REFLECTION

Old Age is a Foreign Country

And so is France

Janice Macdonald
Crow’s Feet
Published in
5 min readJun 4, 2024

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Shortly after arriving in France and the Country of Old Age (all photos by author)

Old Age is a Foreign Country and so is France was (and still might be) the title of my unfinished memoir about moving to France at 68 — alone, knowing no one in the country and having very rudimentary French.

The title still seems to sum up the decade I’ve now spent in both foreign countries — France and old age. I’ve gained immeasurable insight and experience from life in France and as I look back on my eighth decade, I realise I’ve also learned a great deal about old age, the other foreign country.

I’m not sure when old age begins, there seems to be no consensus — 70 is the new 50 and all that —but this is my story so I’m going to say it begins at 70, two years after I arrived in France.

As I write this I’m in my fourth day of recovery from knee replacement surgery. Last year, almost around this time, I was preparing for hip replacement surgery. A decade ago, newly arrived in the country of old age, the idea that my joints would one day fail me never crossed my mind. Perhaps it should have, but it didn’t.

My preoccupation with old age at that point was almost entirely cosmetic Mostly, I worried about not looking my age. And since I was frequently told that I didn’t look my age, I felt I’d somehow slipped under the radar…

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Janice Macdonald
Crow’s Feet

At 68, I started a new chapter in my life: I moved to France. Alone. It turned out to be quite the page-turner. Still is — even when age insists on a part.