how old is too old to be a resident?

I’m a bit hesitant to post this but I’m curious what people with more knowledge and experience have to say. I had a chat with my dad today. He’s a retired radiologist who trained in the 1940s and 50s and you might say he’s from the old school although he was relatively progressive in his day (color blind, innovative and fair in how he balanced the workload in his dept.). It was a difficult conversation for me.
He believes that medical school is not an option for someone in their mid-40s. Mid-30s, perhaps; late 20s, fine. If he were still working and saw a residency application from a 50-year-old he’d have serious reservations. The problem as he sees it is that a 50-year-old might not be up to the job. Too physically demanding. A 50-year-old is starting to develop health problems. A 50-year-old is not a hard worker like a 28-year-old. A 50-year-old won’t work long enough to even pay off his debts.
Kind people, how prevalent is this kind of attitude? How many late bloomers do you know who have become residents (by this I mean interns as well as residents, following the current AMA usage) and lacked the energy to do the work?
Personally speaking, I have a lot of energy, don’t sleep much, and am used to being up till all hours of the night working at software start-ups, or when playing music (or back in grad school for that matter). I’m not scared of that. And I don’t plan to retire for another 30 years, if I have my way. The question is, will I be greeted with closed doors when I graduate medical school 5-6 years from now?
Thanks for any advice!

Those attitudes I am sure that still prevail in some cases but I do not think that it is the current view for most residency directors. I know that Dr. Belle started her residency in general surgery at the young age of 50, and like you said there are many more healthy/active/energetic 50 year old individuals than 25 ones IMHO. I certainly hope that most residency directors have an open mind about different people, for I am considering a surgical specialty as a possibility in my near future…hopefully some OPM’ers in the know will reply to this post.

You know, I am really wondering about this “lack of energy as you age” thing. As I’ve commented before, I have not yet encountered a situation where I felt I could not keep up with my colleagues who are, by and large, at least 20 years younger than me. I think it’s possible to be a 48-year-old slug with little energy, adopting an aging mentality and lifestyle. I don’t think a person with such a mindset is likely to go into medicine. (said drily and with a cough)
I do think it is important to maintain good health. I feel better now than I did when I started because I’ve lost weight and make sure to exercise regularly. I intend to work hard to maintain this approach during my internship and residency, because I feel SO much better.
This keeps coming up as something that is said by older attendings. I wonder if perhaps THEY felt some waning of energy, not because they were really aging and out of shape, but because they’d been doing those jobs for quite some time and it was their interest that was waning? For example, you hear the OB who says she’s giving up delivering babies: “I am getting too old for that.” Well, you know, if I had been keeping erratic hours including being up all night unpredictably for perhaps twenty years, I’d be pretty sick of it too… and it seems like age gets the blame. I don’t know. I just know that it is fun and interesting to take care of people and for that reason, I haven’t run out of energy yet.
Afterthought: I had my kids when I was in my twenties. Now, I look at people MY age who have little ones and I promptly say, “Oh man how do they do it? I don’t have the energy for that!” Now the truth is that if I had to do it, I guess I would have the energy for it. But raising my three took a lot of energy at the time and I am plumb out of interest in that particular line of work. I guess I am illustrating my point that old attendings misinterpret waning interest as aging lack of energy. I dunno.