Old Age Has Gotten a Bad Rap
There are many gifts — you just need to look under the hood
When you are a child, aging is celebrated because each year brings you closer to the person you’re going to be. When you are past 60, with each year, you drift farther from relevance and closer to not being a person at all.
Youth is valued and age is pitied as if it had no redeeming qualities. That’s not just fundamentally wrong — it’s an insult to every senior. In fact, age has so many advantages it should be a point of pride.
When you are in school and pursuing a career, you are restrained by college and corporate rules — that is, you have to watch what you say or post to social media to avoid getting expelled or fired. That restraint disappears in old age.
Many older Americans have a guaranteed income that is not dependent upon following any code of behavior. They can say what they want and do what they want — within the bounds of the law — without repercussions.
Some might argue that their opinions don’t matter, but in fact the aged dominate politics. Sixty-four percent of those 65 and older voted in 2018 compared to 30% of those 18 to 24. Old folks run this country, so get used to it.
The gifts of old age — let’s begin with freedom and time. Employees in 2018 used an average of just 17 paid vacation days in 2018 regardless of how many they were allowed. It’s funny because since I retired in 2016, I have taken 1,704 consecutive days off, and yes, I am paid to do nothing, or rather whatever I please.
I have no homework, no big presentations to prepare, so I’m free not just to say what I please but also to do what I want. Every day I can golf, fish, read, drink, or collect stamps, and other than my wife, no one on Earth can tell me what to do. Aging looking better yet? Just wait.
Another gift — money for many. Yes, too many older people are strapped for cash and have to work. But if you pass a golf course or a marina on your way to work, check out the parking lot and you’ll see many older folks enjoying their disposable income.
Their children are out of college, their homes are paid off, and their investments are solid. The average age of sailboat owners is almost 60. While younger folks attend pointless company meetings, seniors are sailing, going to casinos, and then having lunch before a nap.
Let’s not forget wisdom. When I was young, I had opinions. Now, I know things. So I’m occasionally asked for my advice.
I wouldn’t have advised asking me anything when I was 25. Your guess was as good as mine. But having lived a long time, I learned things and if you ask, I probably have a decent suggestion.
Here’s why I bring that up. Let’s say you wanted to invest a great deal of money and it was very important the investment was successful. Would you trust your funds to a 25-year-old financial planner or a 60-year-old adviser?
Experience has value and older people have it. Oh, by the way, the president, the Senate minority leader, and the speaker of the house are 78, 79, and 81.
Lastly, there are relationships. You know how young people ask how you know if someone is the right person to marry and the answer is you just know. Well, longer relationships are just better.
A romantic relationship of 25 years has the depth and complexity of a great wine. Honesty and companionship, not games. Senior relationships, both romantic and friendly, are a last chance to get it right.
And they’re getting it right. Almost a third of married couples have marked their 25th anniversary, creating a bond of acceptance and loyalty that many young people will never know.
Age can be a struggle, so many seniors must have a level of courage and determination that dwarfs that of famous athletes. Just getting out of a chair can be searingly painful and keeping a sense of humor about it requires internal strength that makes playing football seem like child’s play.
And last, throughout childhood and young adulthood, people talk of finding themselves or growing comfortable in their own skin. Seniors are the people they sought to be.
Honest, engaging, self-deprecating — seniors are the end product of a life of study and struggle. The embarrassment, self-consciousness, and immaturity have cleared.
A hospice nurse told me that while families panic at talk of a loved one’s demise, the patient themselves are often calm about it. They face their fate with understanding and serenity.
So enjoy your perfect bodies, young people, and take comfort in the knowledge that if you last long enough the best is yet to come.