Age can mean that we ripen, not ruin, but how we do that is strictly up to us, starting with what's between our ears.
First, yesterday I saw this blessedly short (not like mine) article which pointed out what I have already found to be true: that the decade that I am just now finishing at 69 has been by far THE most powerful, productive, incredible time of my life.
And like a few other extraordinary friends, the next decade can be even better.
To that then:
Look. If you think that having nice skin, perfect teeth (not in America these days), a slim body (not in America these days) blah blah is ALL THAT, you tell me why people who do have those things spend nearly all their time worrying about, trying to improve what they have because it is NEVER ENOUGH, lord it over others in the ugliest possible ways and fail to appreciate their God-given youth while they have it.
You tell me.
Okay, since you likely can't, because there's no real rhyme or reason to it, in today's youth-obsessed society, ageism and gerascophobia are overwhelming people. And, costing us good people with amazing futures like Miss America beauty queen, accomplished lawyer and activist Cheslie Kryst, whose recent suicide apparently stemmed from her fear of turning thirty, at least in part.
It isn't just that people like Facebook president Mark Zuckerberg stated, with absolutely NO research, facts, or proof of any kind but his ridiculous arrogance that "young people are just smarter."
No. Not. Even.
Kindly look at what so many smart, but unsophisticated, dangerous and brutally foolish very young people unleashed onto the world with devastating effect: social media, which they have refused to manage, control and increasingly protect while said social media is causing teen suicides, fomenting wars and disinformation. But I digress. The point is youth are foolish, by design.
It's their job to make genuinely stupid mistakes. It’s not that they aren’t smart, it’s that they lack critical context and maturity.
It's older people's job to guide them so that they don't burn the world.
That's why we need all generations talking and working with each other. We all bring something, we all need each other's ideas and input and guidance. Each decade has plenty to offer but not if we mute any of them.
What do we do in America? Dismiss, disregard, demean and discuss committing genocide against anyone past sixty.
Now. Are ALL older people wise? Hell no. Want proof? Shadow me for a day, you'll get proof. However the hard knocks aspect of time in grade, time in service in life allows us to temper youth's necessarily unbridled optimism. While some older folks get bitter instead of better, many others take what they have learned and are able not only to revisit their optimism, but in the context of key lessons learned.
By the time we pass sixty, most of us, I hope, have set aside the compulsive and life-sucking need to look young, be young, wear clothing not made for cellulite, and move the hell on into some semblance of wisdom.
That's what makes those later years so very powerful. We can put down the distractions and focus on what is really important because we've earned that right. That sight. The perspectives. Again not all, but many.
Part of that wisdom is redirecting the energy we might have spent in denial of aging, which IS happening, man, and into all the brand new ways we can wield that new-found and marvelous freedom from all the hooks placed in us by constant messaging about how getting old sucks.
Some of it might, sure. Most especially if what's between your ears informs you that age=worthlessness. That is one of THE key factors in whether the decades between 60 and 80 are as marvelous as they could be.
The other is whether or not you have finally learned, once and for all, that your body is no longer twenty. These days twenty doesn't guarantee us a damned thing, with childhood obesity and adult-onset illness invading so many of our kids, to say nothing of how people in their twenties and thirties are getting colon cancer.
Dr. Michael Hunter is a fellow Medium writer who pens many articles about health. This one got my attention. He writes:
A recent look at the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database shows that while colorectal cancer has recently decreased among older folks, the disease is rising among those under age 50.
Here is his article:
Dr. Hunter writes:
The rate of increase among younger individuals is striking: In the USA, the incidence of colorectal cancer under age 50 steadily increased at two percent per year from 1995 through 2016.
You and I, once we get past fifty, are getting that fun ride up the backside which tells us the health of our colons. That keeps us healthy. Kids, not so much. It's the young's job to assume invincibility even as obesity, disease and all the lifestyle illnesses of sedentary habits are ravaging their lovely young bodies from the inside out.
But when they are younger, they are ever so much smarter.
Ah. I beg to differ. We are smarter in different ways.
Boomers and Gen Xers are getting the message to move, eat better and get their attitudes straight, because consider the options. Ms. Kryst did, but she listened to the ageism demons and the trolls, at least to many accounts, and it cost us an extraordinary woman. As social media's viciousness about aging and body image continues to cost us, even to affecting a rising rate of eating disorders among the elderly.
That the future you want? Your dentures fall into the toilet every time you purge your dinner? Forty years of eating disorders, and I am telling you that there is no way I would ever hand over my body image to anyone else again. I love this aging body and the ride it's giving me. You deserve that, too. But we have to do the work to make sure the ride is at least a bit less bumpy.
There's a very good reason that the majority of shoppers I see in all the whole food stores in Eugene where I live are within shouting distance of my age. We finally got serious about better food and better habits. When I head out for a speed walk or a hike around here I am more likely to pass grey hairs than younger folks.
This article speaks even more plainly to what you and I can do to better ensure a lively later life, while also enjoying our first decades, if we can stop obsessing so much about youth. The author, social scientist Arthur Brooks, offers some sage advice about how to manage our way through the intelligence that gets us to fifty, and how to use what we have learned to that point in a brand new way, better ensuring that sixty and beyond really are the bee's knees.
Eugene might be unique in that way that I see oldies everywhere running and hiking, but Boomers are serious more than ever about their health. That is what is making them, as they age into their sixties, gifted with better health and options. Not all of us, most certainly. But those who choose to make better decisions.
So you will forgive me for pounding the health drum over and over. Move. Socialize. Exercise mind and body. Challenge yourself. Put all that crap DOWN about trying to be young and focus instead on a youthful attitude, brain and body with what we know works.
A young body has left the building, like Elvis. But a youthful attitude can help make our later decades unbelievable.