Friday, February 24, 2012

On Reaching That Age

This phrase can mean different things to different people. The age when you no longer need to color your hair. You no longer need to converse with hollow co-workers of child-bearing age who love swapping stories about potty training. You no longer need to worry so much about things that don't matter.

Reaching "that age" can be completely liberating.

People talk about becoming mature as a horrible transition. It sounds as though you wake up one morning and are no longer viable or interesting. Indeed, many people I know are no longer viable or interesting, but they are not new to that status. They have not be viable or interesting for most of their lives.

Some folks never mature and that has nothing to do with their chronological age. A friend of mine -- well beyond retirement -- is still looking for a girlfriend with a knock-out figure and dreaming of his next muscle car. Men who believe they are still 16 years old should take a long, careful look in the mirror. They may just have to readjust their thinking.

There are many good things about maturity, things that I don't remember hearing anyone discuss when I was younger. But perhaps it wasn’t in vogue back then to acknowledge the benefits of growing older.  People appeared to be "middle aged" one day and "old" the following.

People aged differently following World War II. Many men had given their youth and vigor to fight the war and returned home older, perhaps injured, certainly care-worn. They had to readjust to civilian life after years of combat. It was a difficult transition and some didn't have an easy time of it.

Women were also different in the 1950s. Many had never worked outside of the home before the war. They raised the children and kept the home fires burning. During the war, many women entered the work place for the first time. Some relished their new independence and stayed on. I had very few childhood friends whose mothers worked but gradually those numbers increased.

I see this period of change for women as a key factor to the evolution of aging. Women were allowed to become more independent, not that they appreciated the benefits at the time. Working exposed them to the world outside of their homes. There were many factors in play at the same time: birth control became more accessible, the economy boomed in the post-war prosperity and consumer goods were easier to manage on two incomes. Women took pride in contributing to the household and traditional roles were loosened.

Women who experienced life outside the box following World War II changed the way the world looked at them in return. These women cared about their own healthcare and took charge of their own lives. They saw things through modern eyes and became more flexible about how and where they lived.

People often remark they had no idea that retirement and aging could be so much fun. It's because retirees in the past often had few years remaining after they stopped working. Medical care and modern technological advances have helped to considerably extend that phase of life.

However, it now up to retirees to find stimulating and entertaining diversions to enrich those additional years.

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