New Rules For Aging
Hint: there are none!
We four friends scaling Breakneck Ridge represented 3 decades of life: Ali (pictured right), a doctoral candidate at 40; Kaki, a brand-new grandmother at 55; Star (pictured left), a triathlete who, at 60, just qualified for the world competition in London; and me (pictured middle), a writer and a year older than Star.
A generation or two ago, making this hike in your 60s would have been noteworthy. Not anymore. On that bright summer day, there were lots of people our age on the mountain. It’s the happy side effect of my generation’s Peter Pan attitude: “What, me grow old? No way.” We’re breaking the rules and having fun doing it. Along the way, we’re learning to love our age, whatever it may be.
Here’s a sign of how much things have changed: I was reading a dog-eared book to my grandson the other day, and the grandmother in it had the short, Brillo-perm gray hair my grandmas wore. I don’t look like that, and neither does Zeke’s other grandma, who hosts a backyard volleyball game on Sundays that’s so cutthroat, I don’t dare play.
Like Nora Ephron, I am no fan of my neck, but I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about frown lines and sagging skin. Frankly, there’s too much to do, and even if I were tempted, I’d rather spend the bucks on a safari in Africa than on a face-lift.
Talking to my friends, I discover that while our outsides are aging, we feel beautiful in a way many of us never have before. The packaging may be getting a little tattered, but we’ve never felt more confident, more sure of who we are. So we patch ourselves up to whatever degree satisfies us and move on with our lives.
And what amazing lives they are. Researching a recent story on late-in-life athletes, I discovered a platform diver in her 80s, a 59-year-old barrel racer, and a woman training for a 100-mile ultramarathon to celebrate her 70th birthday. Call it postmenopausal zest, as anthropologist Margaret Mead did, or generativity, the impulse—described by psychologist Erik Erikson—toward productivity, good works, even friskiness, which peaks in middle age. Whatever you call it, midlife and later can be the most satisfying time of your life. Happiness studies find that well-being hits bottom in the mid-40s but steadily climbs after that.
Prevention Magazine: July, 2013