60 is the new 40!
I am scheduled to an interview today with a web site called fiftyisthenewforty.net and it made me think “Really? I thought for sure that sixty was the new 40!
When I was growing up I used to think of sixty as really old, as in “the end of the road!” And now here I am, sailing right past 60 and feeling like I’m still right there in centerfield at the top of my game. I literally cringe when I think of my own predictions of what I would be like when I was 60something!
I mean seriously, my hair isn’t gray (OK,OK, I wouldn’t know if it was since I make sure to never let my roots grow out long enough to find out), I haven’t slowed down, I don’t have trouble getting out of a chair, I haven’t turned in my jeans for golf pants, I still climb mountains and work out regularly. Heck, I’m personally about as far from my granny gray prediction as anyone could possibly be.
Now admittedly I chose a young path for myself. I had gotten married when I was 29 years old, to a man who was 39 years old, had three wonderful daughters but the marriage ended. Twenty years later when I was 49 years old, I married again, and again I married a man who was 39 years old. So I have an exceptionally young lifestyle with two sets of twins who are 6 and almost 8 years old; I’m at the playground, I’m in the carpool line, and I’m still sitting on tiny chairs at parent-teacher night. But forgetting my personal journey, I think it is fair to generally state that, as a society, we 60somethings look quite different today than the generations that came before us.
There are a number of things you could point to that have let us stay our course and not be retired to the sidelines; better healthcare, better fitness programs, fashions and hairstyles that flatter and hide the signs of aging, and age-delayers available to us from cosmetics to plastic surgery.
But I frankly feel that there is one more component that is closer to the fountain of youth than any cream in a jar or hair color from a bottle and that is your mindset, or a youthful attitude. It is having an expectation that while we may have to get older, we do not have to grow old. This boomer generation has quite literally changed the rules of aging; these days you do not have to retire, you do not have to turn grey, you do not have to give up running, dancing or anything else that makes you happy. Simply put, you do not have to act your age! We boomers are redefining what used to be termed our “golden years”.
I’ve always hoped that I would be able to grow old gracefully. However in the past that phrase may have conjured up a well-coifed grey haired woman “lunching with her girlfriends” at the country club after a game of Bridge. In the quest to stay young these days, aging gracefully often involves Botox, pumping one’s lips full of collagen, and sandblasting our skin off once or twice a year. While I am a nervous Nellie about letting doctors aim lasers or scalpels at me, when the day comes that I am unhappy with the person looking back at me in the mirror, believe you me, I will be looking for the latest greatest treatment available to put a new shine on my exterior.
Meanwhile my tastes in clothes and hair styles haven’t really changed from when I was 30 or 40, although lately I have pondered whether that is OK. Whenever I hear a promo on television “coming up, when it’s time for women to stop wearing short skirts and put away the butt-hugging designer jeans” I sheepishly make my way toward the TV. Is it that time for me? Will I know when it is the appropriate time to retire certain fashion styles from my closet? Perhaps I’ve already exceeded the time limit. Yikes!
I know that sometimes I see women at the mall who are dressed as if they are 20something, and then when they turn around you realize that they are really much older — decades older, and it reminds me of my promise to myself to “age gracefully” . Damn, I like to wear my jeans, and not just my “Not Your Mother’s Jeans”. I like my skirts shorter and my boots taller. You don’t want to dress like a kid, but you don’t want to dress like an old lady, you simply want to dress like some timeless version of yourself.
Growing up I always felt that Audrey Hepburn was the epitome of the timeless graceful woman. I’ve always hoped that I would grow old in the Audrey Hepburn style. Of course we don’t all have Audrey Hepburn’s classic features or that trim little figure that brought style to anything she put on. I remember when I was in Europe with Good Morning America I had the opportunity to interview Audrey Hepburn and even though she was 60something, her hair was pulled back tight into a chic knot and she wore ankle length pants with a button up the front sweater set and ballet flats, it wreaked of youth and sophistication and grace. She was on our show to talk about one of the many worthy UNICEF causes for which she worked relentlessly. Perhaps part of her timeless beauty and grace was her mindset; the fact that she always had such a giving heart and was still making such a difference in people’s lives all over the world, that she remained relevant and inspired and her life had purpose and thus joy. I think that much of her ability to age gracefully came from within.
When I think of all that she was able to accomplish in continents around the world, I am reminded of how that kind hearted spirit can serve as a fine example to the millions of 60somethings (and older) who are trying to redefine themselves in this new world of ours. There are many worthy causes that need volunteers, and Audrey Hepburn is a shining example of how we can stay vibrant and youthful by remaining relevant and useful. By helping others, we always help ourselves. And when we feel we are needed and we are making a difference in our world -- that is truly the elixir that promises youthfulness, much more than a bottle of hair dye. Not that I am willing to ever give up my hair color, mind you. I’ve been coloring my hair blond for years; long before it needed to be colored and my motto is “You should dye until you die”.
And just look around, it’s not just me! There are fewer and fewer white-haired or blue-haired grannies around these days. However there are millions of 60somethings looking for ways to reinvent their lives, to stay stimulated and to remain relevant.
Times have certainly changed! And as far as I’m concerned, it really does look like “60 is the new 40” everywhere you go. Maybe when I was younger, I thought of “aging gracefully” only in cosmetic terms — from the outside in. Now that I am here, I clearly see that growing old gracefully needs to also come from the inside out. It’s a state of mind. I’ve come to think of a positive attitude as an “inside job”. Just as we nurture our physical bodies with exercise and the right vitamins and nutrients, we must nurture our minds with positive thoughts. Gautama Buddah wrote, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” Right on! So I am planning a trek to Machu Picchu, my next ski trip, and getting ready to go to QVC to sell my new collections for my Joan Lunden Home line. Never thought I would start a brand new business venture as I was turning sixty, but it’s been creative, challenging, and exciting.
So I guess my mom was right when she always used to tell me that life is what you make it, and it’s best to always have something that you are looking forward to; a vacation, a party, a reunion, a business venture, something to keep life exciting and challenging. She used to say that attitude is everything and I’ve certainly found over the years that my attitude not only affects how others see me, it effects how I think and how I live my life.
Your expectations of aging will have a lot to do with how you live out your years. Those who expect their bodies to slow down and expect that they will be retired to an easy chair will probably do so, and then wonder how that happened to them. But in today’s world, if we remain confident in ourselves, engaged in life and keep a steady eye on our future, then we will probably know what is appropriate and what possibilities still can lie ahead. If we give of ourselves unselfishly then we will attain a glow that no esthetician can ever achieve.