The Good News: 70 Is Not the New 60
Why this author argues that the seventh decade has a lot going for it
A recent newspaper column caught my eye. It said: “Do you remember the last time you were dreading something, only to have it turn out to be a pleasant surprise?”
The science writer continued, “A new study reports happiness is not about how you’re doing in general, but rather if you're doing better than expected.” Well, I’m here to tell you that while age 70 is not the new 60, surprisingly, this decade has a lot going for it!
I don’t live the way I did before I hit the big 7-0. In my 60s, I spent two hours a day commuting. Now I think twice before going into the city.
(MORE: 25 Things I Know Now That I'm 60)
Back then, my high-pressure job meant long hours, quick business trips and professional attire. These days, I catch the 7 p.m. news, explore travel destinations that intrigue me and work from home in PJs or jeans. I do what I want when I want — for the first time since I entered the workforce, got married and became a mom.
Of course, some things are different once you hit 70. When you can reminisce with people you’ve known for more than 50 years, or you’ve owned possessions that long, you’re old. “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” is so yesterday. Now, Before the Parade Passes By fits my frame of mind. And when someone exclaims, “You look great,” they’re thinking “…for your age.”
And I do.
I’m squishier than I used to be but I don’t look or feel like my grandma did at my age. So it’s tempting to buy into the “new 60s” myth — until I bump up against reality.
Thanks to the boomers, there are all sorts of ways to do that — like neighbors helping neighbors in an organized way. I told my granddaughter: “My neighbor’s children bring my newspaper to the door, then stay to play with the dog.”
“Oh,” she observed, “you don’t live where all the people are your age.” She’d forgotten that my neighborhood is just like hers. I didn’t like living in a "married with families" neighborhood while the kids were growing up. It seemed surreal: a land with no old people. So why would an age-segregated community appeal to me now?
'Am I Slipping, Too?'
Recently, some framed prints as old as my middle-aged children slipped out of position in their frames. The glue had lost its grip. That prompted me to wonder, am I slipping, too?
Well, no. My mind is sharp, my skills are too, and I’m an ace at Scrabble and bridge.
True, no matter how much age-defying body cream I slather on, my elbows look like the bottom of a dried-up riverbed. And those three little pigs were prophetic: I actually do have hairs on my chinny-chin-chin. But just like those old prints, with some minor adjustments I’m good to go.
I’m careful not to put the age label on foibles I’ve had all my life. So what if I arrive in a room and forget why I went there? Nothing new about that. I take comfort in the news that “senior moments” occur because, like computers, the more data that needs to be processed, the longer it takes to locate the desired byte.
Rafting in the Summer of 2014
Several years ago, I visited my role model, a force of nature who was well past her 70th birthday. At dinner with close friends who’d known each other forever, the women giggled as they helped each other fill in a blank. “What salad dressing would you like?” the waiter inquired. One of them, fumbling for the name, said: “Oh, you know, not Italian.” “Vinaigrette,” her friend answered. “We help each other out,” they explained cheerfully.
Tuck that away for future reference, I thought. Surround yourself with friends.
Now I’ve reached that age. I’m switching from business networking to social networking — from LinkedIn to Facebook.
My grandchildren enchanted me as babies, toddlers and through the primary grades. Now they’re pre-adolescent, figuring out who they are or want to be. I’m pre-senescent; pondering the same questions.
We’re getting to know each other in a wonderfully fresh way. And I’ve found a new audience for my old stories: “Can we look through photo albums, Grandma? I love to hear about you and our family.”
I’m using my long-awaited free time to create what we used to call “Kodak moments.” Check out Instagram to see me whitewater rafting or exploring the coast of Maine. The photos are in no particular order on my miraculous little phone; there was no time to organize photos before I switched from suits to sweats. Happily, there’s still no time for that. I have more interesting things to do. Like writing about why 70 is not the new 60.
Barbara Rady Kazdan founded Achieving Change Together to advise and connect social entrepreneurs, drawing on 30 years’ nonprofit leadership and serving as Director, Ashoka U.S. A University of Michigan graduate and certified JobsOver50 career coach, this Silver Spring, Md. grandmother's personal essays appear in Contagious Optimism and BetterAfter50.com. She is currently writing a memoir.