Walking into the Best Years…Maybe
The truths about aging to embrace
It feels like yesterday when I was twenty and thought no one over thirty could be trusted. A nanosecond later, the cashier at the grocery store assumes — correctly —that I am eligible for their senior discount for home delivery.
I walk to the grocery store — forty minutes each way to get my exercise in — and you’re damn right I take advantage of the free delivery. I am happy to give the delivery man a big fat tip when he drops the bags at my door.
If biologist Andrew Steele is correct, science will find a way within the next decade for us to live to 150. His book, Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old, discusses the rapid advances in biogerontological research and the treatments currently being developed to slow the progression or reverse aging. The possibility of living way past 100 is real—as are the implications for our planet.
This got me wondering about the advantages of being older.
Cinemas are closed where I live due to the pandemic, so I can’t take advantage of the senior discount they offer for Tuesday matinees. Ditto taking the bus with a senior discount — nowhere to go during a pandemic. And being Canadian, I don’t have to worry about qualifying for Medicare. We have free universal health care but don’t get me started about the free part (our tax dollars pay for that). So what are the advantages of living longer?
What about going back to being a younger age if I could? Well, I would need a genie in a bottle—and still, I’m not sure. “Sixty is the new forty!” Who said that? Sixty does not feel like forty or any other age — neither physically nor emotionally. In fact, forty was hell. I had little kids, a mortgage to pay, and a business to run. It was very hard. I would not go back there.
So what does it mean to get older?
I would say it means wisdom, survival, confidence and dry skin. I’ll leave the last one to beauty experts!
Wisdom appears to be nature’s gift to us as we age. As we get older, we get smarter, and it’s a direct result of living longer, experiencing more, but probably just trying longer. As older people confront different or new problems and situations, we have this pool of experience to rely on that we have gathered through the years. Wisdom is a priceless asset that makes being older a wonderfully rich experience, and you can’t buy that with a Mastercard.
Growing older means I have weathered the ups and downs of my life. It was (and still is) full of loves, losses, heartbreaks, accomplishments and failures. I am a survivor, and I know there is nothing to fear because I have made it so far. With age comes the realization I have come out on the other side, and I am stronger.
I feel like I am walking into the best years of my life. I am confident, I challenge myself, and I’m productive but much less stressed. I know what I value and how to prioritize things in my life. I know I want to make a difference in the lives of others — my family, friends, and people in the larger community. And I am putting the gift of compassion I have received as a result of life’s challenges to good use.
There is a pressure to fit as much in as I can, but it’s a different pressure than when I was younger and worried about getting through school, meeting the right guy, having kids, succeeding in my career and seeing if I could do it all. What I want now is so much more essential.
What I want guides the decision-making process for what I take on. I appreciate the luxury of thinking of myself first. Now I only do those things that contribute to how I want to feel and say ‘no’ to many people without regret.
For sure, the older you get, the faster time goes
The average life span of a Canadian is 83 years, and I have calculated I have approximately 7300 days left on this planet. That’s a very short amount of time. And if you are American, you have an average life span of 4 years less — perhaps because you don’t have universal health care — which should put even more pressure on some of you reading this. Brits, you can expect to be around until you are 81.
Feel free to do your own simple math: take your life expectancy minus your age and multiply by 365. That’s how many days you have to make the best of it.
The calculation of my remaining time leaves me with several stark realizations:
There’s a real-time constraint for me to get it all in. I am not at the point in my life when I can afford a five or ten-year detour.
There is pressure to make every day count. Whatever I do at this point in my life has to be intentional and well-done.
There is no quantifiable gain to putting anything off. Tomorrow is simply not guaranteed. Sorry to be all serious.
I need to grab all the joy possible, including using the best dishes every day and eating dessert.
It’s great to feel this kind of intensity.
Frank Lloyd Wright said this, and it’s so damn smart:
“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.”
I am not sure if I invested in beauty. At least, I don’t think I did it knowingly or deliberately. But I did invest in an optimistic spirit. And it has contributed to the beauty in my life — being happy, seeing the good in all creatures, and remaining intensely interested to learn all there is. I don’t think I am lucky. I worked damn hard to get here.
Sure, I fear cognitive decline. I think about it every time I walk into a room and can’t remember what I came to do or find. When my legs ache after a long walk, I wonder if this is the start of some kind of a physical decline that will have me using a walker or wheelchair when I am really old.
But mostly, I see the good parts. My spirit remains the same as it was at twenty, and I feel almost the same way about most thirty-year-olds. I am still me, but I am owning my age because there is a full life as a wrinkly person and it has many beautiful truths.
Wow! Thank you to all the new “subscribers.” I have decided to send out this weekly email on Sundays. Hopefully, it’s a day when you have some time to read. And thanks for the support. I have lots of stories planned. Don’t be shy! If you would like to share your story or passion, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (if you don’t hear from me use my personal email email@example.com because something screwed up).