So, you’ve just entered your 50s – welcome to a great time of life! You have some remarkable advantages. Your mind is alert, your body is full of energy, you probably have some savings in the bank, and the kids no longer need your twenty-four-hour attention. What a fantastic start. Freedom, finance, and flexibility. With all of these beautiful things going for us as we enter our fifties, it is surprising that so many of us are depressed on our fiftieth birthday and do not look forward to the next phase of life. We have been handed hugely negative assumptions about age by both the media and social assumption. Many of us actually believe that ageing is a bad thing and that when you hit the BIG 50, it is all over.
Ha! I remember being in this attitude myself in my mid-fifties and I did start to wind things down. Then, thank God, I hit a turning point. I remember the words of my doctor during my annual medical check-up. “Everything is good, but you should start taking it easy.” It suddenly hit me that this was doublespeak by a young person who had never experienced my age. I had lots to do.
Places to go, people to meet, foods to eat…I’m a contrarian by nature, so I decided very firmly not to take the advice of my doctor! (Do this only at your own risk). Instead, between the ages of 57 and 61 (my age now), I started a brand new business, divested an old business, bought and renovated a house, travelled so much that I have used up 36 pages of my passport, took up a musical instrument, joined a running club, rejuvenated the love affair with my life partner of twenty-one years, and attended a multitude of self-improvement and spiritual workshops. This was certainly more active than I had been in my forties and busier and more excited about life than most thirty-year-olds, with their worries about appearances, mortgages, and careers.
Why did I go on this energetic path instead of taking it easy? In part, I was inspired by some remarkable stories. You probably know some of them – Harland Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken in his mid-60s; Ronald Reagan started his political career at 55 and so the list goes on.
However, what really motivated me was to look at the many people around me who had listened to the “take it easy” advice. They had not turned out well. The inactive ones were getting worse until, by their mid-sixties and early seventies, they were frail, disinterested in life, secluded, humourless, and whinging. They were everything I never wanted to be. With these two stark comparisons – a life full of activity, time to do what you have always wanted and optimism on the one hand and on the other – a gentle, uneventful crawl towards death. The choice was really easy to make.
So throw off the negative connotations of age, and see your fifties and sixties for exactly what they are – they are the youth of the rest of your life. Make sure you stay healthy and then do exactly as you please. Give yourself a treat; get that facelift if you want to, buy yourself a luxury car or caravan and travel to your heart’s content. Enjoy every minute, celebrate every year because today is the youngest you will ever be!