...they simply fade away.
There are many mentions in this blog of how young humans can be when they start to translate, but how old can they get before they lose the power? There's only been one post that suggests an answer to the latter question, the one about the Spanish lady in her seventies who spontaneously interpreted for another guest at a dinner. (To find it, enter "age limit" with the quotation marks in the Search box on the right.)
When I was in my fifties, I met a Professional Translator in Toronto who was in his eighties and still working. I expressed surprise that he'd gone on for so long. He replied, "One of the good things about translation is that you can go on doing it to an advanced age."
I've known one or two conference interpreters who were still working in their seventies, but none who was older. However, that's not necessarily an indication for written translation, because interpreting is much more high speed; and furthermore it's of the nature of a performing art with the stress that playing to a public imposes. Both the professional associations I belong to have a category for 'retired' or 'senior' members, but that doesn't tell us how many of them have stopped translating entirely. In any case, the limit for Professional Translators may not be the same as for Natural and Native Translators.
One piece of data I am sure of, though. This week I'll be 82 myself. I long ago gave up conference interpreting, but I still do some community interpreting and I translate. I have to thank many people for helping me get so far, but first of all my parents, for bequeathing me their genes and arranging for me to be born under the sign Gemini, which is an ideal sign for translators. I once read in a horoscope book that the ideal careers for Geminis included interpreter and international telephone operator, and I've been both. Of course my parents also did a lot of other things for me.
This week I'll again be interpreting for the Englishman who's stricken with dementia in a Spanish coastal resort. (For the earlier posts about him, enter Cullera in the Search box on the right). But not medical interpreting. This time I'll be a Community Native Interpreter between his wife and the local social services.
This week I'll still be translating and certifying documents for Spanish doctors who are going to work or study in Canada. This is because the Canadian medical authorities won't accept translations done by a Spanish official translator; they have to be done by a Canadian one. It's tit for tat really, because the Spanish authorities and courts will only accept translations by a Spanish sworn interpreter. This widespread international non-recognition is something the International Federation of Translators should campaign against. However, it's a turf conflict that only affects Professional Translators, so no more about it here.