What is it that causes us to shy away from admitting, if not celebrating our age? As children we measured our years in fractions: I remember saying, “I’m 3 and a half!” soon rounding it off to 4. And we do the same much later on: my father boasted that he was not almost 96, he was 95 and three quarters! We had to be something other than what we were: older when we were kids; younger when seniors. The dreaded 40, or 50. Euphemisms for getting older: 50+ or “third age” when we mean middle age and above. You’re not “old” now until you hit 85.
I contend that while certainly there are some downsides to aging, there are considerably more upsides. And not just the hackneyed joke about it being better than the alternative. There are truly great things about getting older, not the least of which is being able to get that Social Security income you’ve contributed to for all those years. And there’s Medicare. As I’ve written before, Medicare is a terrific health insurance program that’s wonderfully affordable. For most low- and middle-income people the cost is just about a hundred bucks per month, not counting prescription drug coverage. Sure there are some things we’d change about the government program: I’d love to see more doctors accept new Medicare patients (which won’t happen until the reimbursement rates are more in alignment with costs). And I’d love to see vision and dental care included. But for the most part, I’m thrilled with my coverage.
There are so many other benefits to getting older once you accept it. Although you’re not as strong and agile as you once were, you get to accept assistance from others. That’s a privilege not a handicap. You’d be amazed at how many people offer to help you when you appear to be struggling. A gaggle of us oldsters were attempting to put up a beach tent and were having difficulty with some of the hardware that had gotten rusty. We just didn’t have the strength in our fingers and hands. But the nice, younger group near us came over and gave us the oomph we needed.
Are you still pretty active? Well, great. The good news is that you can go skiing for half the cost! And it’s free if you’re 85. You can ride the Metro in Washington, DC and the NYC subway for about half, even in rush hour. There are thousands of discounts available to those who are over 65, and younger in many places. Although you don’t have to be a member of AARP, membership brings with it even more benefits. And those just barely skim the surface.
Want some other positives? How about travel overseas? While here in the U.S. we older folks do get some respect, it’s multiplied ten-fold in many other countries where age is revered, not reviled. And study after study has shown that older folks – those of us in our sixties and seventies – report higher self-esteem, greater emotional stability, and a more positive outlook on life than those who are younger. Sure, ageism is alive and well, particularly holding back people in the hiring arena. But more and more companies recognize the contribution older workers can make.
It’s time we start embracing our age. It’s time we stand up and declare our pride in being older.