Aging is inevitable. I loved turning fifty, I didn’t even mind sixty but seventy has to be the best of all. I even check my driver’s license to make sure that I am 70. This has nothing to do with any external process I’ve had done to keep me looking fewer years than I am. Unless you count cataract surgery… and that really only helped me see clearly how old I am.
What are the keys to aging gracefully and authentically?
One key is attitude. One key is fitness and perspective. One key is continuing to learn and to be interested in the world outside your abode, your small universe.
I don’t have these issues nailed but I do aspire to have them core to my existence. That’s what we are talking about here.
It’s odd now to read a book and come across the phrase, “an elderly lady of sixty.” That doesn’t seem elderly to me anymore! Everyone I know and hang with considers elderly to be about 15 years older than their current age. Whatever that age happens to be.
Again, attitude is everything . . .
The information above also applies to men. Fortunately, I get to relate and share in lives of many retired women and men in similar age groups. That is one of the benefits of living in an active retirement community. My husband plays tennis and is on a men’s team here. While I didn’t begin tennis in earnest until my sixties he has played for a long time.
He recently returned to the tennis court with other guys at his level both older and younger than he is. He was out for a couple of months following shoulder surgery. One of the octogenarians he plays with asked him how he was doing. My husband responded that his serving shoulder was a little stiff. The response: “Is that all you got?” “I got one lung and had a quadruple bypass last year!”
There is no room for complaining or kvetching about “stuff” when surrounded by others who are living positively with similar experiences. We are all busy playing and learning or helping and visiting or bicycling and travelling. Certainly, if someone experiences an illness or injury, a dozen friends will be there to give assistance but overall the outlook is positive and the expectation is to be positive. Those that are the most positive are the ones who affirm life for everyone else and in turn they reap the benefit themselves.
We’re living longer . . .
Lydia Bronte, author of The Longevity Factor, points out how our lives are growing longer. Longevity increased during the 1900s more dramatically than at any other time in recorded human history. In less than 100 years, the length of adult life has doubled. We’ve gone from an average life expectancy of 47 to one of 76, and still climbing. From 1900 to 1994, we added 29 years – almost three decades to life expectancy.
The extra time starts to click in around the age of 50. And to make it even better, even though we live to an older chronological age, for reasons scientists don’t yet understand, that extra time for most is not spent in old age.
“If you ask, ‘what is the single most important key to longevity?’ I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”
American actor and humorist George Burns, who lived to age 100.
And we’re living better . . .
It is actually a second “middle age.” The first middle age is from 35 to 50; the second follows that before reaching old age somewhere above 70. In other words, it is not unusual to have more than one peak with multiple opportunities to peak throughout our longer lives. I found this very exciting and encouraging. At 73, I may still make the senior tennis pro-tour.
According to Bronte, here are some well know examples of those later in life achievements.
- Dr. Linus Pauling made a discovery in his early 30’s for which he subsequently won a Nobel Prize. Pauling went on to make other scientific discoveries and then in his late 40’s took ten years to go around the world speaking on behalf of world peace for which he won a second Nobel Prize.
- Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov started shaping his career in his early 30’s then continued at his craft producing until he died at 72
- Julia Child is an example of peaking again after 50. She discovered French cooking and trained as a chef, founded her own cooking school and worked on a cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking published when she was 50. She then began her TV series. Her career lasted into her 80’s.
- John W. Gardner was president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. In his late 40’s he wrote Excellence: Can We be Excellent and Equal Too? He went on to become the Secretary of HEW in Washington. At 79 he accepted a professorship at Stanford University Business School.
There are countless stories about the joys of reinvention after “retirement age.” So I’m hoping to keep on reinventing myself forever. How about you?
Dixie and Pam