As birthdays go, by all accounts, 60 is a big one. It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming, but when it arrived for me this month, it felt like it was way ahead of schedule! Aging kind of sneaks up on you, and it seems as soon as one milestone is reached, another one is directly behind it – faster than the one before. One day it seemed I was telling the world how I was “fabulous and fearless at 50” and in an instant another decade had passed.
The reality is, we live in a world that obsesses over youth, posting wrinkle-free faces on social media where everything looks shiny and new, but when it comes down to it, no one is able to escape the aging process and the changes that come with it. So, since aging happens to everyone, why is there so much dread that comes with it and why aren’t we all embracing it?
I think it has to do with stigmas that play a large role in society’s negative aging mindset and that remain in place partly because of limits that we see associated with getting older. Youth is synonymous with growth, fertility and possibility, while old age has been stigmatized as a time of loss, frailty, and decline.
In looking at prior generations, reaching 60 meant downshifting and settling into golden years, but older populations now are still achieving, learning, and reaching –often tackling new and different careers that can even require different kinds of education. There’s no settling involved, there’s hardly time for a pause. Some have been forced back into the workplace because children have moved back in or they are now caregivers for their own parents in their 80’s and 90’s.
For whatever the reasons, aging today is different and for the baby boomers turning 60, slowing down seems decades away. Now, people have the ability to age successfully with the rise in technology, resources and healthcare innovations available, and, more importantly, have the power within themselves to make it a positive experience. Once we move past the stigmas, there is little holding aging populations back from embracing and redefining their 60’s, 70’s and beyond. With each decade comes the opportunity to redefine yourself and your priorities.
As we approach a time when people over the age of 65 will outnumber children under the age of 5 for the first time in history1, the importance behind breaking down these barriers is dramatic. Baby boomers are challenging these aging stigmas more than ever – as we are not only contributing members of society, but often leading the way. For example, online dating for people over 50 is the fastest growing segment in the category2.
We are not winding down. We are adapting, learning new things, being flexible with our thinking and our bodies. My advice to people trying to mentally prepare themselves for their next aging milestone is prioritize living in the present, and move items off the bucket list and into your life. Don’t focus on what’s lost, look ahead towards what’s left. Over the hill? You bet. The best view comes after the highest climb and now that we’re there, WE ARE the ones with momentum as we attack the other side.
1United States Census Bureau (2016) An Aging World 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from https://cdn.cnsnews.com/attachments/census_bureau-an_aging_world-2015.pdf
2Pew Research Center (2015) Online Dating. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/29/5-facts-about-online-dating/