Reprinted with permission from the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor
I recently passed that dreaded mid-century milestone, and once I finished crying over the AARP application I received in the mail, I realized that 50 isn’t quite what it used to be. Neither is 40, 60, 70 and so on, for that matter.
It’s not just my fresh perspective on the matter; the numbers back it up. In 1910 the average life expectancy in the United States didn’t go much past 50. It jumped to 70 by the time I was born 50 years ago and the current number, according to worldlifeexpectancy.com, is 78.2. Wow. Maybe 50 really is the new 30.
If you take the cold data out of the equation, there are examples of 50, then and now, abounding — in my life and the world around us. When my own mother turned 50 she was living in a retirement park in Southern California with her husband. Although they were considered “the kids” in the neighborhood, the thought of myself in that situation is, well, unthinkable.
Instead of golf and hip replacements, I’m busy with my fourth-grade daughter and retirement is a fairy tale. Later motherhood is just one facet of the new 50. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) verifies a noticeable increase in births after 40. Whether it’s career, later marriage, or an altered biological clock, the reasons are irrelevant.
The fact is I’m definitely not the only mom rocking gray hair at the school pick-up line.
That’s another perk of being 50 today — many of us have forsaken the ritual dying of the gray. My hairdresser confirmed (sadly) that much of her clientele has decided to embrace the silver in recent years. But even with the gray it’s harder to tell how old anyone is. Colorado’s active, healthy seniors look great no matter how many laugh lines and gray streaks they sport.
Our brains are younger too, by the way. U.S. Department of Education statistics from 2010 showed that 25 percent of college students in this country are over the age of 30, and a good chunk of them are even older. Mature students seek the mental stimulation and are more committed to academic success (probably because we’re paying for it ourselves) and, like the current generation, enjoy reinventing ourselves every few years.
Sure, part of it is out of necessity. The recession and subsequent job loss has forced many people of all ages to rethink their career choice or up their educational value to stay competitive in the field. But it’s also made us more creative. Instead of swallowing a bottle of Geritol in the face of losing their job to a 22-year-old, more seniors are starting their own businesses or capitalizing on their years of experience by offering consulting services.
Let’s face it, the new 50 — or 60 or 70 — does not mean retirement age anymore. I couldn’t even find the word “retired” in the definition of AARP on their website. If this is the new 30 and the average life expectancy continues to rise, then people won’t be whiling away their days in a rocking chair until they’re edging toward the century mark.
Although putting my feet up and reminiscing sounds lovely right now, I’m afraid it will have to wait until after I meet today’s deadline at work and take my kid to her play date and happy hour with the girls and …
I guess I’m too busy having fun to get old.