Five benefits of becoming an older adult
I recently learned that I am about to belong to a club I don’t want to join.
A colleague of mine, a pharmacist, was discussing with me the many problems associated with tranquilizer and sleeping pill use among older adults. I learned that the use of medications like Xanax, Valium, or Ambien in this group frequently results in falls, broken hips, emergency room visits and hospitalizations. I casually asked, “When is someone considered an ‘older adult’?” I guessed he was talking about 80 year olds. “Oh,” he said, “Not until they’re 65.” I gasped. I will be 65 in less than two years!
How did this happen? I’ve been just cruising along, turning 50, then 60, blissfully unaware that I was soon to be a card-carrying “older adult”.
The fact is that in the United States, 10,000 adults “age-in” to the 65-year-old club every day. I’m near the beginning of the post World War II baby boom, which spanned from 1946 to 1964, and now has over 75 million members. Based on the 2012 census, we make up about a fourth of the population in the United States. We are a very influential demographic.
The good news is that I don’t know that I’m soon to be an older adult, unless I glance in the mirror. I look at myself and think, “You know, that guy looks just like me but older!” Sound familiar?
My father used to say, “Growing old ain’t for sissies, but it’s far better than the alternative.” But I think there are many positives today for growing older, too. Here are just a few of them:
- Today’s 65 year olds are a lot younger than they used to be. As a group, we are more physically active, eat better, enjoy improved health care and smoke less than our parents. When I was growing up, much like in “Mad Men,” everyone smoked everywhere. It turns out that smoking ages you like nothing else.
- Better living through chemistry. My parents lived into their late 80s and early 90s primarily because of medications that controlled their blood pressure and cholesterol. I’m taking that stuff too, but it’s higher tech, and new drugs become available all of the time. It’s a great time to be getting older.
- We have a longer view of our future lives. My mother’s parents died at 45 and 73 and my father’s parents died at 55 and 69. Like most people, they used their parent’s life span as their longevity yardstick. To them, living into their 80s was a dream they could barely imagine. But it’s easy for me to imagine living into my 90s. I’ve got another 30 years to play with. Woo hoo!
- We are retiring at an older age than our parents. In my parent’s generation, at 65 it was time to call it a day, sit in a recliner and play with the grandchildren. But Baby Boomers are working longer and, as a result, are staying mentally and physically active. According to a recent survey, over 65 percent of boomers do not plan to retire at 65. Those that retire earlier are volunteering, taking classes and doing more traveling. All of this keeps the brain cells firing.
- Growing older does mean growing wiser. It’s true. I don’t get as rattled by the ups and downs of life as I used to. Life experience has taught me that the “worst” rarely happens, and if it does, I can handle it. After all, I have learned a few things in my 40 plus years of adult life.
Sure, we have aches and pains we didn’t have when we were younger. We don’t have as much energy as we did when we were in our 40s. And it’s harder to remember names this year than it was last year.
But in addition to the senior discount, we have a lot to be grateful for, too.