Old is hot. Hot flashes. Hot ticket. Hot. Being old and hot is in the news. In “Younger Longer: Can We Age Better? Or Even Stop the Process of Aging? (“The New Yorker” May 20, 2019), Adam Gopnik raises an interesting question: What if modern medicine and aging research could hold the clock steady on being middle aged, thereby allowing us to get older without growing old? Think of being seventy or even eighty without worrying about climbing a flight of stairs or apologizing for “a senior moment.”
On May 16, 2019, the “New York Times” published two articles in the Styles section about aging with style: “Polishing the Silver” by Ruth La Ferla and “Take That Graying Mane and Add a Burst of Fun” by Crystal Martin. Both articles made growing old and going gray sound like an invitation to a dress-up party.
I’m all for getting older with a little style in my step. For the first time in my life, thanks to the miracle of double cataract surgery, I can see well enough without glasses to artfully apply eye shadow and draw on a smooth bit of eyeliner. And you better believe I intend to fancy on some makeup every day for the rest of my life. It looks great. Makes me feel a touch glamorous and, most importantly, well armored to go out into the world and have my say. You see, getting older, is no longer the voice-silencing, invisibility-inducing sentence it used to be.
Seventy is about more than feeling and looking good.
Seventy is the new outspoken.
And, it’s about time.
Seventy is a privilege. It’s a gift. It’s about time we embraced that gift and used our years of making mistakes while doing some things right to be something better, do something bigger, and live larger, as though we don’t have enough time left to do anything else.
You think being seventy is hard? Try being eighteen. Can you imagine? Have you ever known such chaos? Such uncertainty? The stock market is bobbling at every tweet and tariff. Unemployment is up, then it’s down. Getting a college education costs more than ever before and many are left paying off student loans for decades after graduation, making it impossible to get ahead, buy a house or start a family. There’s climate change riding the winds of terrifying hurricanes, tornados and flooding rains. There are whispers of war here, there, everywhere. School shootings…and guns…don’t get me started.
Too much is happening for us to be silent…and those of us lucky enough to be seventy have the protection of age to speak up. It’s time for us to step up to the plate, be the elders, the wise ones, the ones who have lived long enough to speak truth to power.
It’s time to find new ways to “act your age.”
1) Be a mentor. Find someone who can use your expertise, your help. It won’t be hard. Have coffee with them. Talk. Listen; especially listen. Offer support, direction, whatever is needed. It’s that helping hand thing and it works. When was the last time you had a conversation? A real one that mattered? This is your chance.
2) Pick an issue. Dealer’s choice. The environment. Politics. School lunches. Classroom size. Money for the arts. Guns. Voting rights. Climate change. Transportation. Health care. Pick one; then, do something about it. Now.
3) Find a new hobby. It doesn’t matter whether it’s baking cakes, planting a garden, building birdhouses or writing poems. Share what you love with someone. That’s how we build stronger communities. Make new friends. Create a kinder world.
4) Take care of yourself. Exercise even if you have never exercised before. Exercise your body, and your voice. Be strong. Be focused. Raise a little hell. Have a little fun, and don’t ever think for a minute that there’s nothing you can do to change things.
You’re seventy or maybe eighty or, hallelujah! Ninety!!
You’re not old. You’re one of the warriors.
All those years of living have prepared you for this chance to make a difference. Step out, step up, and speak up!
You’ll be surprised who is waiting to hear what you have to say.
First published in https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shifting-forward/201905/if-you-have-the-privilege-being-seventy-don-t-waste-it on May 21, 2019. Carrie is a regular columnist for Pyschology Today, which allows her articles to be repurposed. However, if you prefer original copy or want to explore a different topic, Carrie can do that as well.
Carrie, the 2014 North Carolina Piedmont Laureate for Short Fiction, recently turned 70 and is all but slowing down. She keeps her creative mind sharp through writing and making art. Carrie has published three novels, and her short-story collection Black Tie Optional has won a number of awards.