Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Decade Older

Lately, several people I know are turning either the big “30” or “40” or even more significantly the bigger “50” and “60.” To each of these persons, turning a particular decade older is a major “life” marker. Each decade affects us differently. When we were children, you might think age was not significant. No so. That’s your adult mind thinking. Put on your memory cap. As children, we viewed age quite seriously. Don’t you remember when you couldn’t wait to turn five? For me, it meant I was now old enough to go to school. Another was turning ten. When I was eight, my hospital roommate was ten. She seemed so much older than I and so much more knowing. I couldn’t wait to turn ten, to be so sophisticated, although then I’m sure I didn’t even know the meaning of the word. To read about another’s perspective, go to Lizza’s blog at, where she shares her memory of turning ten and compares it with that of her own daughter who just turned ten.

The junior high, high school, and early college years were not much different. We were never satisfied with what made us what we were: our age, our place, our things, our family. It was our “me” time. We wished our lives away, not walking but running into the future, not even looking back. Some of us were running from the past, others were seeking greener pastures, while many were just riding the wave toward the unknown. We focused only ahead. Don’t get me wrong—no matter what decade you happen to be living now, everyone should be looking to the future. Otherwise, we’d be wandering in circles, only looking at what we did and not what we need to do. Our goals should be a culmination of our past, present, and future. In retrospect, I wish I could have enjoyed my younger years—savored them, so to speak. But I wasn’t allowed. I was pushed into the future and am glad of it actually.

Then suddenly we wake up and it’s our 25th birthday, yet another life marker that smacks many of us in the face. We no longer wish to be older. This is the defining moment that we reverse our way of thinking and start wishing we were younger. What is it about this age that sets us off? I believe it’s suddenly realizing, “Oh my God, I’m a quarter of a century old!” At least, that’s what did it for me. My daughter, on the other hand, is an exception to the rule. She is about to turn 25 but can pass for 15. She fortunately inherited her father’s genes, not mine.

Moving from the 20th decade into the 30th can be a rude wake-up call for many. At least at the age of 29, they could still say they’re still in their twenties, but at 30—this is the age 18-year olds consider “old.” Nevertheless, it’s a time to stop hitting that snooze button, get serious, and leave the party dream nights behind. There are even books out there written especially for this decade of so-called age defiers, for example, Turning 30: How to Get the Life You Really Want by Sheila Panchal. What do you have to lose? Only, possibly more than you can imagine.

Between 30 and 40 years of age, most people get their act together, improving their lives in aspects such as work, family, finances, religion, etc. During this time, my husband finished one career and started another. I finished college, began a new career, and excelled. We moved into our 40s with ease. As a woman, I even secretly looked forward to turning 40. I wanted to find out if women really do reach their sexual peak in their 40s. All I’m willing to admit is that it depends on the woman and I’ll leave it at that. So back to the big 40—I conclude that this decade is the easiest for both men and women to accept. They are concentrating more on living then on age and ageing.

I’ve heard that turning 50 is the new 40. There is even a Web site dedicated to this claim: I’m not sure if I agree, although I suppose I would have had to be 50 years old 20 or 40 years ago to accurately dispute this finding. One reason I find this claim flawed is that the majority of women experience menopause during these years and we know what menopause brings: hot flashes, hair loss, hair growth, more fat, less muscle—need I go on? It’s not a pretty sight. Don’t let me forget the men. They suddenly become delirious and believe that they’re 25 again, buying motorcycles, sports cars, and other gadgets. They too face much of what women face, except in some instances even more so (hair loss). Most men are purely in denial.

What about those 60 and over? They are our baby boomers and they are the first to turn 60 ( With today’s economy in such a ramshackle state, 60 brings us much concern. The number of baby boomers over the age of 50 is increasing. According to AARP, “by 2015, those aged 50 and older will represent 45% of the U.S. population.” The boomers who once planned to retire between the ages of 60 and 65 are now being forced to work longer. Social Security monies, which were meant to supplement many of these workers’ retirement, are running out. Healthcare is another concern. People are now living longer, particularly women. The bigger 60 life marker is the most important marker of our lives. Turning 60 is not a matter of vanity as in the earlier decades but of quality of life. So what will the future hold for the baby boomers turning 70 in the next decade? I cannot say, but wherever we are in time, however each decade has affected us, let’s just savor our moments.

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