One of the reasons old age is reviled in our society is that people believe old age is going to be, should be, just like the rest of adulthood. But it isn't supposed to be the same at all! Why would we believe that?
Through the decade of the 20s, we homo sapiens establish ourselves as adults, begin the process of putting roots down, completing our educations, building our fiefdoms, finding mates and getting a grip on the world of adult responsibility.
In our 30s we expand our fiefdoms, climb the ladders of success, spiral outwards in all directions until our lives are so busy, so full, active and demanding, we're ready to blow a fuse.
Then come the 40s. Middle age. Yeah. Many people continue the work of the 30s, expanding outwards, but the major task of that decade is building character. In order to get old, you MUST have character, hence the 40s are challenging. They're great years in which, simply by accruing the mileage, those paying attention are at last mature enough to face the truth, that life is passing by.
In their 40s, people look at their lives in shock. Wait! What about the plan to live half the year in Paris by age 40? What about the career as a brain surgeon or opera singer? During the 40s, the lovely fantasies of youth shrivel up and drop away. The mid-life crisis is borne of this visceral experience of mortality. We can dye our hair, buy a sports car, have an affair - none of any of that has the slightest impact on the inexorable passage of time. In the 40s, people begin to gather wisdom. You have to or you won't make it to old age!
The 50s are great. All those musings about the life not lived are no longer that interesting. People in their 50s often find themselves able to accept their lives and understand completely that things could be worse, or better, but are probably pretty fine just as they are. I have loved my 50s.
I know plenty of Washingtonians in their 50s who are struggling with the idea of slowing down a little bit, taking things down a notch. They're still flogging themselves at work, exercising harder than ever before, trying to Make. Time. Stop. I wish them well, but please! It's exhausting to work so hard once we've reached the 50 year mark. It's natural to slow down. Those who learn to kick back little by little will be far better prepared for retirement than those who must go full tilt into everything at all times. No wonder they think aging is so awful!
Can we dance gracefully with the passage of time? Why not? Why should early old age be exactly like early middle age?
I look forward to my 60s but have no idea what's ahead since what I read and see advertised makes it seem like I'm doomed to slather on the "anti-aging" creams, swallow anti-aging potions, dig in my heels and fight the clock for the rest of my lifetime. Ah. Just as with the mid-life crisis, I doubt seriously that any of these strategies do anything but make people feel worse. I suppose it's possible I will someday think longingly about plastic surgery, but I kind of doubt it. Yes - watching the body age is unnerving at times. Living inside an aging body is equally unnerving at times. At other times it's a blessing. I do NOT miss hormones!
The aging mind is excellent!
Here's the thing: every age has its pluses and minuses. That includes old age. My intention is to get into it as much as possible, savor the salty concentration of my youthful juiciness. I plan to laugh more with each passing year, to let go. In very old age I see myself cooking, reading, listening to a lot of music and smoking as much dope as I damn well please. Marijuana will be legal by then, I'm sure of it.
Old age is going to be fine! What's the big deal? You tell me. Shalom.