I’m a senior. Yes, it’s true. I’m older than 55. Actually, older than 60. There, I’ve said it. I have knees that don’t always want to support me and joints that ache. I’m taking some meds on a regular basis. My body shows signs of my biological age, but my spirit doesn’t. It’s still kicking around inside, threatening to break out and occasionally it does. I recently went flying in a Stearman biplane. This wonderful flying machine is actually older than me.
One of my best friends Marianne Clyde is preparing to trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest this fall. She’s doing it as part of a fundraising effort by World Hope International to bring awareness to the shortage of water worldwide. We just had some work done at the house and the contractor is in his late 70s. I wrote a feature not long ago about a fellow in his 90s who is still mowing the lawn and climbing up on his roof. And then there’s my favorite actress Sophia Loren. At 84, she’s coming out with a new film next year produced by her son, Edoardo Ponti. Charming. The film, titled “La vita davanti a sé” ("The Life Ahead"), will see her as Madame Rosa, a wheelchair-bound Holocaust survivor who befriends a 12-year-old Senegalese immigrant.
I’m happy to report that our creative capacity doesn’t dissipate in the slightest. Remembering my philosophy classes from college, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, as one example, published some of his greatest works between ages 60 and 80. Yeah, still time to finish my novel.
Apparently, we’re part of a tsunami of older Americans living longer and living healthier. That’s the key. I read a recent statistic that said if you are relatively healthy at age 55, you have a solid chance of making it to 85 and remaining healthy.
My father was happy to retire from the federal government in the early 70s. While he drove my mother crazy until they settled into a comfortable retirement rhythm, he had plenty of time to hit the golf course, travel to Hawaii, and make the family huge Sunday brunches. He also had time to perfect his slingshot skills as he targeted backyard squirrels and the neighbor’s cat from harassing his new friends – the blue jays. He also fed them peanuts. This friendship and connection with nature went on for years.
Another thing I’ve learned is that they are called the golden years for a reason. Aging has its perks. We’re pretty good at using what we’ve learned. It’s called crystalized intelligence and it just keeps getting better with age.
Grumpy? According to WebMD, we’re likely to be more agreeable at least through our 60s. We’re happier and less likely to get angry. Perhaps it’s because we’re more focused on getting the most out of life.
Sexy? As older women we may have less sex than when we were younger but, again, according to a study at WebMD, researchers found that sexual satisfaction improved with age. Women over 80 were more likely than those between 55 and 79 to say they were satisfied during sex.
Still working? Not everyone dreams of retiring. According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, there are 1.2 million people 75 and older who work full- or part-time. This year, according to the National Council on Aging, more than 40 percent of Americans 55 plus will be working, making up more than 25 percent of the U.S. labor force.
Societal norms and statistics had many of us believing that at some numerical age, most likely 65, that we should step out of the work world and collect social security and maybe move to Ecuador. The reality is that, for many, it’s not financially feasible. Retiring can have other negative consequences. It may not be the best thing for your health unless you have a fun second career or interest. A study called the Longevity Project found that people who work hard at a job they enjoy live the longest.
I had tea the other day with a local business woman, who nearing 76, looks forward to all that is ahead. “I’m happier than ever,” she said smiling.
I’ve always been an advocate for no ends, just a series of new beginnings. So that brings me to this special section on senior living that we’ve put together particularly for all of us seniors, oldsters, boomers or wise enlightened ones.
Enjoy and let’s keep living, learning, and loving!
Reach Anita Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org