed in Kate Sanborn, A Year of Sunshine; Cheerful Extracts for Every Day in the Year (1886), but not found in his writings.
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Whenever a man’s friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.

Washington Irving (1783-1859) American author [pseud. for Geoffrey Crayon]
Bracebridge Hall, “Bachelors” (1822)

Sometimes attributed to Mark Twain.
Added on 12-Oct-11 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Wives are young men’s mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men’s nurses.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Marriage and Single Life,” Essays, No. 8 (1625)
Added on 19-Aug-11 | Last updated 16-May-16
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And do you know, it is a splendid thing to think that the woman you really love will never grow old to you. Through the wrinkles of time, through the mask of years, if you really love her, you will always see the face you loved and won. And a woman who really loves a man does not see that he grows old; he is not decrepit to her; he does not tremble; he is not old; she always sees the same gallant gentleman who won her hand and heart. I like to think of it in that way; I like to think that love is eternal. And to love in that way and then go down the hill of life together, and as you go down, hear, perhaps, the laughter of grandchildren, while the birds of joy and love sing once more in the leafless branches of the tree of age.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
    (Source)

See also here.
Added on 4-Sep-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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And then, do you know, I like to think that love is eternal; that if you really love the woman, for her sake, you will love her no matter what she may do; that if she really loves you, for your sake, the same; that love does not look at alterations, through the wrinkles of time, through the mask of years — if you really love her you will always see the face you loved and won. And I like to think of it. If a man loves a woman she does not ever grow old to him. And the woman who really loves a man does not see that he is growing older. He is not decrepit to her. He is not tremulous. He is not old. He is not bowed. She always sees the same gallant fellow that won her hand and heart. I like to think of it in that way, and as Shakespeare says: “Let Time reach with his sickle as far as ever he can; although he can reach ruddy cheeks and ripe lips, and flashing eyes, he can not quite reach love.” I like to think of it. We will go down the hill of life together, and enter the shadow one with the other, and as we go down we may hear the ripple of the laughter of our grandchildren, and the birds, and spring, and youth, and love will sing once more upon the leafless branches of the tree of age. I love to think of it in that way — absolute equals, happy, happy, and free, all our own.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Lecture on Skulls”
    (Source)

See also here.
Added on 7-Aug-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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