I just turned 60, and let me say this clearly: 60 is big. Well-meaning friends and colleagues have said to me, “Great! Sixty is the new 40.” What is this supposed to mean? Should I find that comforting? Maybe feel less close to life’s end? More vital? Less marginalized? Younger? I don’t really know, but I do know that I don’t agree. At all.
I remember turning 40. My husband and I had three very young children. Turning 40 marked an end to a decade during which I was pregnant or nursing nearly 60 percent of those years. By 40, I was done having children, and everything seemed to be getting easier. I was right in the middle of life: still a sought-after demographic, vibrant and youthful enough to follow trends eagerly, to become active in a new sport or career, but seasoned and experienced enough to have gathered some wisdom about how I wanted to spend my time and money. At 40, I had a full home and a full life, good health, and adorable, wonderful kids who were all potty trained and very verbal. At 40, life was pretty good.
Pretty good, but not always easy. At 40 my problems involved too little time, too many decisions, tedium and repetition. Too much about logistics and not enough about sheer enjoyment or intellectual or creative endeavors. At 40, I kept looking for the light at the end of the tunnel – get past this event, or that phase, and life would be easier.
Sixty is quite different. My husband and I have lived in a mostly empty nest for several years now; our “kids” are lovely, independent adults. Still wonderful, potty trained and quite verbal, I am grateful and proud to report that they are pretty much my favorite people on Earth. But I also enjoy our quieter home, the ability to eat whatever and whenever my husband and I want, to work late and to go out often without worrying about the children. I feel good, and I have a husband, friends, family and work I love. Leisure time is, at long last, often actually leisurely. At 60, life is pretty good.
At 60, though, I can’t pretend that I am middle aged anymore. Problems at 60 are often life threatening, or at least life changing. More and more of my conversations include medical reports, chronic or catastrophic illness, diminished capacity, and deaths – and no longer just of people of my parents’ generation, but more and more often of my own. Despite that, at 60, there are delightful newfound freedoms, the time to be more creative, the confidence to be more assertive, to regain more of myself now than I could at 40. At 60, I continue to feel vital, capable, smart and inquisitive, still feel that the world and I have a lot left to offer each other. But I don’t feel 40.
Forty was very good, and I’m finding that 60 is, too. Life moves at a different pace now, and I have a different perspective on most things. The last 20 years have, in many ways, flown by, and mostly, I don’t “feel” a bit older or nearer the end. But I know that my last two decades on Earth have had an impact on me. Growing older, working, raising a family, dealing with illnesses, deaths, divorces, marriages, births and everything that is involved in living life has made me different. That’s as it should be. I would hate to think that at 60 I would be the same person as the less seasoned and worldly-wise 40-year-old I was.
So here are my top 10 reasons that 60 is NOT the new 40. Some of the reasons may seem sad or grim, but I am neither. I’m good with turning 60, maybe even great. I have had experiences and successes beyond my expectations; I’ve faced, and moved beyond, limits and loss. At 60, I aspire to live with grace and dignity, as long as I can raise a little bit of hell every so often. I’ve earned 60, and don’t want to minimize it by lopping off my last 20 years.
11. At 60, the only new babies in your family’s future will be grandchildren
10. At 60, you get all sorts of senior discounts
9. At 60, if someone says you don’t look a day over 40, it’s intended – and received – as a compliment
8. At 60, whether or not you can fit into clothes from Forever 21, you probably shouldn’t
7. At 60, you remember feeling old at 40
6. At 60, even if it’s true that you naturally have very few gray hairs, or no wrinkles, no one believes you
5. At 60, your children are capable, lovely independent grown-ups
4. At 60, when someone achieves something impressive, no one says, “and she’s so young!”
3. At 60, weekends aren’t swallowed up by kids’ activities – you can sleep late, read all day, and you may even have the money to enjoy yourself
2. At 60, your 40th birthday was 20 years ago
1. If 60 is still middle aged, then you can expect to live to 120.
+1. At 60, you don’t care that your Top 10 list has 11 items
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