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Old People Get Away With the Darndest Things

Looking Forward to Being Utterly Outrageous

“Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life.” - Author Kitty O’Neill Collins

I have a birthday coming up. I’m long past the age where I’d count the days to celebrating with a party, presents, and cake … though I still look forward to the cake. Chocolate, please.

Yes, I admit it. I still look forward to my birthday. For dinner out and away from the kitchen, if nothing else.

“Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.” - Author Larry Lorenzoni

And they’re a marker of how I’ve spent my time on this planet. I can remember every year and how I, the world, and the people have changed with the times. My character is testament to how I’ve handled life. My face reflects how I’ve dealt with all the things that I’ve experienced.

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.” - Fashion designer Coco Chanel

Attitude is our outlook on life. It’s how we’ve managed the ups and downs and whether we’ve been defeated by setbacks or made all that much stronger by them. It’s whether we see the glass as half full or as half empty. Whether we only see that gathering clouds or consider the rain and occasional silver linings they bring. And if we can see humor in everyday events.

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” - Playwright George Bernard Shaw

So I have another birthday approaching. It’s not a big number. Definitely nothing to get my panties all in a wad over and bemoan the passing years. It’s just another tick mark on the wall of my counting, one that I don’t need to stress over.

Because I’ve decided that age is a matter of attitude. OK, that’s easy for me to say right now, as I’m in top physical shape and feel as on top of my game as ever. I’m still a long way from geezerhood, but I know there’ll come a day when I’ll find myself creaking a bit and struggling to do what used to come effortlessly. And when I do, I’ve decided that I’m going to make the most of it. I want to be the little old lady from Pasadena, living life to the fullest. I want to be the most interesting character in the knitting circle (not that I knit … right now), the older neighbor that you actually enjoy talking to. In fact, I want to have fun and be my most authentic self.

“Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week.” - Activist Maggie Kuhn

Elder years give unsaid permission for behavior and attitudes that may not have been possible before. You can get away with saying things that you never would have been able to before. Have you noticed how some of the most beloved eccentrics in literature, film, and TV are the elderly? They often say the things most others are thinking, but would never dare voice. They wear whatever they darn well feel like, sleep whenever they want, and live life on their own terms.

“At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.” - Advice columnist Ann Landers

How funny to realize that most people are just so wrapped up in their own lives that they’re not constantly judging us after all! Ann Landers has it right: we are more comfortable with ourselves as we move into mid-life. Confidence replaces the hesitation and uncertainty of youth when we ‘re worrying about fitting in within our peer group. We come to terms – and peace - with our personal strengths and weaknesses and hopefully the decisions we’ve made up to that point. Later still, we relax even more into our own authentic selves, reclaiming our individuality more strongly than since we were children and taught to be self-conscious and self-disciplined.

Saying what we really think may or may not get us into trouble. It may endear us to certain people and isolate us from others. A social filter is still a good thing to keep in place, knowing the fine line between what’s appropriate to share in public and what’s definitely not. Otherwise, while some people may find you quaint and amusing, others may rack it up to dementia. And you really don’t want to go there.

“Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” - Activist Betty Friedan

If life’s been good to you and you’ve been able to plan well and retire comfortably, your elder years can be the best of your life. It’s a time to travel and learn new things, explore interests and hobbies that you didn’t have time for earlier, or discover latent talents that you never knew you had.

“Your 40s are good. Your 50s are great. Your 60s are fab. And 70 is f*@king awesome!” - Actress Helen Mirren

Not only can you have fun on your own, but it’s a great time to spoil your grandkids (or nieces or nephews) like you never did with your own children. Yes, go ahead, sugar them up, wear them out, and then wave a cheerful good-bye as you leave them for their parents to deal with. Think of it as instant karma for all those times your own kids provided you with rather challenging moments. Ha! Serves them right. 

“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” - Singer-songwriter David Bowie

It’s time to appreciate the little things in life again, like the sweetness of each season, long walks with special people and longtime friends, and the play of children. It’s time to slow down your pace and enjoy meeting new people. It’s an opportunity to volunteer your knowledge, skills, services, and wisdom for the benefit of others. It’s time to unfold your true essence and share yourself with those wise enough to appreciate the value of what’s being offered.

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” - Poet Robert Frost

If we’ve matured as we’ve aged, we have a lot to offer younger people, should they be open to receive it. Some retirees become active in their religious institutions, as students, lay leaders, or volunteers. There’s more of a focus on the spiritual and exploring the richness of spirit than on the demands of family and work.

“My physical body may be less efficient and less beautiful in old age. But God has given me an enormous compensation: my mind is richer my Soul is broader and my wisdom is at a peak. I am so happy with the riches of my advanced peak age that, contrary to Faust, I would not wish to return to youth.” Author Robert Muller

While physical aging isn’t something most of us look forward to, there’s plenty else in compensation. And as long as we’re not plagued with pain, illness, or disability, our elder years can do little to slow us down.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” - Author Mark Twain

A famous quote – perhaps the best known of all – is that:

Age isn’t a number, it’s an attitude.

Guess what? There is scientific evidence to support that very thing.

  • Researchers from Yale and Miami University (my alma mater!) determined that people who saw growing older as something positive lived seven and a half years longer than those who didn’t.

  • Becca Levy at the Yale School of Public Health showed that putting a more positive spin on our general view of aging can make a profound difference in the health of people over 65.

Poet & playwright Robert Browning shared this positive attitude:

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.”

Besides, what choice do you have?!

“Old age isn’t so bad if you consider the alternative.” - Actor & singer Maurice Chevalier

So here's to birthdays! Now, bring on that chocolate cake....

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