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In this ongoing series, LIFE IN FULL, we are writing to Baby Boomers (those of us in our 50s, 60s, and 70s) about how to maximize our Longevity and our Legacy. Find new episodes here every Tuesday and Thursday, and read the overview and catch up on earlier articles in this series by clicking here.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Surrendering to aging has no appeal. And the best way to rage against it is simply to push it back—way back. With a little higher handicap here and a health enhancement there, we can do everything now that we could do 20 years ago….and we can now do so much that we couldn’t do then!
But think specifically for a moment why 65 is the new 45: 45 year olds used to think “we have another 20 good years ahead of us—so what should we do with it?” This is exactly the question 65 year olds are asking themselves today.
If you think about it hard enough and rationalize long enough, you can convince yourself that there are actually no drawbacks at all to a little aging! I (Richard) do it all the time with sports…..
I was a 5.0 level tennis player in college and maintained that level for a few more years. But when everyone started beating me in the 5.0 divisions, I just dropped down to 4.5 and for a while I could win or hold my own again. A few years later I opted down again to the 4.0 and was competitive again. It all works out!
I used to think water skiing meant the sharpest cuts and the highest spray, and snow skiing meant the double black diamonds; now I have the more enlightened view that smooth, aesthetic skiing where you see and appreciate the world around you is the best way to go on water or on snow.
Golf’s an easy one; you just increase your handicap to where you are as competitive as ever.
Scuba diving used to be about how deep and how dangerous; now it’s about longer dives in shallower, warmer, more sunlit and reef fish-filled water. I enjoy it more!
Maybe biking is the best example or metaphor of all. I used to think of mountain biking as a combination of joy and torture. I loved the trails it took me to, but I was so busy thinking about my muscle burn and getting enough air into my oxygen-starved lungs that I missed a lot of the scenery that was going by.
I still go on all the very same trails now, but I have this wonderful electrical assist bike where all I have to do is turn a handle-switch to have a little help on the hills.
That’s a lot like aging in general—keep on your same trails but provide yourself with a little assist now and then. You know how to do that, and you’ve earned it.
The way life works now, early in this 21st century, there is virtually nothing you could do in your 30s or 40s that you can’t still do now—with a little assist from an electrical switch, or a scoring or handicapping system, or a fresh attitude. Maybe getting out of the car takes a bit longer and you can never find even one of the scores of reading glasses that you know are somewhere in the house.
But all in all, you, at 65 today have at least as many and perhaps more possibilities than a 45 year old had a couple of generations ago.
And chances are that you have far fewer constraints and far more resources than that 45 year old had.
But we can learn from that 45 year old—because he probably didn’t just drift into his next 20 years. He probably set goals and made plans and deliberately worked at figuring out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. That is what we 65 year olds need to do today—set goals, develop plans, and figure it out! The worst thing we can do is just drift into retirement or into some kind of a wait-and-see attitude. Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and it could be modified for us to say “The unexamined autumn of life is not worth living, while the examined-and-planned autumn of life can be the greatest season of all!”