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20+ Poems About Growing Old & Aging Gracefully

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Aging gracefully feels like a challenge. Ageism can play a negative role in today’s society, which can make it hard to approach big birthdays with excitement. Growing old is a gift, though—life experiences and loved ones can make it a great time. These poems cover a wide range, too. From aging parents to getting older, these poets know what it’s like.

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These poems cover a wide range, too. From aging parents to getting older, these poets know what it’s like.

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Funny Poems About Aging

Aging, like anything else, is often the target of wit. Here are some fun poems for you to enjoy. 

1. "How to Be Perfect” by Ron Padgett

This tongue-in-cheek advice is perfect to include in a lighthearted birthday card. Padgett’s advice includes gems from recommending daily exercise to suggesting eye contact with a tree.

Given the length of this poem, it may be wiser to choose an excerpt that your loved one would find humorous. You can write this in a card, read it to them, or post it on social media and tag them. 

2. "The Old Man’s Complaints and How He Gained Them” by Robert Southey

Southey’s poem has been referenced in many works of classic literature. The protagonist of Alice in Wonderland even recites it in Carroll’s classic works. The poem is framed around a young man asking constant questions. He wants to know how the old man is still healthy and happy.

The old man puts up with it until he finally snaps and threatens to throw his questioner downstairs! 

3. "Warning” by Jenny Joseph

This poem is one of Helena Bonham Carter’s favorites and subsequently recited in a Youtube interview. The poem, famously known by its opening line, “when I am an old woman I shall wear purple,” exudes even more whimsy when read aloud by Carter. Joseph writes about all the expectations placed upon people in their youth.

They’re expected to be quiet, sedate, responsible. In Joseph’s world, this is no fun at all. She blissfully envisions an old age where she can wear, eat, and act how she likes. 

4. "Provide, Provide” by Robert Frost 

This funny poem relates the tale of a witch who comes to do the cleaning. Even though Frost refers to her as a ‘withered hag’, she was once a great beauty. She was even the darling of Hollywood. Frost dryly remarks that this change happens to many people, and thus should not be doubted. 

5. "Written in a Carefree Mood” by Lu Yu

This poem is about the childish joy that anyone can attain. Written by a 12th-century Chinese poet, this piece is true no matter how old anyone may be. From gathering summertime fruits to reading a book, the old man in this poem rejoices like a child. 

Poems About Aging and Wisdom

Gaining wisdom is one of the best parts of old age. 

6. "Old Age” by Virginia Moore

Many people are terrified of dying. This is especially true when they are young. Before you die, though, Moore insists they should find out why they’re living. Some people don’t get that opportunity. The ones that do, though, are very lucky indeed.

Moore believes that finding reasons to live and to die, comes easier in old age.

7. "An Old Story” by Tracy K. Smith

Many people are taught, by example and by the media, to be terrified of old age. And it can be hard to imagine getting old when sitcoms and fearmongers claim that death, pain, and loneliness are the only things in old age.

Smith takes that fiction and turns it on its head, by taking the reader full circle. In her poem, we travel through fear to new wonder that comes from living for many years. 

8. "Sonnet 104” by William Shakespeare 

Shakespeare’s sonnet is full of pure flattery. He’s known his friend for three years. During that time, Shakespeare insists that his friend hasn’t aged a day. His friend has gained wisdom over the years, though, and that’s what counts. 

9. "Youth and Age” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge believes that there are many important elements to life. From youth, love, and friendship, they’re all important. Coleridge still wants to believe that he’s young, though. Near the end of the poem, after a lengthy lament, he realizes he’s young in his mind. 

10. "Old Age Compensation” by James Wright

Wright pictures himself as a guide, shepherding people through life to old age. In the poem, he uses harvest imagery to convey this. The pumpkins are rotted, the frost is on the ground. Still, he soldiers on through the night.

He’s trying to guide others. At the end of the poem, though, Wright has a realization. No one else needed his light. Wright needed it for himself. 

Poems About Aging Parents

These poems would be great additions to a birthday card. 

11. "The Old Man Drew the Line” by Carl Rakosi

As they age, many older parents insist on keeping their independence. Even as you try to help, they may refuse. In this poem, the son offers money. The father refuses, saying that he doesn’t need it. Eventually, the son comes for advice.

After a successful career, filled with trying to impress everyone, he’s exhausted. His father offers him a seat, saying that he never had to impress anyone at all.

12. "I Wish I Want I Need” by Gail Mazur

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what your parents actually want. Mazur realizes that her mother never needed to go shopping. The gift she needed was time with her daughter. This time gives her the opportunity to vent, to have someone to listen to her. Sometimes, love is as simple as going shopping and watching a movie together. 

13. "Old Age of Youth” by Elizabeth Hollister Frost 

Frost uses nighttime imagery to convey the passage of time. Sometimes, old age isn’t scary. It’s just a natural passage from a time period to the next. Frost pictures herself on the edge of a new life. It’s full of old friends, old lovers, beckoning her to come join them. 

14. "Old Age, Adolescence, Infancy” by Paul Mariah 

Life sometimes feels like a backward circle. Mariah wrote this poem in 1940, and that was true then! In the poem, he pictures himself at three stages of life. Even as he pictures himself as a boy, though, he can’t stop the passage of time. 

15. "Counting Backwards” by Linda Pastan

Life is rarely linear. In this poem, Pastan is approaching her 76th birthday. When she closes her eyes, she wonders when she’ll start counting from zero again. When she pictures it, Pastan imagines her mother and father waiting for her with a birthday cake. 

Poems About Aging and Birthdays

Excerpts from these poems are great options for cards or a fun read-aloud. 

16. "The Old Codger’s Lament” by Carl Rakosi

Many older people reminisce about the way things used to be. If they’re very old, they may even remember a time when the countryside looked different. Many major cities didn’t even exist decades ago.

This poem follows an old man who laments that no one will listen to him. No one wants to hear his stories about how it used to be. He realizes, though, this isn’t against him. Rakosi believes that he lives in a time when no one will admit their age.

17. "The Four Ages of Man” by Anne Bradstreet 

Bradstreet, an American Puritan poet from the 16th century, provided a tongue-in-cheek approach to looking at age. She pokes fun at each stage of life, from childhood to old age. Once everyone is ready to listen to the elderly, though, Bradstreet says they won’t speak. This paradox is part of life. 

18. "Passing Through” by Stanley Kunitz 

This poem was written as a reflection on Kunitz’s 79th birthday. Due to a freak accident, there was little record of Kunitz’s actual existence as a child—meaning he did not even have a birth certificate to acknowledge his date of birth. In the poem though Kunitz feels more settled. He realizes that life is only a phase, just like death.

19. "What I Learned from My Mother” by Julia Kasdore

Learning things from your mother is part of life. As she ages, she passes them down to you. Some things can’t be taught, though. They can only be learned through example. Comforting others, knowing the right things to say … these only come through example. 

20. "On the Eve of A Birthday” by Timothy Steele 

Hitting a momentous age often lends itself to contemplation. “On the Eve of A Birthday,” Steele thinks about his life and finds that he’s ultimately content with it.

Use the Gift of Poetry

You can use these poems to accompany a gift or a card. You can also post them on social media, and tag your loved one. Using the gift of poetry can bring a smile to anyone, especially those who write.

If you're looking for more poems, check out our guide to poems to remember those who were gone too soon, inspirational poems to deal with a child's death, and poems to read at a funeral.