June 7, 2019

I Turned 70. What is Age-Appropriate Now?


The usual definition of something being age appropriate involves a decision whether certain activities or media (like movies or video games) may be deemed suitable to someone of a certain age. Often used by parents to help filter what their children are exposed to, a PG movie, for example, may be a bit too intense for a 7 year old, but entirely age appropriate for a child who is 11. Of course, that child is itching to see the PG-13 movie all her friends rave about.

Beginning a dating relationship is obviously an example of a decision, based on the young person's maturity level, of when unsupervised time together at a dance or movie is appropriate. Being a dad of two daughters, I know my answer was when they turned 30, but that didn't go over too well (just kidding!).

So, what does any of this have to do with a satisfying retirement? A lot, I contend. I would like to suggest that we miss out of all sorts of experiences and fun, growth and opportunities by not doing something because it isn't "age appropriate" to a 70 year old man or 75 year old woman, or whatever. We allow ageism to dictate what we are willing to do, how we look, and how we live.

We may be concerned what others might think. Maybe we are afraid of injury. Perhaps the financial cost seems too high. We would have to expend too much energy, either mentally or physically.

Frankly, at our age we should be very unconcerned about what others think. If someone is still trying to impress the neighbors with a huge house, expensive sports car, or vacations in the south of France, then this message will shoot right over that person's head. Having these things isn't wrong, unless the motivation is to make one look "appropriately" well off in the eyes of others.

We tend to associate people our age with words like settled, stable, predictable, or safe. How many retired, or almost retired folks, would you describe as adventurous, devil-may-care, unpredictable, or daring? How many are gutsy?

Too few, I would guess, and that is a shame. When else in our short time on earth are we as free to push against the restraints, take a risk on a new lifestyle, or try something and not worry if we fall flat on our face.

If we fail at something, so what? If the move to the mountains in Spain doesn't work, come home. If the karate lessons leave you unfulfilled, sell the white outfit to someone else. If trying to salsa dance leaves your hips out of whack, take up line dancing. If your efforts at Haiku poetry leave others scratching their heads, assume they have dandruff.

There are several folks who read Satisfying Retirement on a regular basis who I would classify as being unconcerned about being "age appropriate" in the eyes of others. Whether due to a high energy level and willingness to try everything while still physically able, or leaving a comfortable home in the suburbs to live their dream in the mountains, these people are taking their best shot.

A woman uprooted herself and moved 1,000 miles from her home to be closer to family and try on a new lifestyle. Still another took classes and tests to fulfill a dream of becoming certified as a professional mediator. Yet another moved from a big city to a seaside location that has a strong pull on her and her husband, a pull that must be acknowledged. Yes another person I know is now leading African safaris, a dream she has held for years.

Importantly, the whole question of age-appropriateness doesn't have to center around a physical challenge or change. Going to a poetry slam at a bookstore, tackling an online course in Greek history, putting together a coffee table book of photos you shot at the park or beach...these all fit my definition. 


Deciding to watch all the Avenger movies in chronological order so you can talk about them with your grandson, taking chess lessons, replacing the 30-year-old hair band T-shirts in your closet with something more colorful or simply, different, fits the goal, too.

My book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, is filled with stories of people, just like you and me, who took a leap of faith toward a new life. Were they being "age appropriate?" I don't know. But, I do know they didn't care. With more of our life behind us rather than in front of us, what in heaven's name are we waiting for?

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, this post is directed squarely at me. I can write about it, but do I live it? I think I am getting better. My soon-to-be 39 year old daughter made me fill good recently when she noted, "you are not like any of the other retired people I know. You do stuff, you try new things."


That was encouraging, but also a little sad, since what I do is what virtually anyone could do: get out of the house and try something new, go to a new coffee house or restaurant, see a live play, take advantage of the free concerts in the park or open mic night, get a rescue dog to love.


We don't have to dye our hair purple, though we can. We don't have to attempt physical feats that will result in injury, though our physical limits may be more self-imposed than real. We don't have to eat dinner at 4pm and go to bed at 8pm, unless that makes us happy.

Age appropriate behavior is too often defined by others and treated as gospel by us. Society has placed enough restrictions or limits on how we enjoy our life. Let's not add more to the boundaries.

25 comments:

  1. This is so true, Bob. I'm about to turn 70 and often feel as if I'm in a different generation than my age-peers, for whom the accumulation of more information (via adult learning programs, for example) is the extent of their "growth." They haven't listened to music more recent than the 80's in years. They don't try new foods and their political positions are absolutely settled. I'm generalizing here, of course, but it's discouraging when I look around me.

    I've been on-and-off intrigued with Persian culture for years, so I've decided to visit Iran this fall. You can imagine the reaction I get! Am I blasé about the danger -- or crazy? My perspective is: If not now, when?

    I think this passivity represents an internalized cultural narrative, where the final quarter of one's life is inevitably one of decline and irrelevance (except when it comes to grandchildren, of course!) And acceptance of this narrative becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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    1. Visiting Iran? Well, I hereby give you the title of "gutsy."

      I agree that there is both an external and internal brake put on what we are supposed to do during our "elder" phase, to use a term from an earlier post. While learning from experience is good, becoming rigid because of it, is not.

      Music is an interesting example. I started listening to Spotify several months ago. When I want to read or relax I tend to stick with soft piano or classical music. At others times, the "Discover Weekly," "Release Radar" and new music sections give me all new musical experiences.

      Being a former radio DJ, I was finding myself stuck in the 60's and 70's. That is the music I know inside and out. It is my safe space. Spotify gives me a reason to spread my musical wings. It has been fun.

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    2. OK, DJ - Check out the latest from Christine & the Queens (French synth-pop), Elizabeth Shepherd (jazz vocals), Bill Callahan (meditative folk), and Sacred Paws (Scottish afro-pop!) - Gutsy

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    3. Hey, Gutsy. Spent some time with all 4. Yes. Keep those suggestions coming...drop me an email anytime you find something I might like!

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  2. Retirement is such an amazing opportunity to explore your heart's desire. I continue to be amazed by the number of people who keep working, not because they need the money, but because they need to see themselves a certain way and don't know what to do with their time outside the workplace.

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    1. I don't know what the percentage is, but you are right on target. For some, working becomes a way of avoiding change. One's lifestyle can stay unchallenged.

      Your first sentence really highlights the issue: what if you have no idea what your heart's desires are? What if you are afraid to find out?

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  3. I am retired for about 9 months now. I can't believe the freedom I am feeling! Each day is filled with choices that I get to make. Long morning coffee time with my husband is the best, followed by community service activities, and then singing in choirs. Recently, I returned to painting and have even tried watercolor. What a joy life is when you live it to the fullest and count your blessings!

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    1. I can feel your excitement just from the way you express yourself. New experiences coupled with favorite things, like coffee time with hubby, makes every day a joy. Welcome to this wonderful new phase of life!

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  4. When I reviewed the movie POMS on my blog I ran across a magazine reviewer who was disgusted that the senior actors in the story line were not acting "age appropriate" and were--gasp---being silly. I found that so offensive. Acting silly shouldn't just be confined to the young. Too many of us have forgotten how to have fun and we don't need someone criticizing us when we do.

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    1. Absolutely. Silliness is always age-age-appropriate if it makes someone happy. Besides, the whole concept of seniors pom-pom crews is meant to be silly.

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    2. During a recent trip to Fort Wilderness in Disneyworld, our daughter, son and son's girlfriend flew down to spend the week with us in our travel trailer. My 20 year-old daughter and I sang and danced the Hokey Pokey together at Chip & Dale's Campfire Sing-a-Long. Neither of us can dance well and we both sing off-key, but we had TONS of fun. One of my favorite quotes: "Age is mostly mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

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    3. I have always wondered what if the Hokey Pokey is really all that it is about.

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  5. I am not often doing age-appropriate things...lol. Right now, at ae 72, I want to earn a PhD. People don't understand. Well, since I need back surgery, sometimes age-appropriate activities are beyond my ability. I still have strong desires to roller skate. And, I will. I sort of hate senior center things.

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    1. Earning any college degree at 72...I think that is great., even more so something as advanced as a PhD. Show those youngsters how to study and manage time!

      Why not roller skate to your classes as long as you are able?

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  6. I still remember the look on my young cousin's face when she turned to me and said - You listen to Lady Gaga?!! - in response to what was playing in the car. I like your last statement - Age appropriate behavior is too often defined by others and treated as gospel by us. Society has placed enough restrictions or limits on how we enjoy our life. Let's not add more to the boundaries. There was a song with the following lines - Let's think about living; let's think about life - not age.

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  7. That song, Let's Think About Living, was from the 1960s by Bob Luman. You can easily find it on YouTube.

    Life has enough boundaries. Let's not make up our own to add to the total. Who says we have to color within the lines?

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  8. When we're younger we don't want to look "stupid" because we're trying to get a job, trying for a promotion, trying to attract a spouse, providing a role model for our kids, etc. But now? Who cares!?! My only advice is: don't go skiing. It's easier to break a bone, and if you do, it takes longer to heal. But there are plenty of people who disagree with me, and to them I say: more power to you!

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    1. I hurt myself downhill skiing in my early 20's, so I understand the dangers of uncontrolled descent on a pair of boards down a hill.

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  9. I'm 70 also, will be 71 in a month.
    Retired 2 years ago. Love it. It's a hoot.

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    1. At our age we have so much freedom to do what we want and live how we want, as long as we don't worry so much about what other people think.

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  10. I'm not inclined to worry about what is age-appropriate,but the issue came up recently. I sing in a choral group, and the majority of singers are retirees because the time commitment required is hard to combine with a full-time job. We just performed a concert of Motown hits from the sixties and seventies (the music of our adolescence), and many of we older singers got pretty rowdy at the first rehearsal. I noticed that one of the twenty-something singers decided after that first rehearsal to sit out this concert; I think she was disconcerted by all those elders behaving like teenagers!

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    1. Well, that must have been fun (and funny!) when the younger woman decided you were too rowdy.

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  11. I’ve never really liked the narrow boxes of conventional expectations, whether age-related, gender-related, class-based, and so on. My mom was a great role model in terms of refusing to be constrained by the status quo. As a young woman, she wore blue jeans when the other women in the neighbourhood wore house dresses. She mowed the lawn and used tools to fix things that broke. From her fifties until her late seventies, she used a bicycle to get around town. I learned from her that it’s okay to be your own person and to not be overly concerned by other people’s attempts to pressure you into behaving a certain way.

    Jude

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    1. I like your mom's approach. She reminds me of my wife, who is happiest using tools and table saws, fixing a broken something, or tackling a challenge that is physical. She says it helps her arthritis and fibromyalgia to keep her body moving. Also, she isn't a big fan of dresses.

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