“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” Henry David Thoreau
Another year, another birthday. Every year as another birthday approaches, it confirms what my mother once told me, “The older you get the faster time goes.”
Which brings to mind George Harrison’s lyrics: “Each day just goes so fast, I turn around it’s past.”
Though there are those who prefer that the only thing they want for their birthday is not to be reminded of it. That may be on the minds of the first Baby Boomer wave who arrived at a milestone this year.
The first signpost of growing old came after decades of being a devoted fan of rock and roll when I began to take little notice of up-and-coming artists in the 1990s, preferring the classic rock bands and music of my g-g-g-generation.
In fact, all it takes is one song to bring back memorable moments.
It struck a chord again that I was past middle age when professional sports managers and coaches were generational peers and rookies young enough to be my children.
Emerging movie stars were also half my age 25-30 years ago.
There’s no elixir or concoction to postpone the aging process, but I don’t see myself or my peers as old as our parents seemed at our age. Of course, I’m looking at it from a Monday morning perspective.
If biologically feasible, delayed aging might be uppermost on a few bucket lists — as long as good quality health could be maintained. I can’t imagine it’d be much fun living longer if you’re experiencing chronic maladies, serious afflictions or worse.
Some might prefer wealth as a life altering option, but money, as The Beatles reminded us two generations ago, can’t buy love nor does it assure happiness or excellent health to enjoy it.
Of course, as fast as science and technology advance, who knows what’s in store to prolong life in the next 50 years.
In just the last half century, the average life span has been extended at least five years since the first Baby Boomers were born. It is estimated that by 2040, the average life span of Americans will be 84 for women and 80 for men, which makes 41-42 middle age.
Today, however, some treat aging as something to be ashamed of or vain about, validated by escalating cosmetics and pharmaceuticals that superficially delay the aging process. There are an estimated 20 million cosmetic surgeries annually. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good, but though Botox, collagen or cosmetic surgery offer temporary beauty and may boost one’s self-confidence, ultimately, they can’t suspend the natural aging process.
When you read the fine-print disclaimers (with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses) for those products, you realize they’re not magic concoctions or unattainable fountains of youth.
Regrettably, our culture stigmatizes aging like it’s a plague. Movies, television and other forms of entertainment typically promote superficial and external characteristics. But what is often overlooked coinciding with wrinkles, gray hair and other traces of aging, are experience and wisdom that eludes youth. The chief reason youth is coveted and targeted by advertisers is because younger spenders, with fewer responsibilities, tend to have more disposable incomes than their elders.
After this year’s Academy Awards presentations, a controversy ensued about Hollywood’s lack of diversity in the Oscar nomination process, but the movie industry should be held equally accountable for ignoring performers over 40, instead of treating them like they’re over the hill or washed up, by rarely offering them coveted starring roles.
A study of the top100 grossing movies of 2015 revealed that only 11 percent of major speaking roles went to actors over 60. Worse, only 27 percent of some 4,000 roles went to women over 40. The only actresses over 60 to star in those films were Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and the lesser known Lin Shaye. Yet, actors over 60, like Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Michael Keaton, continually land leading roles more often, and are often paired with actresses young enough to be their daughters, who are sometimes depicted as their lovers. Sorta like art imitating life.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the workplace in the next decade as some Baby Boomers, out of financial necessity, remain in the workforce to reinforce savings even as they reach the traditional retirement age of 65. Will employers force them out as part of the “natural order” for younger replacements with lower pay scales or allow them to stay and leave on their own? Up until now, the courts have not been as generous with age-discrimination lawsuits as they have with claims of sex and racial bias. With an aging population, perhaps that perspective will be softened.
I’ve met people older than me who seem younger because of their attitude, yet I also encounter people younger than myself who act like old fogies — and they’re only in their 40s!
We can’t do anything about getting older, but we don’t have to get OLD.
When I get together with friends I’ve known since junior high school, and their wives, they don’t appear as old as their chronological ages, perhaps because that would make me old, too.
When I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself as old in the context of what I thought was old when I remember my grandparents. Heck, they were old when I met them as a child!
Does that mean 70 is the new 50?
I prefer the mind-set that one is as only as old as one feels. There’s that adage that goes: Just because there’s snow on the roof, doesn’t mean there’s no fire in the furnace.
That may have a sexual innuendo, but it could also apply to one’s fire for life, which shouldn’t diminish regardless of age. When that fire is quenched, you are old!
It’s also helpful to remember what Mark Twain said on the subject: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind it, it doesn’t matter.”