Staring Down The Big 6-0

Life Is Not A Dress Rehearsal

Feb 14, 2011 by

If someone had asked me on December 17, 1955 – the day this photo was taken- how old I was, unhesitatingly and with great enthusiasm, I would have held up 4 and a half fingers and shared that I turned 4 1/2 just three days ago.

Now, some 55 years later, when the issue of age comes up I find myself a bit more tentative in my response as if not having to say it out loud will prevent it from happening. When people find out how old I am, they answer with the obligatory, “I would never have guessed that! You don’t look like you are going to be 60.”

I have a theory about this. Telling people over 50 that they don’t look their age has become as rote as saying “I’m good,” after someone asks, “How are you?” It’s become the expected answer. And, those of us on the receiving end clutch to the response as if we were drowning and someone had just tossed us a life preserver. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we don’t look 60, then are bodies can’t be 60.

When Gloria Steinem so famously shared in 1974,“This is what 40 looks like,” it made people realize that our concept of how someone should look at a certain age was out of sync with reality. Do I look like someone who will turn 60 in five months? A version of 60, for sure. The version of someone who has stayed out of the sun, eats a healthy diet, and oh yeah, genetically was gifted with really good skin.

Do I care about my looks? Just check out my bathroom and you’ll find lotions, potions, and gizmos that promise tighter necks, smoother skin, and diminished wrinkles. Of course, I care.

But, I care more about my health and that is why turning 60 is so very different than turning 40 or 50. Statistically, my body, which to this point has held up remarkably well, will probably begin showing signs of deterioration. I’m not talking about a saggy neck, but more aches and pains, maybe a little arthritis, some extensive dental work could be in my future, or maybe a case of diverticulitis or a dance with the Big C. Sometime between now and 2021, I may have to start taking meds- permanently.
That’s the thing that I am not looking forward to–the loss of my health. I cherish my health.

Back in 1955, I was exuberant thinking that soon I would be five years old. Getting older was the goal. Now that I’m on the downside of the aging bell curve, I think about all the things that I will lose as I get older– from hearing to mobility to confidence and continence.

I appreciate that I can take 5 mile walks, touch my toes, do a downward dog, and drink caffeinated coffee with dinner. I know that a health crisis can steal these pleasures in a blink of the eye. One day mobile, the next day too weak to walk around the block. I do not take my health for granted.

So, as I move towards June 14, 2011, I am consciously thinking about my health. When I celebrate my birthday I want to be the healthiest me I can be. I’ve increased my workouts – being more diligent about weight training and stretching. I bought a flexi-bar from the UK to add vibration training to the mix. I’ve drastically reduced my sugar and carbs and hope beyond hope that I can lose 15 pounds between now and June.

While good health is my birthday wish, I am also very aware that staring down 60 is shifting my perspective of who I am and what I should be doing with my life. More than ever, I understand that this is no dress rehearsal.

To be continued.

About the Author

Elana Centor Has Written 6 Articles For Us!

Elana’s vision of a world class enterprise providing social media training, coaching and consulting is the foundation of DWT’s conception and development. Her distinguished 30-year career as a marketing expert, journalist, author and social media pioneer gives DWT the authority to succeed.
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  1. Tani

    I was at a business lunch the other day when my colleague (who well knows my real age) nodded at me and told the newcomer “she looks a younger than she is”. Somehow that comment tickled me. He could so easily have said “she’s a lot older than she looks.”

    At a European business conference years ago a British colleague asked my age and I told him. His comment was, “You don’t look that old, but Americans are always trying to look younger.” I thought about it and replied, “No, I think we just don’t feel obliged to look older.” I vividly remember the days when women over a certain age were obliged to dress and wear their hair a certain way. Today, despite having applied for Medicare this week, I happily wear jeans and sneakers and a turtleneck – the same uniform my 20-something daughter wears.

  2. I can so relate to this and I’m 50…people tell me I look 45-ish. And, as long as I keep up my rowing which is hard to do and I’m always trying to weasel out of it, I feel 30-ish. really.
    But, now that my mom and dad are 75 I think I’m taking on their life and their aging aches and pains because they tell me about all of them. It makes me feel like I’m also getting older and time is passing and soon, hopefully not too soon, I’ll be up at bat. Where has the time gone? I am so used to being busy, I can’t imagine not having this kind of energy. Alas, to be continued…

  3. I just turned 60. I thought I was going to do it with the covers pulled up over my head. Instead I was inspired by Maya Angelou on OWN’s Master Class, who says the 60s are great. Then my friends gave me a party where we ate chocolate and danced through 6 decades of music. I had so much fun, laughed a lot and ended up with my first margarita hangover in 30 years. Now that’s how you turn 60!

    To see the 6 decades of chocolate and music click here…

  4. Managing aging, I am finding, is a work in progress. I do well for a few months than catch my reflection in a store window and wonder who that it is. It isn’t me.

    Incidentally, help comes from unexpected places. About two years ago, my car, after being towed, hit, and ticketed too many times, was stolen. It turns out that most of New Haven, CT is like Manhattan: Cars are not needed and a burden. Being carless has brought down all those numbers doctors look at. I lost 20 pounds. And my writing has improved because I pick up so many angles on life on mass transit.

    ATSG might look to me as Role Model for Getting Over Getting Older. Probably it’s because of arrested development, but I’ve always been the much-older person in my groups. Next month I get my first Social Security check. Rather than it’s being jarring, it provides such financial relief. I’m now free to pursue the kinds of work I want, not the kinds which pay the most.

  5. Elana, oh how I feel your pain! I, too, am headed for that big number and it’s so different than the other “big” numbers! I actually was happy to become 40 – I still had my looks and my health, but my kids were grown and I was suddenly free. Then, 50 came along and I was still in pretty good shape, plus I was working at a career I loved… Now, things are changed. I am definitely still in a wonderful, fulfilling career, and I have Tom in my life, and my health may not be what it once was, but it’s better than most!

    Still…60 brings the sense of mortality to the forefront. Yes, it says – you are on a downward slope. Even as humans live longer than ever, we ladies have much to consider as we age. Not the least of which is living alone when we are truly elderly. And that is the real worry – that children will be off doing what they should be doing – living their lives – and we will be expected to take care of ourselves, as elderly ladies, maybe slightly forgotten.

    What will we do?

    • I’m hoping that I don’t have to feel like I need any help being taken care of for at least another 25 years! Right now I can’t even get my head around that concept and I’m sure my kids can’t either. Yikes! I know that I’ll have to deal with it in the future but right now that still blissfully seems a long way away.

  6. admin

    I remember when turning 15 was a the fork in the road. Comforting and exciting to take “age” out of the closet as you and Sunny have done in your posts.

  7. Oh boy can I relate to this one. My birthday is June 8th, and I’ll be turning 59 so the Big 6-0 is not that far off. My personal goal for turning 60, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Anyone want to join me?

    • I would join you for a drink afterwards!

    • Wow, Debra!I’m totally impressed. What a great goal. How are you going to train for it? And, have you done mountain climbing in the past. Just this morning as I was walking my dog, I was thinking how I want to spend the day of my 60th birthday and I was thinking about trying to walk the chain of lakes in Minneapolis – I guess that’s a 12-15 mile walk (not sure) but the invitation is out…anyone who wants to join me, I’d love the company.

  8. Great post, great attitude, Elana. Especially as I’ve started making the rounds of 60th birthday parties over the past several months (with more to come). I remember when my beloved mother turned 70 and 80, she remarked “I never thought I would be this age” and now I better understand what she meant.

    Wiuth best wishes to our good health no matter what our age!

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