It took about 2 weeks for me to download and verify the full blockchain on my 2011 iMac HD (no ssd), but I can proudly say that I'm now running a full node and it feels good. I highly recommend others to do the same and support the bitcoin network. If I can do it on my old machine, so can you. (assuming you have the hd space and bandwidth).
As others have mentioned, changing the dbcache value up to 50% of your available RAM while verifying helps. You can set it in the preferences (no need to use command line). And just let it run. I have seen no drops in internet performance during the dl and sync, but I have a fast connection (70Mb/s) so it's not the bottleneck.
It's a testament to the technology of Bitcoin that I can independently verify 8 years of global financial transactions on a 6 year old PC.