|Photo by Luc B.|
Because I am a gerontologist, people ask me directly or indirectly, "Am I old?"
Well, there isn't an easy answer to that question.
Last week I talked with an administrator at a local university who was telling me he was a lot older than people imagined.
Older? He's in his mid 30s.
Because I regularly socialize with people who are twice or three times his age, I perceive him as young--even though he is twice the age of an incoming university student.
From his perspective, he exemplifies Ballou's first clause in this post's epigraph: "Forty is the old age of youth."
|Photo by Nick Kenrik.|
When ever I confess my age to people who are in their 80s and 90s, they always make some version of this statement: "You're a baby!"
Thanks to improved sanitation, better health care, and the reduction of smokers in the US, the average life expectancy is increasing.
Reading about projections leads me to believe that I will live into my mid 80s, maybe into my 90s. Because I expect to live for 30+ more years, 50 doesn't really feel old.
As a gerontologist, I social regularly with older adults. They teach me a great deal about life in the US before I was born. They also teach me a great deal--directly or indirectly--about how to age effectively.
I see a parallel emerging.
When I was 25, I looked to my middle-aged professors for guidance on how to establish myself in the workaday world. As a young adult, I didn't even see many people over the age of 65--let alone talk with them--so why would I seek a mentor from among those past traditional retirement age?
Now that I am 52, I look to older adults for guidance on how to establish myself in the broader view of "the world." I find that older adults know more about personal character, peaceful relationships, long-range decision making and many other larger-than-worklife skills.
So when you wonder whether you are young or old, remember to consider the context and the audience.
This is part of a new series of posts inspired by quotes. Enjoy!
Life Span vs. Life Expectency
Leisure World Cohort Turning 90