Every now and again, a particular birthday gives pause. Most often any multiple of ten has the potential to lead to periods of self-reflection, a deep review of the past and thoughtful preparation for the future. Then again, some multiples of ten lead to utter panic. When the math reveals a full tilt throttle aging process with less time ahead than what's already behind -- lets just say that birthday can arrive with a jolt. You know what I mean. Actually, perhaps you don't know what I mean….yet. Sooner or later you will understand.
For some reason, forty is the first big one. When my mother hit forty, she asked for, and received a cake with vanilla frosting and the number 39 iced in red. Forty is Big and then you cruise along with a mere hiccup at 45. A little more cruising, and then, just when the feelings associated with becoming 40 are a distant memory, you experience the onslaught of 50. It's not always bad, mind you. Fifty can be a milestone filled with deep reflection and celebration and well-meaning friends who are already 50 who insist on a celebratory dinner which serves the purpose, in part, of keeping things lively and busy so you forget you are fifty. Before I say more, this is a public health dean writing; a responsible person who shares a big planet with a lot of people, so I want to acknowledge that in some communities, “making it” to 40 is akin to making it to a very old age. I am not talking about life expectancy differences in the developing world. In fact, there is a relationship between where you live and how long you live. Take a look at the incredible presentation Dr. Tony Iton did at our school on May 5, 2011 on the issue of health equity and longevity. And for those who are living longer, my colleague Dr. Linda Fried spoke eloquently on PBS LIFE about what she calls the “silver tsunami” – and how we are not yet prepared for it in this country. So much work to do!
Last week, 55 arrived last week in my own personal inbox.
Despite the fact that retirement and 55 have been estranged from one another for many years, retirement communities opened their gates for me last week. I admit not opening the AARP card when it arrived, as if opening the envelope would somehow hasten the aging process. In fact, the one thing all of humanity has in common -- the one thing we are all doing at the same time wherever we are -- is aging in place. I am doing it while I write and you are doing it while you read. Fun, isn't it?
Life and the health literature concerning it really change at age 65 as you will note on the CDC ‘s Healthy Aging information. The American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health’s “Ten Top Tips for Aging Well” is worth a quick read. Their dietary recommendation: “Eat A Rainbow.”
Google 55 and a number of themes become evident. I am officially a "mature traveler" which I find strangely reassuring. A treasure trove of discounts with or without my AARP card is mine to explore. Certain hotel chains now beckon this mature traveler with 10-20% off certain rooms on certain days. “Select” fast food restaurants offer free coffee and 10% off meals which is a good thing because clothes shopping on Tuesdays just got easier, giving rise to quite an appetite.
Ok, seriously, whatever your age and circumstance may you be able to spend the approaching holidays with whomever you call your friends and/or family. Get rest and get renewed. Our public health mission: collectively continue working to provide everyone, everywhere, the opportunity to live long and live well. There is no shortage of work to do. Happy holiday.