Refining The Aging Process

Bummed about growing older?  I thought so…  Me too… Boomers are a rather depressed lot.  We’ve long believed we were not going to grow old like our parents and grandparents did.  We were different.  Growing old was something other generations did—but never us.  “You’re not getting older…you’re getting better.”  Remember that?  It was an ad slogan conceived for The Greatest Generation—our parents—by Clairol’s “Loving Care” hair dye brand. 

No one wanted to grow old then either—they just didn’t talk about it.  

More candles on the birthday cake makes us aware of our vulnerability and mortality.  Growing older makes it clear our time in this life—this world—is limited.  We have an arrival date and an expiration date.  However, take heart.  If you’ve lived this long, it means you are a tough survivor.  You’re still here when a lot of friends and family are not.  It means you still have a life to live and a lot still to do.  There are those who depend on you even when you feel like no one notices. 

Each life born to this world touches at least one other life even if it was making your mom and dad happy in but a single moment when you were born.  And truthfully, you’ve touched more lives than you know even if it was but a kind smile offered to someone in the grocery store.  One life always touches others.

And, just imagine if you paid it forward—asking yourself what you can do for another? Doing for others, no matter how small, helps us feel good about ourselves. I’ve always felt good when I’ve been helping another in need.

I’ve long viewed life as a book of chapters.  You’ve had a bunch of them if you’re 50+.  I am 65 and I have compartmentalized my life into chapters.  I put these chapters into rooms—some I have chosen to dead bolt and never to return to.  Others I wish I hadn’t.  I’ve had traumatic times in life.  Been fired.  Divorced—twice.  Had to pack up a truck and move thousands of miles away overnight to take a job and further my career.  Then begins the adjustment to a new chapter.  Big adjustments.  Like most of you, I’ve never been comfortable with change even if it was for something better. 

I’ve also had rewarding times where I was overwhelmed with emotion for the blessings I’ve had right in front of me.  My kids and grandkids.  My family. Closest friends who’ve been by my side for a lifetime.  Unbeatable business associates, publishers who’ve been steadfast through the toughest of times.  The simple beauty observed all over the North American continent.  And—even the goosebumpy thrill of a good healthy sneeze.  Man, that felt good.

Why does a good sneeze give us goosebumps?

Because old age isn’t something we’re likely to avoid without a funeral and a celebration of your life, we have to find a way to embrace it.  You’ve got to find a way to feel good about it.  This doesn’t mean you have to play Shuffleboard or learn to play Bridge.  It means it is time for you to pursue the things you really love doing—those things you’ve wanted to do all of your life.  You’ve done the grind and made sacrifices.  It is time for you and your passions even if it means catching up on Law & Order or Seinfeld episodes.

There has never been a better time to grow old in America.  You’re in good company because there are some 76 million of us doing the same thing across 18 years of baby boom births from 1946-64.  Because some 16 million of us are gone, this changes the demographics a bit.  We are now outnumbered by Millennials and their offspring, which makes us less significant than we were 50 years ago.

What made us significant back in the day was our numbers.  We had buying power and the energy of our vote.  Politicians and Madison Avenue have loved us for our great numbers.  However, in our more vulnerable stage in life—they like to push Medicare, Social Security, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare.  These are popular subjects when it’s time to address baby boomers. 

However, we’re no longer rocket fuel for the economy.  We’ve become more conservative with age.  Spending is down.  The real money and voting power aren’t with us, but instead with the younger set, which have the numbers advantage.  That’s the way it was in the 1960s and that’s the way it remains today. 

The best place to focus your attention at 50+ is to look at what you want for your own life and to hell with the big picture. Watch it. Glean from it. But don’t let it consume your life unless you can affect real change.  To feel a sense of unity and belonging, tighten up your circle of friends and focus on quality instead of quantity—and make a regular routine out of getting together.  Ask yourself what you can do for others, extend a hand, and feel good about yourself.       

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