Old Age Isn’t So Bad When You Consider the Alternative

Maurice Chevalier? Harry Oliver? Louis Calhern? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following piece of humorous proverbial wisdom has been attributed to the film star Maurice Chevalier. Here are three versions:

(1) Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.
(2) Growing old isn’t so terrible — when you consider the alternative.
(3) Old age is better than the alternative.

Is this ascription accurate? When did this remark originate?

Quote Investigator: There is evidence that Maurice Chevalier did deliver this comical line by 1959; however, the quip was already in circulation. The earliest citation located by QI was published in 1952 in a Long Beach, California newspaper. The columnist did not provide an ascription and stated that the phrase was already in use: 1

The situation reminds me of that famous quotation: “Growing old isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.”

In March 1953 a newspaper in Ottawa, Kansas printed an instance of the remark without ascription as a short filler item: 2

Growing old doesn’t seem quite so bad when you stop to consider the alternative.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Old Age Isn’t So Bad When You Consider the Alternative


  1. 1952 August 2, Long Beach Press-Telegram, In the Spotlight: Arati Saha Also Can Claim Olympic Mark by Fred Delano, Quote Page B-2, Column 1, Long Beach, California. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1953 March 20, The Ottawa Campus, (Freestanding comical remark), Quote Page 2, Column 3, Ottawa, Kansas. (NewspaperArchive)