When I was a teenager, I viewed anyone over 30 as old. These days 30-year-olds are just kids in my book. And I venture to say that before long that ripe old age of 80 will not seem quite as ancient as I once thought. Perceptions of what constitutes old age tend to change in our individual lives as we approach those ages.
A male born in 1946 can expect to live to age 83.5, and once he hits 70 his life expectancy increases to 84.7. Realize that these numbers are just averages. A French woman, Jean Calment, was born in 1875 and lived to be 122 years old, attributing her long life to olive oil, port wine, and nearly a kilo of chocolate each week.
According to recent U.S. Census figures, the 90-plus age group is currently over 2 million strong and is expected to balloon to more than 8 million by mid-century.
Better nutrition, advances in medical care, and a focus on healthy living have all contributed to increasing longevity. And the focus is not just on staying alive, but rather living fulfilling and exciting lives. In the Marinscope Community Newspaper, Fred Mayer relates how seniors keep busy by visiting 142 countries, authoring six books, and attending Stanford-Cal games for 65 years and counting. Life in retirement is not a passive sport.
With baby boomers increasingly having what it takes to live longer and more satisfying lives into their 80s and 90s, what is the new old? At a time when a 71-year-old man can swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco, can we even hope to associate a single number with old?
Some people say that age is a state of mind. If we stay positive and remain healthy we hope to feel younger than we actually are. If we associate with others who live younger than their years maybe some of that youthfulness will rub off. The trick is to stay active, engaged, and excited about living each day. For baby boomers who are unaccustomed to sitting still, this recipe for finding satisfaction in retirement fits perfectly.
I think it is impossible to assign a universal number to the individual experience of aging. If the calendar says I am 75, but I feel like 55, which is right? I am living like a 55-year-old, which is the measure I choose to use.
I have a feeling that 100 will always be considered old, at least by me. However, not that long ago I considered 30 old. Do I hear 120?
Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a satisfying retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.