50 years old. It is supposed to be a milestone. One where men usually have a midlife crisis and buy a sports car, or start to sink into depression about how old they are, and start increasing the speed of their demise. Well, I drive a Kia Soul (and I really like it, thank you very much), and I have no intention of being throwing on plaid slacks to sit in the park and throw breadcrumbs to the pigeons just yet.
Just what is old. When I was in grammar school, I remember thinking that I would be happy to live to 24, to live hard and burn out before I got “decrepit.” By the time I hit the mid-teens, fueled by Logan’s Run, I though 30 was over the hill. Like most people, what I considered to be old has advanced along with my age.
People joke about phrases like, “50 is the new 30” though I have always agreed with the premise, and now that I have reached it myself, I feel more strongly than ever that this is actually the case. I mean the evidence around us is not all that hard to find. Starting with how society has shifted what is considered the normal sequences of life. School, marriage, kids, retirement have all moved back in time, and in some cases get completely mixed up. These days colleges are filled with “older” people who are reinventing or improving themselves. Sure you used to see the “oddball” old timer that would run races or participate in sports, but look at any half marathon, marathon or triathlon and you will see “seniors” in numbers that would be considered unimaginable 50 years ago.
Of course, part of this is also environmental. Air and water was far more polluted, High Blood Pressure, Heart Attacks and other such ailments had much higher mortality rates. Back in the day, these were just viewed as part of aging.
That last part, I believe, is the biggest and most important change. The view. People still get old, but the phrase “you are only has old as you feel” is starting to be more than just a cliche. But there is a caveat to all this good news, you have some work to do in order to make this true. If you are a smoker, quit. If you are overweight, lose weight. You can still drink, but moderation is important. Do I even have to mention, that because we lose muscle mass as we get older, that exercise is important. Keep in mind while we are discussing exercise, that “I don’t have time to exercise” is the adult version of “the dog ate my homework.” It is “too inconvenient” to exercise an hour a day? Well, how inconvenient would it be to be dead for 23 hours a day?
In short (What do you mean, “too late?”), you may have to put in a little effort, but if you do so, you don’t have to look your age, or feel your age, or give in to your age. At 45 I felt old. At 50, I feel born again. A little bit of physical care, and the right attitude, and suddenly not only does 50 not seem so intimidating. It really is all about a state of mind. Like the late Tug McGraw famously said, “Ya Gotta Believe!”