I'll be honest; I wasn't thrilled about turning 70. I've always been youthful, healthy, and extremely active and although nothing had changed suddenly everything seemed different. I felt lost, fearful, and untethered; this was unknown territory. The 50s were fabulous and freeing; there's no other period where you have a wealth of experience, yet still possess the energy and time to do almost anything. The 60s were a total and utter surprise; everything seemed to come together for me; I felt calmer, saner, and for the first time in my life, happy. Plus there are all those wonderful role models; Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and Hillary Clinton, to name a few.
But 70? It felt as if I were being thrust on a train to Siberia, my passport confiscated at the border. Or being escorted to the "Siberia" section of a restaurant; the area where they seat people who aren't trendy or relevant. I was concerned others would look at me differently, as if I had a tattoo on my face that screamed "old." Intuitively I sensed that I was on the verge of something; there's an opportunity here if I'm just willing to just hang out in this tender place and not label what I'm feeling. I found myself reading Pema Chodron which was exactly what I needed. In her book When Things Fall Apart, she writes "The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy."
It soon dawned on me that my problem wasn't my age; it was my attitude. I was judging myself the way I was afraid others would judge me. Perhaps I should know better; I've been working on a book entitled, You Are Never Too Late, Using Astrology to Thrive in the Second Half of Life. But it's different when you are researching aging and another when you are confronted with it. I realized I still had a great to learn about this subject and in a way I was in the perfect place to do that.
The truth is there has never been a better time to be older. We are living in an aging society; in the United State there are 34 million people are over 65 years old -- and that figure will double by 2030. This has had a huge impact on corporate America. Up until recently businesses ignored senior citizens; now the marketplace is rushing to address their needs. This phenomenon has been driven mainly by the baby boomers; the 76.4 million babies who were born between 1946 and 1964 and who are responsible for more than one half of all consumer spending. It's not surprising given they were the first generation that was raised with television. Many of them grew up on natural foods and holistic medicine; for them living longer and staying healthy is not a fad; it's a way of life.
It's not all about looking young and perfect either. I'm not saying that Botox, plastic surgery, and retouching are going to disappear anytime soon but there's something bigger happening. There's a movement building that has less to do with how you look and more about how you feel. The message is that it's possible to find meaning and purpose at every stage of life although naturally it is going to be different at each one of them. You see evidence of this everywhere; on Ari Seth Cohen's Advanced Style blog and Facebook pages such as Mary Costanza A Woman's Heart and Soul where photographs and stories appear daily about people in their sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond living rich and fulfilling lives. The Huffington Post is the perfect example; its Huff/Post50 section offers guidance on Parenting Post50, Divorce Post50, Love Post50, Reinvention and Retirement. We see it in movies like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and in books such as Martha Stewart's Living the Good Long Life: A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others. And with the youngest boomers turning 49 this year and the oldest 67, this movement is only getting bigger.
I don't want to imply that aging is without challenges, especially in our current economy, but all this interest in living longer and better brings new information and that can lead to new program, policies, options and perhaps renewed respect for the aging population and what they have to offer. One of the greatest gifts we can give is to be example to the younger generations which is why we need genuine elders; fierce, authentic elders. We all age but not everyone who gets older becomes an elder; true elders are not frozen in time; they continue to grow, evolve and deepen. The future may belong to the young but the quality of that future depends to a great extent on the elders in our society. As Michael Meade writes in his book, Fate and Destiny, "Inside the elder the eternal youth remains awake to its life vision. Inside the youth an old sage is beginning to stir and seek for knowledge. Awakened elders are necessary if youth are to awaken to the inner dream of their lives." The different generations need each other more than ever now for we are all pioneers, co-creating this new aging, sage-ing paradigm.
As for me; I still feel a bit unsteady as I tentatively enter this new decade yet I'm also full of wonder; curious, even hopeful about what I will discover, learn, and contribute in the years ahead. Instead of looking for role models, perhaps with enough time and wisdom I can even become one.