People Are Live Longer and Healthier
Baby Boomers are Healthy and Young...Just Don't Call them Old
Almost universally, people viewed this period of life between 60 and 80, as positive and upbeat with one big caveat—you have to have your health—and being financially secure doesn’t hurt. The words “freedom” and “liberation” came up often as many see this stage as one where many of life’s responsibilities and obligations regarding family and work are lifted. It is a time of discovery, fulfillment, enlightenment, reflection, exploration, and opportunity. It is a time to give back and share the wealth of wisdom and experience acquired over a lifetime. It is a time of “re’s”: redirection, reinvention, rejuvenation, rewired, etc. A time to rekindle a passion from one’s youth, which got displaced when the priorities of family and work took center stage. It is a time of second chances. As one woman wrote, “It is a time to be ME!” A time to be free of worrying what others think or expect of you. In sum, it is a time of life that one should look forward to—not dread. As several people noted, “These are the best years of my life!”On the other hand, not everyone shared this optimistic outlook—those with health, financial, and family issues, don’t necessarily have the luxury to enjoy this stage of life.
Below is a sampling of submissions:
"Gee you look good"
I am 69 years old. For the last 20 years people I haven't seen in a while say, "Gee you look good." My response has always been there are three stages of life: Youth, Middle Age, and "Gee you look good."
"The Give Back Stage"
I feel that the majority of people over 60 (I'm 66) are giving back. Now don't get me wrong, we are also playing golf, swimming, walking, traveling, playing with the grandkids, etc.
We are products of the 50's when, for the most part, life was pretty good. Most of us have had some success, are now retired and are eager to give back what we can. We are excited about having the opportunity to help others, for you see most of our life we had to worry about going to work, keeping our heads above water, and providing for ourselves and our families. Now that we have done all that we are anxious to give something back. It wasn't easy, so we know there are people our there who need whatever we can give.
In the mornings as we get up we say to ourselves, "What can I do for someone today?" It's just a quiet feeling. So we do what we can and we do it quietly. We really don't need our deeds in the paper or on the airways.
Some of my friends work at the Salvation Army, the United Way, the Red Cross, deliver meals on wheels, volunteer at the local hospitals and nursing homes, help with the local Foster Grandparent Program, etc. Some just quietly help others less fortunate. They might get groceries, cut their grass, remove their snow from their walks, give them a ride into town, or just give them a listening ear by calling them on the telephone.
I think you would be hard-pressed to find people my age not giving back to their communities in some way.
That is why I think our stage is simple to name. Just call it The Give Back Stage. By the way, we are proud of it!
YOUNG is what we call 1-20. ADULT from 20-40. MIDDLE-AGED from 40-60 (though even that's a euphemism unless we live to 110). So what's wrong with being "old" from 60 to 80? At 71, if I'm not old, nobody is; why fear it and disguise it? Why would I want to be young, and inexperienced, and unwise?
A few years ago we went to the MD/Delaware beaches in the spring. We were delighted to see that seniors were welcomed everywhere. Finally it dawned on us that the seniors who were being welcomed were 18 not 80 (or 60 or 70).
Isn't it sad that they love being seniors and we are ashamed to be seniors? To us it's the best of times. We can now do what we want when we want to. We have the joy of children without the stress of parenting. We have the pleasure of friends without having to be nice to people we have no interest in. We can go to classes for the excitement of learning without the cramming to pass a test. It's a super time to be alive.
We find that young people assume that we are much younger than we are. And here's the joke: they envy us. They wish they had time to usher at the theater, to take long trips, to stay at home reading a good book on a cold day or to march on the mall for a cause we believe in on a sunny day.
Young people think that life will be over when they are our age. We thought the same thing when we were their age. How lucky we are to be seniors once again!
"The Freedom Years"
Someone has said that old age is a gift. I now believe that's true. For the first time in my life, I am becoming the person I have always wanted to be. As I've aged, I've become more kind to myself. I've become my own friend. I am sometimes forgetful, but some of life is just as well forgotten. I eventually remember the important things. I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn gray and to have my youthful laughs forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn gray. As I get older, it's easier to be positive. I care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've earned the right to be wrong. So I like growing old. I like the person I'm becoming. It is setting me free.
"The Third Age"
Our first age is youth. We learn, gather and develop skills for later use. In our second age we raise families and contribute to the economy and secure our future. In our third age we have the time, knowledge, skills, motivation and some wisdom to reach out beyond ourselves to better the future of the community. The challenge for baby boomers is to create opportunities for third-agers to get involved in community beyond the useful but mundane "volunteer" opportunities of the past. The third age means opportunity.
"The Experienced Generation"
The Experienced Generation because it best describes us. Our motto: Experience counts in business, education and community service. Training younger people, passing on their skills and knowledge and helping others defines us. EXPERIENCED CITIZENS.
"The Second Time Around"
I would name it "the second time around" because after all the lessons in life you have learned and all the things you realized you missed, you now have the chance to do it again or for the first time and really enjoy it and get it right. It can be the second time for love, for experiencing life and enjoying yourself with it, because you know who you are and aren't afraid to say it, feel it, and go after it. It can be the first time you run a marathon and feel the wind run through your hair. You don't care whether you place, it's not about winning, you just want to do it and finish! You can admit to your mistakes or say you are sorry and realize how good it feels and you wonder why you never did it before.
You can love life and know that sometimes it will be good and sometimes it may not be, but because you have experienced both before, you know how to handle it better because you are experiencing things "the second time around."
There's nothing wrong with the word "senior" (just drop the citizen) -- when we were seniors in high school or college we thought we were at the top of our game! Now being a "senior" you are at the top of the game called "life." As for elderly -- just drop the "ly." Being an elder denotes wisdom and experience, someone to admire and seek out for advice.
I am 52, and my life has just begun again! I have had a great life, but by no means do I think I am on the downhill. I have lots of things to still accomplish and I expect to continue to do many things as I get to my 60's and beyond. Just as my friends -- we know anything is possible. Age isn't what stops us -- it's when you don't believe you can that does, and that can happen at any age!
"The 'Moving On' Stage"
I am 73 years old and the words "old" and "older" never cross my lips. When people wonder how I can be so physically active and ask my age I respond by saying I am "Moving On" -- moving on from being a Senior Vice President of a bank to volunteering my time to raising money for a deserving charity here in Portland such as Loaves & Fishes and for a scholarship for a needy student at the University of Portland; moving on from triple bypass surgery to playing racquetball twice a week and golf twice a week; moving on from keeping up with business concepts and requirements to my hobbies of interest in current affairs and sports.
What gives meaning to this period of my life is: Freedom. Freedom to decide how and where to spend and enjoy every minute of this wonderful period in my life. "Senior citizens" should be replaced simply with the word "seniors" and the word "elderly" should be banished from our vocabulary.
As for society's expectation -- too many people expect older people to spend their lives in an armchair, and too often they are encouraged by too many other seniors who are always talking about growing old instead of looking at themselves as "Moving On" from a past that was too often controlled by others to new and exciting challenges that we ourselves decide to get involved with.
Peter M. Cullen
"The Age of Sharing"
The sharing process becomes more a part of the lives of those mature citizens who have passed 60. That sharing process goes both ways. We who are older can pass on what we have learned and experienced and also benefit from the life lessons of those who are younger than we.
The first test of a successful life will not be what we have gained but what we have shared. Furthermore, our spiritual commitment to serve others will help us overcome our greatest concern: the way our life will end.
Younger people wonder why we are still driving and having a good time. We wonder where the heck we left the car keys -- ha ha. I think the media portrays older people as dumb and stupid. The commercials on TV with older people always portray them as not being able to hear or understand what the heck is going on. The media needs to change their attitude toward older people. We are not all feeble and stupid. We lead productive lives. Sometimes we may wonder how we got ourselves into some situations, but we are smart enough to get ourselves out too.
I'd name the stage The Renaissance due to it being a new beginning or regeneration of one's life. No one is the same person, mentally or emotionally, at age 20, 30, 40, or even 50 as he or she is by age 60. This is about when we finally understand life well enough to appreciate its value. It can take a very long time to make sense of our life and world experiences and realize how they have shaped us and guided our choices. We have learned and witnessed so much, and gleaned bits and pieces from it all that we finally, in my words, actually know what we are talking about. This is exactly what gives tremendous meaning to this period of our life. As to replacing the words "senior citizen" or "elderly," that's a difficult question. How about "artisans?" These were the people actively engaged in the new beginning, which was the Renaissance.
Finally, society's expectation of and attitude toward older people should be one of finding within this age group teachers, mentors, and wise people from whom to learn. Additionally, society will find people with whom to see the world new and fresh and full of potential every single day.
Longevity does not focus on age. It refers to the spirit of the person. I want to live as long as I can. Why not?! I have friends, family, and health. There are people of all ages that are unhealthy, sad, or have forgotten how to enjoy life. As long as I can see a sunset, watch children grow, feel joy, I want to be here. The reason so many people have plastic surgery is because of perception. If you don't look a certain way, you are treated different. We have made progress in other forms of discrimination, why not age.
I now go to the doctor with my mom so they will treat her well. She is bright and is capable of making her own choices, but because of her age and some health issues, they act as if she cannot understanding anything. The workplace is another area that needs to change. We are going to be around a while, so deal with it. And surprise, surprise, getting older is something none of us can stop.
"The Experior Age"
By combining the words experience and superior, I feel the "experior" years says it all. It gives an aura of respect to those who have gone before us. Isn't experience the best teacher?
Doesn't the word superior bring the word respect to mind? Instead of looking at our senior citizens as a group of "has-been's" we can redefine them for who they truly are...the voice of experience and authority and superiority. They have so much to teach, to share, to give, to all of us who aren't there yet. Let's redefine the "older generation" for who they truly are! Let's give them back what they truly deserve: respect.
"The Age of Maturity" or "Mindfulness"
Persons who reach 60+ in good health - mental and physical - have cumulative life knowledge and experiences; both good and bad, and most have learned much from these "lessons" in life. They tend to be more mindful of their approach to life at this point, they tend to be more conscious and intentional about the decisions they make, they tend to plan their future and are more genuine in their relationships and interactions with others. They take the time to listen and learn from others, but also are willing to share what they have learned, valuing the past but letting go of the things that are negative. They adjust to changes and don't sweat the small stuff. They live their lives with more integrity and gratitude. People are more meaningful than work or material things. They are elders, and society should ditch attitudes that promote ageism; cultivating instead attitudes of respect for those lived lives and gain from spending time with and learning from those lives instead of considering these years as the years of demise and decline; a reframing of this time in life as "growing whole" instead of "growing old."
"The Youth of Old Age"
I began sculpting at the age of 60. I will be 62 next March and for the first time in decades I am living my dream of being a full-time fine artist. This is by no means a frivolous undertaking. I am a divorced woman with no retirement, no investments, and no inheritance. I have taken equity out of my house to support myself while I develop my art. I feel compelled to take this risk because there will never be a better time. I still have my health, my strength and a strong belief in what I am doing. It's like being young again.
I don't know the statistics, but I'm guessing that only a small percentage of us have followed our true path, our heart's desire. We got sidetracked by earning a living, pleasing a parent or spouse and raising a family. Some of us got back to the path in our 50's when the pressures of child rearing were past. Those who missed that juncture might take this time to re-evaluate their lives as they move firmly past middle age.
What did you want to be or do when you were 13? Forget being reasonable. This is not the time for it. Remember what it was that fascinated you then -- does it give you a small thrill deep in your gut to think about pursuing it now? If so, you have rediscovered your true path. Honor it, give it your passion and devote your resources to it. By doing so you will enter into the youth of old age with energy and vision.
From 60 on, the focus seems to be more about leaving behind something of self, some remnant of who we are. We want family and friends, as well as community, to remember that we were here and contributed in some way toward making things better. We have a desire to impart a bit of our life to those we care about. It's not that we feel highly intelligent or proclaim expertise that must be captured and preserved. The legacy we want to share as we walk the latter path of life has more to do with who we have become. It's about passing along the significance of what we did with what we were dealt in life. If we used our years well and accomplished great things, we want to share the wisdom we gleaned in doing so. On the other hand, the difficult years that may have hindered success have provided valuable insight that needs to be handed down as well.
The things that give meaning to this period of life are relationships, spiritual connection, inner reflection and concern for others. Society promotes youth and it expects us to become senescent, often ignoring our presence. Patriarchs are made fun of in commercials, sequestered in nursing homes and cliched as "over the hill." Those who do so will eventually enter this period of life themselves.
I would like to be called a Sentry (guardian of a legacy) or a Legacite. These give more credence to a person who hands down wisdom derived from decades of living.
"Legacy Launchers" puts more emphasis on time spent with people. Things that were a priority a decade ago no longer hold us captive. We value life in a new way and begin to launch a legacy that links us to those we leave behind.
I teach a class on aging to elementary students, and I like to use the term "experienced adults" instead of senior citizen or elderly. People that age have so much knowledge and experience to share. If they have their health, they are hard to keep up with because they are so active! Experienced adults know what is important in life. The attitudes toward getting older are slowly changing for the better. It is becoming such a large segment of the population that advertisers and retailers need to tap into that resource, instead of the younger generation. It would help if more ads, TV shows and movies were about people aging gracefully.
"The Bonus Years"
If you are fortunate enough to have maintained good health and are relatively financially secure, these years will offer the opportunity for further education and participation in a range of activities and causes that you never had time for when you were focused on earning wages and supporting a family. It's like getting a bonus in your life's paycheck!
"My Next 20 Years"
...Because I turn 60 in November 2006.
I will never respond well to senior citizen or elderly. In fact, I don't even like the term "boomer" or "baby boomer." How about just a guy who's turning 60, who looks 50 and thinks 30?
"The Age of Wisdom"
The only meaning at this stage of life is family, friends, and community and the ability to make any contribution to your community that leaves it a better place than you found it.
New name: Does it matter? Not to me. "Seniors" is just fine.
"The Chance to Fulfill Your Lifelong Dreams"
I turned 60 years of age on December 5th and I am very proud of my age. I want to finally find my singing voice (a gift from my father) and be a singing activist. I am proud to be 60 in a time when our life expectancies are longer so this age is not considered old as in another time. I always tell everyone that I will never be old, only older...it is a matter of attitude. The thing that I have noticed about the aging process is that everyone is treated by their physical appearance. I am concerned about the message that we are giving to our youth -- this obsession with wanting to look young. We have to tell them that it is not a bad thing to get older. In the end it is not your physical appearance that counts...it's what good you have done in your life.
"The EngAged Generation"
Baby Boomers don't recognize retirement. They don't want it and don't contemplate it. Boomers see their future as another life opportunity, not a reduced life experience. They want to work and play until they can't do either anymore. They want to play softball, not ride around in a golf cart. They view the future in images depicting healthy activity, civic involvement, and volunteering to help the younger generation get it right.
Boomers made risky investments and took chances that their parents never would have considered. Their economic legacy is that the stock market and the value of real estate advanced 1,000 percent during Boomer's working years. Most have benefited from this largesse. They are educated and sophisticated like no other American generation.
Now is their time to be free to think about new possibilities and horizons. Most will have accumulated enough wealthy to live a comfortable retirement, yet leisure and comfort will not satisfy them. They will require new and intriguing challenges to sustain and satisfy their desire to make things happen. No longer tied to economic necessity, they will see that there are meaningful and fulfilling roles to be played in their communities, and they will be energized by these new responsibilities. They will run for local school boards and serve as mentors to youth. They will speak at public hearings and seek creative methods to positively impact their neighborhoods. They will see older, vulnerable and dependent elders as future versions of themselves and be motivated to reach out and help not only their own parents, but also those who have no one to call a "family."
They will be EngAged, not aged, and represent our greatest emerging national resource.
"Post Middle Age"
So many people in that age group are not elderly, retired or even senior, for that matter. Senior citizen implies the oldest citizens, and 60-80 no longer carries that distinction.
People in this age group will continue to work or do volunteer activities. The baby boomers entering this age group will not retire in the current sense of spending their time playing cards or golfing. This term represents those seniors who are still earning money or earning intangible rewards through their volunteer efforts.
I would be totally free of the corporate world that demands you smile at people you do not like, make jokes with people you do not think are funny and you would have the freedom to write letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines without fear of repercussions. It would mean freedom from taking care of your kids. Not freedom from the worry of yours kids, but you would be at a stage that you have given them the rules of life, the ticket to the show. Now it is up to them if they play by the rules or make it to the show on time. You always love and worry for them, but you cannot be the one to do it at this stage. It would be freedom to enjoy time, volunteer and help folks for the joy of it, not because your company is gaining a metric with their publicity department. Life would now be a time to come and go and do as you please. The boundaries are off. The meaning to this stage of life would be to "pay it forward." To be able to guide children who need extra attention, to volunteer in a way that enables parents of sick kids to take some time off -- there are so many everyday people that need the gift of time. My time to take over whatever it is they do in life for a few hours or a day would give a purpose to my life. Time is the best gift anyone can have. My 60's-80's would be my time to give that gift to those who need it.
Your recent article on life after 60 really caught my eye. I am only 19, so I am a long way from 60, but I have an aunt who just turned 84. For her, her years after 60 have been the best of her life. For the last 20 years she has been the director of a senior citizen tap and jazz dance group called the High Steppers. They are a group of about 13, all in their 70's and 80's, who dance all around the state of New Jersey. They have performed at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City four times, the PNC Bank Arts center, and have even submitted a tape to President Bush, in which they were dancing to "God Bless Texas." In addition to higher profile venues, they perform regularly at nursing homes and senior citizen meetings, as well as performing for children with disabilities at a local school.
For her work she has received 28 commendations as well as recognition from the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Governor of New Jersey.
Whenever I speak to my aunt, she always says that dancing has made her life complete. She loves what she does and she wouldn't trade it for the world.
"The Older Generation"
I am 81 years "old," however I don't think of myself as "old," only "older."
My note would be to refer to us as "the older generation." I live with my glass half full. One's health and attitude is indeed the name of the game.
"The P.S. Generation"
The "Post-Sixty" Generation should be known as the "P.S. Generation," or the PSer's, because just like in a letter, the acronym P.S. means more to come.
Johanna Westcott, Age 13
When I reached 65 in reasonably good health I decided to leave the field of education and realize my life's dream. I bought a 51-acre farm in Burlington County and became a sheep breeder. Why not? What was I saving my money for? Wasn't it about time for me to do exactly what I wanted? How much longer did I have in life to put off the things I really wanted to do? These and other questions passed through my mind on a regular basis.
All of my life I have had to keep my nose to the grindstone and do the things necessary to get an education and raise a son, be a wife and keep a home. Most of my life's energy flowed into the lives of other people and the responsibilities of my profession. Seldom did I do exactly what I wanted to do just because I wanted to do it. There was always some responsibility I had to meet or standard to which I had to qualify.
Now I can finally say this is my life. That to me is freedom. It came a bit late in life, but it's here to stay. It is not selfish or reckless to want to spend my remaining years raising sheep and enjoying life on my farm. I did my bit educating special needs youngsters for 35 years. I earned my doctorate at night school from Teachers College Columbia University and paid for it with my hard-earned money. I loved my work and the students whose lives I touched.
But now, I truly have the life that hid deep within my heart for 65 years. I have my farm and my animals. My adult son and I have developed a very nice farming reputation and a successful sheep breeding program. Our lives are full of California Red Sheep, Cormo Sheep and a small flock of Angora Goats. I found renewed energy in the study of animal science and the daily hands-on care of our 90 animals.
What a joy it is to breathe the air in our barn and help bring a tiny little lamb into the world. It is one more of God's creatures placed upon the earth through the miracle of nature. What a privilege it is to live long enough to become a part of this oldest of professions. I am a shepherd at 69 years of age and hope to spend many more happy years fulfilling my dream. When self-actualization comes at the end of it it is all the sweeter.
Elizabeth J. Ferraro
"Give Back Years"
I would call it the "Give Back Years." In our earlier years we are the beneficiary of parenting by our family, schooling by our teachers, training by our colleagues and coaching by our mentors. We build experience, know-how, and learn what life is all about.
In our 60+ years we are able to pass these values on to the next generations by being a mentor to someone else, helping those in need, giving to a worthwhile cause and making this world a better place than the one we started with.
I have heard the years between 60 and 80 referred to as the "Bonus Years." For many fortunate seniors this is the time when one can retire, have good health and afford to do many of the things that have remained on the back burner through the years of working, raising kids, taking care of aging parents and generally giving oneself to everyone and everything else.
When I retired from 30 years as a secondary educator, I was ready for some ME time.
I found a group of senior ladies dubbed the Happy Trails Hikers (and cross-country skiers). They pulled me into their circle and have opened doors to adventure ever since. We hike every Thursday during the summer and cross-country ski at least once a week at our nearby trails center during the ski season. We plan several out of town trips each year as well. We have formed a strong, supportive bond and are there for one another for the good times as well as those tough life transitions.
I also volunteer in the National Parks. Without the many hardworking senior volunteers, I believe the parks would have to shut down as funding gets cut year after year. There is a crying need for willing workers in virtually every aspect of our society, especially in the aftermath of Katrina and other devastating natural disasters. There are also many people in our own communities who need support as well as the talents and wisdom of seniors. All the members of my adventure group actively volunteer many hours to our community.
Come ski with us!
Dorothy M. Bullard
I think Gail Sheehy's phrase "The Age of Mastery" is great.
I'm a 60-year-old woman, closer to 61. I live in the foothills of Bozeman, Montana. In the past few years I've mastered gardening, ballroom dancing and horse training. These are activities that had interested me all of my life, but foolishly I thought I couldn't make a living doing these "frivolous" things.
As this is the last quarter of my life and I'm free of a confining relationship in marriage, seeking out these three interests has been a joy. I make my living grounds keeping a large estate. I live on the property in a cabin provided by my employers. I can keep my horse on the property, in my 100-acre backyard. I've become a Level 3 student in Parelli Natural Horsemanship, and I set up the clinics for this instruction. The second job as a clinic coordinator has blossomed into a healthy supplement to my income plus the continued instruction and experience I gain in these clinics is terrific. It provides progressive learning.
The ballroom dance is so much fun and a major source of winter activity during the week. This season, I'm taking Cha Cha, Salsa, Rumba, and Bolero. I belong to the Formal Dance Club and go to most every Formal Dance hosted by this group. We all dress to the nines, ladies in formal gown and jewels, men in tuxedoes. We dance to live music and have, pardon the expression, a ball.
No way would I have done this before becoming a "seasoned silver," my descriptive for this stage of life. Splitting with my former husband had a lot to do with it. He unfortunately embraced being "old," infirmed and wanting a caretaker/wife. Perhaps if I hadn't lived 23 years under these deteriorating circumstances I wouldn't have had such a boomerang reaction to breaking out of that mold...who knows?
Anyway, it's a blessing to be where I am physically, spiritually, and psychologically. It's my practice when I leave the house to present an image that encourages younger females to say, "That's what I want to be when I grow up."
I'm thrilled that I'm in this stage of life. Confidence comes late, but it's solid, and confidence is self-nurturing.
Thanks for caring about this, wish more cosmetic, fashion people and the movie industry did as well. They should, because this is a growing demographic with expendable income for such things.