Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Getting old in old-time Phoenix


As someone who is now living much longer than I ever expected, and probably will live a lot longer, I've been thinking about longevity in general, and what growing old would have been like in old-time Phoenix. Time-travel with me.

People definitely lived to a ripe old age, even back in Charles Hayden's time (that's him up there, he was the father of Senator Carl Hayden). The difference, of course, having to do with what we call "quality of life". Of course, they didn't know that cataract surgery would become pretty much routine for people who had lived over sixty years, and of course dentistry is much improved. Nowadays even if people have lost their teeth in their senior years, they can be replaced surgically. And now I'm pondering how much people just accepted as "old age" in old-time Phoenix.

Then, as now, people were careful to look their best in photos. Presumably a bit of old-time "Photoshop" was done by photographers to touch up wrinkles, etc. And since I rarely see spectacles even on very old people in old-time Phoenix photos, I imagine that if they did wear them, at least a bit, they took them off for photos. And it wouldn't have just been for vanity, it may have been very difficult to photograph someone wearing glasses.

Needless to say, they didn't have sunblock in old-time Phoenix, so skin probably wrinkled even more severely than it does now. And attitudes towards tobacco and alcohol have changed a lot since then. Nowadays most people are more moderate in their drinking, and a lot less people smoke, chew tobacco, or take snuff. I know that I shouldn't think about this kind of stuff, but all of that tobacco use along with no nylon toothbrushes, must have given not only bad breath, but very brown teeth in old-time Phoenix.

Of course, your chances of living to be old well much slimmer in old-time Phoenix. Nowadays we have not only modern medicine, but seat belts and air bags. And while I'm sure most of the doctors were progressive, and believed in germs, they may have been quite a few that thought this whole "germ thing" was just a bunch of nonsense. Antiseptic for wounds caught on as far back as the Civil War, but that doesn't mean that hygienic conditions were everywhere in old-time Phoenix.

And speaking of the new life-saving technology, there would have been a lot of people with missing limbs, sometimes from the war, sometimes from just accidents. Nowadays usually the limb can be saved with the life, but back then just saving the life was considered miraculous.

I do wish you to live long and prosper. And if you're living in the 21st Century, you can expect to. Lifespans are not only longer, but quality of life is improved.

Thank you for looking at getting old in old-time Phoenix!

Image at the top of this post: Charles Trumball Hayden, Tempe, Arizona.

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