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Feeling Their Age

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Ross: [regarding an old plane] That thing belongs in a museum.
Trench: We all do.

No matter how hard you train, how much effort you take to keep yourself in the best possible shape, there comes a time when the effects of aging will reduce how physically powerful you are and how quickly you are able to bounce back from injuries. This can and often does become a sore spot for the individual, probably starting from their First Gray Hair. It's a reminder that they are not invincible.

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An old and mighty character (Old Master, Old Soldier. etc) may still be able to kick butt and take names, but they may then have to stop for a while to catch their breath; they may even say you should have seen them 30 years ago. Oftentimes a character who is still not willing to admit this will try to hide it from their companions. If he takes that denial too far he may become a Perilous Old Fool.

This can show up in a case of Older Hero vs. Younger Villain or in stories set at the end of an era (when the hero is the last of the "old guard" holding out against the new ways).

Old Superhero is a subtrope specific to the Super Hero comics genre. Compare Dented Iron, Heroic Fatigue, Old Soldier, Retired Badass, and Jaded Washout. For a character who is going through a similar thing due to illness rather than old age, see Incurable Cough of Death and Definitely Just a Cold. For someone who is Really 700 Years Old who is suddenly really feeling their age, see No Immortal Inertia. May occur before or after becoming Older and Wiser. Contrast Stronger with Age, where the reverse occurs.

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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • Health Hotline: Grandma tells Ellie that she wants to play, but her knees have gotten much worse with age.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Whitebeard from One Piece is renowned as the World's Strongest Man prior to his death. He is an extremely powerful man with a ridiculously earthquake based Devil Fruit powers who has proved more than enough that he is worthy of his title in the Marineford arc. However the moment he starts coughing up blood in the middle of battle, it's made clear that the man is no longer in his prime and that old age hasn't been kind to him. Based on his remaining strength though, it's less that he's significantly weaker, and more like that the monstrously strong old man was even more of a monster in the past. He even once stated "I may be a monster... but I'm not gonna be the strongest forever!" His first appearance on-panel showcases both his monstrous strength (he's a huge muscular giant of a man) and his declining health (he's hooked up to life support while being monitored by nurses).
  • Pokémon: Tracey Sketchit's Scyther is undoubtedly a powerhouse, able to hold its own against all of Team Rocket's Pokémon by itself, but is noted to be elderly and often gets fatigued during long fights.
  • For Child Soldiers in Strike Witches, old age starts somewhere around 20. With decline in magic power, Witches' shields stop doing their job of deflecting enemy attacks and debris. It's explored in the second season. Mio pushes herself to stay in action, against fellow high-ranking officer Minna's advice, ultimately receiving first a minor and then a grave injury.
  • This is a major character point in Yu Yu Hakusho with regards to the Big Bad Younger Toguro. He used to be human but was so afraid of getting older he sold his soul to become virtually immortal (he later saw immortality to be boring and so sought for a fighter strong enough to kill him). This is compared to Genkai, a formidable fighter despite her years but still far from what she was at her prime.

    Comic Books 
  • In Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Hollis Mason starts to feel this way in the 1950s, having endured the murder of his close friend Silhouette, a HUAC investigation, and the "Friend of the Children" investigation, which resulted in Nite Owl killing Hooded Justice after being led to believe that he'd been kidnapping and murdering kids. After Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias start appearing, he decides that he's really not needed anymore.
  • Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns portrays Batman like this. He starts as a Retired Badass, but soon returns to crime-fighting. Throughout the story Batman keeps on lamenting how slow he's become, culminating in the fight between him and the leader of a mutant gang, who is, like Batman himself states, "in his physical prime". Batman loses, but only because he "tried to fight like a young man". Later he beats the mutant leader with some Combat Pragmatist moves.
  • Button Man: When Harry faces Adele in a Game, she manages to get the drop on him much to his surprise. He quickly regains the upper hand as he's still the best Button Man alive despite his advancing age, but he notes that he would have easily dispatched her if he were a bit younger.
  • Alan Quatermain from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has to deal with a great deal of this, as he's now well into his 70s, and has spent about half a decade as a drug addict on top of that. This eventually becomes a major issue for him in the second volume when he begins a romantic relationship with Mina Murray, and simply does not have the stamina or endurance to keep up with a much younger woman. It's not until he becomes young and immortal by bathing in the Fire of Immortality in Africa that this is no longer an issue. The movie version also deals with this, but since he and Murray are not involved there, it's his deteriorating eyesight that bugs him, since he now has to wear glasses to be able to sharpshoot.
  • Volume 4 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage) is set 15 years after the original comics, and features the Turtles now into their early 30's. As such, their abilities have begun to deteriorate, with jumping over rooftops now starting to become a lot harder.
  • While the mainstream version of The Punisher hasn't aged much (mainly because his origin story has been moved to the Iraq war rather than Vietnam), the Marvel MAX version is feeling the 60+ years he really is. By the time the final story arc rolls around, he has become Dented Iron, and its clear to everyone that he is on his last legs.
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic himself suffers this in the Light Mobius timeline. While he's still a good fighter and retains his trademark Super Speed, he's in his 40s by this point and not as strong as he used to be, something that costs him dearly against The Ageless Shadow.
  • Astro City:
    • Shown with Quarrel II, Crackerjack, and on the villain side, Steeljack. Quarrel II and Crackerjack deal with being Badass Normal and having to deal with age beginning to dull their skills and slowing their recovery when they get injured (they're both in their 50's by this point) in contrast to their superpowered allies such as Black Rapier whose aging slowed to a crawl thanks to a Super Soldier Serum.
    • Steeljack on the other hand does have powers, Super Strength and durability from a steel alloy bonded to his skin, but is still feeling his age (he's well into his 60s). He's starting to get out of shape, and his skin is feeding on itself, requiring him to take iron supplements.
  • Judge Dredd ages in real time; while he looks in his 40s due to advanced medicinal technology, he's actually in his 70s, with over 50+ years of active service. His body has shown its age, being Covered in Scars and bullet wounds, and his fitness for duty as a result have been recurring plot points, to the extent that he developed benign duodenal cancer. The problem is ultimately solved in the story "Carousel," where the rejuvenation tech has advanced so much that Dredd is essentially given entirely new skin. He's told they could do the same for his bones, but he declines.
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    Fan Works 
  • In the Massively Multiplayer Crossover fanfic Blood and Revolution, Saitou is a Badass Normal surrounded by youkai and granted immortality and youth; by World War II, he's a hundred year old in a thirty-year-old body and his internal narrative brings up that he's not a young man anymore fairly regularly. More obvious before he got his immortality — by the time he was fifty the story was highlighting that he couldn't summon more than one of his special sword techniques anymore and by his seventies he'd had to retire from the police and used his sword only to help him walk.
  • With This Ring has Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. Originally, despite being in his 90's, his ring had been rejuvinating him after he began wearing it again (though he didnt realize it). However, after giving his Lantern to Orange Lantern, Scott eventually returns to his original age, and now begins to suffer from all the ailments that a man in his 90's would, to the point where a fall lands him in the hospital.

    Films — Animation 
  • Mulan: While Mulan's father, Fa Zhou, retains his sword skills, his old age, bad leg, and an implied heart condition prevent him from performing as he used to, as shown when he collapses doing basic exercises. This is the main reason why Mulan runs off to take his place in the war, knowing he won't survive if he goes off to fight.
  • The Incredibles: While Mr. Incredible is still a formidable superhero after 15 years of retirement, it's nonetheless shown that time, inaction, and age have gotten the better of him; he's gained a lot of weight, and while fighting the first Omnidroid, he ends up throwing his back out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie Dragonslayer the sorcerer Ulrich realizes he is too old even to make the journey to Urland, let alone hope to defeat a dragon. So he gets himself killed so he can make the journey as a bag of ashes, and then be magically reanimated just long enough to slay the dragon
  • Brought up in The Expendables 2, with the addition of a mid-20's team member Billy who has more enthusiasm and energy than the rest of the team combined. His older teammates are certainly not in bad shape themselves, but there is a distinct difference in their lumbering pace compared to Billy jogging up a hill.
  • Occurs in The Guardian when Randall begins to realize he's becoming more of a liability than an asset on rescue missions, especially when compared to Jake who's fresh out of training.
  • Explicitly brought up in The Last Stand starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a sheriff of a small town having to deal with a dangerous group of outlaws heading his way. He's getting up in age and knows it, and the trailer highlights it.
  • Lethal Weapon series. Murtaugh's Catchphrase was "I'm getting too old for this", appropriate for an older family man who had to deal with a wild card younger partner in Riggs. Nevertheless he continued to say it through all the movies and it eventually came around to Riggs in Lethal Weapon 4, as he started to feel his age too.
  • In The Private Life of Don Juan, Don Juan certainly is, complaining about his aches and pains and how he can't always get it up. His doctor tells him he can't go catting around anymore.
  • Obi-Wan in the first Star Wars; when asking Luke to join him he lamented that he was getting too old to go on these sort of adventures. A big part of his duel with Vader was being mocked that he was old and out of practice.
  • In Logan, Wolverine's healing factor is faltering, leaving him worn down by accumulated injuries and slow poisoning from his implanted adamantium.
  • Justice League (2017) uses this both physically and metaphorically in regards to Batman. Badass Normal or not, Batman is in what appears to be the later years of his career and, despite his skills and accomplishments, he's still a human among demigods. Over the course of the film, Batman deals with things way above his weight class and suffers severe injuries that do not heal properly, if they heal at all. Not only that, he and Alfred believe the age and legacy of Batman are coming to an end and will soon become irrelevant in a world of actual superhumans. This conversation sums it up best.
    Diana: You know you can't do this forever.
    Bruce: I can barely do it now.
  • A plot thread from the Star Trek TOS movies is the characters admitting that they're past their prime.
  • Rocky Balboa: While Rocky keeps himself in quite good shape for a man his age, and goes through a formidable Training Montage to get ready to face Dixon, he still gets his ass kicked because Dixon is in his prime and faster, while Rocky's age and injuries have slowed him down and taken away the things that made him a great fighter; it isn't until Dixon breaks his hand that Rocky actually stands a chance.
  • Terminator Genisys: The "Guardian" Terminator shows signs of malfunction and disrepair after spending 30+ years looking after Sarah Connor. Even a Terminator can't last forever, especially in a time that doesn't have the technology to properly repair him. His joints actually stop working for a few seconds at a couple points in the movie. However, as he reminds everyone, he's "old, but not obsolete."
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood are recuperating on the tramp steamer, and as Marion tries to "help" Indy, he lets out a bunch of moans and groans. Marion says he's not as young as he once was. Indy argues back, "It's not the years, it's the mileage."
  • Halloween (2018): While still an Implacable Man, Michael Myers is forty years older and it shows. He rarely attacks his victims head-on anymore, using terrain, subterfuge, and the shadows to give him the upper hand in almost every situation, and it takes him considerably longer to recover from being hit by Hawkins' SUV than in similar incidents in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, where he just walks them off within minutes. Co-writer Danny McBride has stated that his intention was to show that nigh-unstoppable killing machine or not, Michael is still a man with weaknesses.

    Literature 
  • Flint Fireforge is the oldest of the Heroes of the Lance, and spends the entire trilogy complaining about advancing age. Taken to its logical extreme when he has a heart attack and dies during the action.
  • Sir Sparhawk, protagonist of The Elenium and companion series The Tamuli, is middle-aged at the beginning of the first book, and several times it's noted that he hasn't got the speed or stamina he had as a younger man.
  • Fearful Symmetries, last book of the Moreau Series, brings back an aging Nohar Rajastan. He's only in his forties, but his engineered metabolism is fading fast, bringing arthritis and dimming vision.
  • In Discworld:
    • Cohen the Barbarian is an Age in his own Legend. He has trouble with joints, missing teeth, and after one fight is laid out after throwing out his back. However, he still deserves his reputation as the ultimate Barbarian Hero; he's still at it in his eighties because he compensates for his physical limitations with experience and cunning.
    • Granny Weatherwax the Living Legend witch usually defies this trope through sheer pride and stubbornness; it takes a situation like being half-frozen, drained of half her blood, and making a forced cross-country trip in bad weather in Carpe Jugulum to make her feel her age. Then there are the rare, terrible moments when her resolve cracks:
      Granny: I'm getting old.
      Nanny Ogg: Well, you're only as old as you feel.
      Granny: That's what I mean.
  • At the start of The Lord of the Rings, although Bilbo hasn't physically aged in 60 years, he acknowledges that he still feels old, comparing his long life to "butter that has been scraped over too much bread." He makes one final trip to Erebor before settling down at Rivendell, where he acknowledges he's grown too old to travel anymore. When the Ring is destroyed and his physical age catches up with him, he even declines to make the trip to Gondor for Aragorn's coronation and wedding.
  • In a non-action example, the title character of Charlotte's Web evokes this trope word for word in her exhaustion after she weaves her last web and makes her egg sac. She dies two days later.
  • In The Berlin Memorandum, British spy Quiller, a veteran of World War Two, constantly talks of how he is getting old. Unfortunately Quiller turned out to be a popular character so he had to stop doing this as his adventures continued up until the Nineties.
  • Subverted for the granny in Gangsta Granny, who thinks she can't run but she's actually fit enough to abseil down a skyscraper.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead: While still able to hold his own against Deadites, Ash is in his 50s by this time and it shows. He mentions in the first episode that he needs to take some cardio because his heart is "jackhammering like a quarterback on prom night," and in "Ashes to Ashes," he's revealed to have, among other minor handicaps, a trick knee and bum shoulder.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Old Age Plan" the power of suggestion turns Boynton and Conklin into shambling wrecks with one foot in the grave. Miss Brooks is trying to sell an old age savings plan to the two men and, after reading the signs of old age to them, they come down with all the symptoms.
  • It's a major part of Sam Axe's character in Burn Notice, highlighted in the prequel movie Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe. He is no less reliable but in comparison to the main character and much younger Michael Westen, Sam is noticeably wearier and has gained a few pounds since his prime.
  • Methos says "I'm too old for this" in the Highlander episode "Deliverance" after Duncan throws him over a wall to land several feet below. Double subverted example, since he's an ageless immortal who will always be in his physical prime, but at the same time he actually is 5000 years old. If he can't feel too old for this, who can?
  • The idea is name checked in How I Met Your Mother, actually called "The Murtaugh List." Ted puts together a list of things you can't do once you pass a certain age. Barney takes it as a challenge and ends up injuring himself. Ted is meanwhile challenged to do things he is too young to start doing, such as going to bed at 8:30. When he can't go to sleep that early he marathons the Lethal Weapon movies and realized that Murtaugh never let his age stop him, so he shouldn't either.
  • Scrubs
    • Dr. Cox was approaching middle aged in the early seasons, which came to a head when he threw out his back making a (successful) slam dunk to show up Turk. He later confessed to Carla that having a very young son at his age he was worried he was always going to be seen as an old man to his kids.
    • In the ninth season Dr. Kelso reached an older version of this, where he had to jump through some legal and medical hoops to keep his driver's license. He confessed to a med student that he hoped to never reach that point where he couldn't take care of himself like that.
  • On Sons of Anarchy this is a major issue for Piney and Clay who as founding members of the club are getting on in years. Piney is forced to carry an oxygen tank with him but can still ride a motorcycle so he is still considered a full member with voting rights. Clay has arthritis in his hands which makes riding a motorcycle difficult for him. If Clay can no longer ride a motorcycle, he will lose full member status and will not be eligible for his share of the profits from their criminal operations. While Piney is content to be a Retired Badass, Clay gets progressively more desperate and reckless as he tries to make enough money to afford retirement.

    Music 
  • Garth Brooks' song "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" is all about this trope - a cowboy starting to feel older and noting that his competition's getting younger.
    And the white line's getting longer and the saddle's getting cold
    I'm much too young to feel this damn old
    All my cards are on the table with no ace left in the hole
    I'm much too young to feel this damn old
  • Toby Keith's song "As Good As I Once Was" is about looking back fondly on the days when he could wade into bar fights without a care, or romance multiple ladies without a worry. He still has something in the tank — "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was" — but has to constantly fight between his mind's confidence and his body's limits.
  • Bob Seger's "Night Moves" reveals itself to be about this trope in the last lyrics. "Like a Rock" states it clearly... "Twenty years, now. Where'd they go?"

    Theater 
  • The Mrs Hawking play series: In Base Instruments Mrs. Hawking's slow recovery from an injury is a harsh reminder of how it's tougher to do superheroing when you're forty than when you're twenty. Her preoccupation with own eventual physical decline is what pushes her to try to mold Mary in her image.

    Video Games 
  • Lampshaded in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, where a much older Ezio Auditore from the previous two games nearly dies in the opening mission because his reactions are dulled with age and laments that "this used to be so easy".
    • It's also mentioned as early as the start of the previous game, when a doctor tells Ezio (at that point in his early- to mid-forties) that he can't just walk off injuries like he used to. Ezio's...a little offended by the concept.
    Ezio: Someone my age. Imbecille. [moments later while climbing up a wall] Ugh. My back.
  • Snake feels this way for the entirety of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, although his age is due to accelerated aging. For example, when he crouches and walks for too long, his back suffers, which didn't used to happen in previous installments. It also helps to mention that his hair is gray in this game just to add to the fact.
  • Tales of Vesperia: Raven is a veteran of "The Great War" in which he died, but was revived by Alexei, using a bohdi blastia for his heart, which takes place ten years prior to the events of the game itself. He's an interesting case in that he's not that old, only 35 at the start of the game. Nonetheless, that doesn't stop him from making quips about his age, such as complaining about his back or saying he's too old to keep up with Yuri and the others. None of which stops him from sniping enemies or making time for the ladies.
  • Raul Tejada in Fallout: New Vegas is a 200+ year old ghoul, but due to ghouls aging slower than humans he's probably equivalent to a 50 or 60 year old man. Either way, he certainly spends some time lamenting his old age and feeling like he's no longer any good in a fight, until the Courier completes his companion quest. Either you convince him to come around on the idea of getting old and retiring, which improves his skill as a repairman; or convince him that he's still got plenty of fight left in his creaky old bones, which boosts his fire rate with revolvers so high that the Courier can never match it no matter what stats and perks he/she has.
  • God of War Series: While still terrifyingly strong by normal-human standards, Kratos has become a fading shadow of his former mighty self by the time we see him Older and Wiser in the 2018 game. While still capable of a brisk jog, he is nowhere as fast or agile as he was in Ancient Greece and cannot even jump (much less double jump) anymore. More tellingly, the Warrior who once flipped over Titans the literal size of Mountains now visibly strains and struggles against Trolls no bigger than the Cyclopses he once casually knocked out, and most tellingly is visibly winded and exhausted after his bouts with The Stranger in spite of once not even breaking a sweat beating the life out of Hercules and Zeus himself; in their first fight alone, the Stranger repeatedly mocks him for being a slow old man.
    • Some of this seems to be a case of being rusty, as Kratos more readily handles the Stranger/Baldur in their subsequent rematches, and by the time he trounces him a third time, he is still standing tall. This can be attributed to his greater experience as a warrior and the assistance of his son, though he confides to Atreus soon after that he has only enough strength to finish their journey.
    • Throughout the game, Kratos is still fully capable of pushing building-sized objects with his bare hands, so he clearly has not lost his strength, and the developers have hinted that his reduced efficiency is more due to being out of practice than age.
  • In Devil May Cry 5, if Dante dies in-game one of the lines he might say is "Man, I'm old".
  • In the "Inheritance" chapter of Live A Live, the initial protagonist is an Old Master of Xin Shan Quan. He's still pretty badass but he's getting old and he knows it. The beginning of the chapter has him practicing his routine, ending with him trying to break a boulder...and fails. He takes this as a sign that it's time for him to pass on his art to the next generation. This is reflected in gameplay: he starts out strong at level 10 with a full set of techniques, but he cannot gain experience or increase his stats.

    Western Animation 
  • The ultimate reason Bruce Wayne retired as Batman in Batman Beyond. His last battle against generic thugs almost cost him his life after suffering a heart attack mid-way, forcing him to pull a gun on his attacker. His frustrations over his age form the primary dramatic thrust in "Out of the Past" when offered age reversal from Talia using the Lazarus pits. This makes for a memorable action scene that puts Bruce in proper fighting condition alongside Terry against a group of League of Shadow enemies.
  • Toph explains that this is the reason she and Katara, both of whom are now in their 80s, sat out much of the conflict in The Legend of Korra compared to their active roles in the original series when they were preteens, and even though Toph manages to completely curb stomp the much younger Korra in a fight she comments after that her back was about to give out.
  • In Star Wars Rebels "The Last Battle," Ezra notes that the Clone Wars-era droids they're fighting are beginning to break down; clone trooper Rex, now an old man, says it's not just the droids.
  • Recess has an episode where Miss Finster gets a hip injury, and has to hop around on crutches. After trying and failing to keep order on the playground like she usually does, she laments to Randall that when she was a young woman, she would just have walked off this kind of injury but she's too old and decrepit to just bounce back now. It gets to the point that the main cast feel too guilty to take advantage of Finster's injury and talk the other kids into behaving until she's back on her feet.

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