Yes, there are older people who fit the stereotype: crabby, cranky, cross, and crumbling.
But there are many more that are fit, frisky, free and flourishing.
The oldest boomers turn 70 this year. In their youth, they were activists. Even those who didn’t come out to demonstrate were activists. They were going to consciousness raising groups. They were rethinking their role at home. They were supporting the civil rights movement. They were reading Ms. magazine.
So do you think that the generation who redefined traditional stereotypes and values are going to get old in a stereotypical manner? You bet your bippy they won’t.
They will and already are approaching “old age” with style.
“Indeed, ‘old’, ‘elderly’, or ‘senior’ are not in their vocabulary”, says 50plusconnects.com‘s president Dr. Elaine Rodino. “They will age to 90 and 100+ and still refer to themselves as “baby boomers.”
Boomers believe that age is not the defining factor; it’s what you do with your age that defines you. Free from the responsibilities of raising a family and maintaining a busy household, they are rocking. No, not in a creaky old rocking chair. It’s rocking that is groovy, living life to the fullest, pursuing their passions (use your imagination to define that in any way you wish).
Are they totally healthy and free from aches and pains? No, of course not. But instead of constantly complaining about them, they are going to the gym or yoga or Pilates to buff up and do what they can to alleviate the pain.
Equally importantly, they are staying mentally healthy and socially active. Some are still working at jobs they love. Some are volunteering for causes they believe in. Some are taking up creative pursuits. Some have amazing relationships with their children and grandchildren. Some are computer addicted, (defying another earlier stereotype that seniors can’t be tech savvy). Some are traveling extensively. Some are active on online dating sites, seeking new intimacy and companionship.
So, yes, you can be fit, frisky, free and flourishing when you are over 70. Of course it helps if you were that way when you were younger, for as people age they often say they still feel like they are 20-something inside, it’s just that their body is a bit slower and lower.
But about when you are in your 80’s? Surely, then you are old, decrepit, losing your mind and doing nothing productive.
Tell that to 85-year-old Christopher Plummer who when asked, “What has surprised you the most about being your age” replied, “The fact that there were no surprises surprised me. I don’t feel any older now or less flexible than I did when I was 60. It just goes on.”
Or, 86-year-old Frank Gehry, architect extraordinaire who when asked, “What has changed the most for you about your work since you hit your 80’s” replied, “Buildings take 7 years from the time you’re hired until you’re finished. There’s always that pause in my mind now when we get a new project. I think about it for a few minutes, then I say “Ah, screw it! Full speed ahead.”
Well, surely once you are in your 90’s, you will be old and frail and will spend your days going from doctor to doctor. For some perhaps, but not for 92-year-old Harriet Thompson who 3 weeks ago finished the San Diego marathon in 7 hours and 24 minutes. This spunky lady first began running at age 76 and has been tackling marathons annually ever since. Is she in perfect health? Of course not. She is a cancer survivor who still has painful wounds on her legs from treatment for squamous cell carcinoma. But still she runs, raising more than $100,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Ok, now over 100 has to be old, really old. Yes, but by then you will have the honor of being a centenarian. You will be treated with high regard and respect as everyone will want to know your secret for living a long life.
So, no matter how old you are, if you want to feel good about yourself, your body, your mind, your relationships, find activities you’re passionate about, find ways to pump yourself up by movin’ and groovin’ and make sure you have people in your life you enjoy being with. Then smile. You’re getting older. But you’re also getting fitter, friskier, freer, and flourishing.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
C. S. Lewis