I wrote my oldest son a letter this past weekend, even though he only lives a few miles from me and I see him regularly.
You see he was hitting a milestone, one that has to do with age, and he seemed worried about it.
It told him not to worry.
For those of us over 50, any age under that sounds pretty good, because we know the pitfalls and the problems.
That doesn't mean we wouldn't take the same chances or make the same mistakes again. As I told my son, young people always think they are smarter than they are, and old people always think they are wiser.
There is a lot of talk in our society about ages being different today. Statements like "50 is the new 30" and "30 is the new 20" seems to ring true to many people. But personally, I believe nothing of that kind of banter. It is just the ramblings of people being an age that they don't want to be and trying to be younger.
Let's face it 50 is still 50. It is still a half a century.
True people live much longer today than they did 100 years ago. The average death of a man who lived in the United States in 1900 was at 40 years old. Today, even those of us who were born 50 years ago, can expect to live into our 80's for the most part. And longevity charts I have seen says that if a person reaches age 85 today, there is a good chance they will live into their 90's, an age that relatively few people in history have seen.
But let's not get too full of ourselves about this whole thing. Medical science has done wonderful things to extend our lives, but it has also extended lives many lives in a way some of us don't want to live. The growth of long term care centers in this country isn't only due to the large bulge in the population that is getting older, it is also due to the fact that our doctors can extend lives to the point where some people feel existence becomes meaningless, even torturous.
There is a big moral debate about that. I think each of us have our own feelings about when life should end, but I know I personally am not so scared of dying as I am about the journey it will take to get there. I've never liked long good-byes.
This idea that an older age is now actually a younger age really bothers me. Sure, we may feel better because most of us aren't physically wearing our bodies out as our ancestors did in hard labor jobs, but the pressures of todays life provide a strain that is different too. Our science cured most of the major infectious diseases in the last century (and also found some new ones that we haven't cured yet) but the chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease, continue to plague us. And some of the things that have made life easier for us, have also complicated our health as well, such as riding in cars all the time and eating fast food.
There's a group of advertisements on television that puts out the word about financial investments that use my generations past to promote their future. It shows scenes from the 1960's up through the 70's and 80's saying that we were the generation that changed the world and now we can change our old age because we are so influential.
Let's face it, we have had our triumphs and our tribulations. But we owe a lot of what we are to our parents who survived the biggest war this world has ever scene (so far) and an economic downturn that sent most of them scurrying just to find food to eat. As a group we haven't suffered those things; however the last few years we have found our own set of demons, many of which come from the past that the commercial likes to tout. The seeds of these problems were sewed long ago and we must face up to them or our children will have to do it.
I told my son in the letter that at one time I could play basketball anytime I wanted without my knees swelling up so bad that I couldn't walk for three days. I also could lift a lot of heavy stuff and had the endurance of a horse.
Now I realize I never did play basketball very well, nor could I lift what I thought I could. And my endurance was a legend in my own mind.
Turning a decade older is a hard thing to do for some people, but it has never bothered me. However, I remember when I turned 40 that I realized for the first time that my life was probably about half over. But then I said to myself, "Yeah but you also have half of it to go, too."
Time does exist, but man is the one who devised a way to measure it. I don't think it matters whether we are eight or 80, as long as we have our minds and fairly good health. In my life I have known people who were 20 that acted like they were what society traditionally thinks of as a 90 year olds though process. And I have also known 80 year olds who think like they are 20. I just hope I am in that second group when I get there in 25 years.
`As for my son, I told him he would be okay. Getting older isn't the end of the world, but it is what you make of it.