Wed, 5 Jun, 2019
Are these the 10 best things about being 50+?
We want to know what you are looking forward to the most. One reader shares her thoughts.
‘What are 10 good things about being over 50?’ I was surprised by the question because I hadn’t realised that I should have 10 new good things after 49. Why is 50 so significant anyway? Nobody ever asked me to think of 10 good reasons for being over 20 or 30.
I did try to answer the question, but didn’t succeed because every ‘good thing’ I thought of was to do with retirement rather than with my age – granted, they do go together. So I called a few friends to see what they thought.
My friend Anne thought the question nonsensical. ‘The construct is false and the cultural differences too many. What defines age anyway? Remember Milton said: The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven’.
Were she still alive, my Mother might have agreed with Anne. When I rang Mum for her 70th birthday I discovered she wasn’t into ‘Big Zero’ celebrations. ‘But I’m still Alma’, she protested. She’d emerged from her childhood, youth, into becoming a bride, mother, grandmother, worker, knitter and traveller. She was adamant that she was the sum total of all that despite being 70.
Although I understood what she meant, I was a bit nonplussed because I’d always thought we got used to the idea of being older. These days I suspect that nobody ever does. Our bodies might change but our sense of self continues, so the things that were good in my life still are, despite my age.
Other friends were flippant. One reckoned that being 50+ is better than the alternative. Another wasn’t worried about old age because it doesn't last. So, there’s one good thing about being over 50: You’ve made it this far.
I’ve noticed people developing a sense of fair play about life as they get older. We’ve had a fair shake of the tree, as Carol said, when she turned 70, ‘It’s OK to die now’. I’m sure she wasn’t planning on immediate exit, but she was saying that, after three score years and ten, everything’s a bonus. She can relax now and just be.
Jan agrees, ‘I don't really care what others think about me anymore - my friends and family being exceptions. It's a great relief to find that the 'judgmental anonymous other' has disappeared’.
My artist friend, Felicity, doesn’t want to ‘just be’. She wants to grow old outrageously and to confront ‘little old lady stereotypes’. So, she grabbed a mirror – lobbed out her boobs and started a series of nude self-portraits depicting the corporeal reality of her late fifties.
Friends have surprised me by becoming more outrageous as they grow older. Gentle, caring, courteous Rosemarie now has her favourite birthday card pinned to the fridge declaring that: ‘The older I get, the more everyone can kiss my a**e’. Who would have thought?!
Queensland Liz reckons that simplicity is a virtue in the last third of our lives: ‘We spend the first 25 years of our adult lives building-up material possessions and the next 25 chucking it out. I don’t need this stuff now. I’ve de-cluttered – simplified my life’. I’m not sure if this has to do with being 50 or with retirement, but either way it’s been good for her.
More people offer help as you get older, though Liverpool Phil, now 73, still can’t decide if it was good or bad that he was offered a seat on the bus by a pregnant woman.
Life gets cheaper as we get older. Jan wrote: ‘I do like concessions: Rates, medical bills; power; and theatre tickets!’ It seems nobody’s told her that the seniors’ concession on power bills has been withdrawn where she lives. My cousin also seemed pretty pleased that ‘We can have salt ‘n pepper hair without the expense of highlights at the salon’.
Mostly, though, cost efficiency arises from the fact that we simply don’t need to buy as much once we’re over 50 but that’s not necessarily good for the economy or ourselves. ‘You’re saving in your retirement’, my Financial Adviser exclaimed, ‘Shrouds don’t have pockets! You should be spending the kids’ inheritance!’ In my case, that means giving more to those who need it, in particular Medicine Sans Frontière. They’re on every front line. For me, personally, it means more travel, as long as I can still get insurance.
So, with a little help from my friends, here are my 10 best things about being 50+:
1. We’ve made it this far
2. From now on everything’s a bonus
3. Freedom to just be
4. We can grow old outrageously
5. Friends can still surprise us
6. We can live simply
7. Life gets cheaper
8. You can spend the kids’ inheritance
9. More people offer help
10. It’s time to spend money on ourselves and others