Everyone eventually has that milestone birthday they don’t want to acknowledge.
For some its turning 30. For others its 40. For me it was 50. I did not want to be 50.
Shortly after my 50th birthday I saw a syndicated article in the newspaper about a group started by two age 50+ women in California. It was called the Red Hat Society. It challenged the perception that 50 is old.
They were inspired by the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph. The poem celebrates the liberation of your spirit and attitude as you get older. For women, by wearing a purple dress with a red hat.
The Red Hat Society encouraged women to adopt a playful attitude about aging. I liked that. So I decided to organize my own chapter of Red Hatters in Lancaster, PA where I was living at the time.
I set up a link on the Red Hat Society website and waited to see who would get in touch with me wanting to join my chapter. We were early adopters; only the 11th chapter to form in the U.S.
That was the start of an amazing sisterhood of new friends. We decided the only function of our group was to have fun. Once a month we would dress to the nines in red hats and purple dresses and go have dinner and drinks or a casual lunch at a nice restaurant. Our backgrounds and lives were all so different, but the conversation and laughter flowed easily.
We really made a splash! When we walked into restaurants those red hats and purple dresses were a show-stopper! Before long the local press heard about us and asked to cover one of our outings. That first newspaper article brought an explosion of requests from women who wanted to join our group.
In less than two years my one Red Hat chapter grew into 14 chapters in Lancaster County to accommodate all the 50+ women who embraced playful aging. We held a catered dinner at the Armstrong Manor where women from all 14 chapters came … more than 70 women in red hats and purple dresses, bedecked with jewels and finery.
The local print and TV press covered it! We were quite the sensation. Dame Edna would have felt right at home with us.
When the uniqueness of it eventually got old, my chapter disbanded and we each pursued other interests. But the underlying premise of friendship and fun after 50 stays with me. It’s an attitude that keeps me feeling young.
There is much to celebrate about aging.
At a certain age, you truly do stop caring about what others think of you and become comfortable with who you are. You get a regenerated vitality to do new things and expand out of your comfort zone.
There is a liberation from expectations when you reflect on the things you’ve accomplished and things you’ve just plain survived. And you realize there is still a world of choices ahead of you.
Feelings of satisfaction are intensified! When you’re young its expected that you can do all kinds of things. But doing them when you’re older is so much more gratifying.
In my 60s I took my first white water rafting trip and started writing a book. I quit the normal work routine and changed my career to work as a consultant from an office in my home.
By the age of 60 I was living life on my terms. And loved it when people would say “you don’t look 60!” According to a study on aging by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, I wasn’t. The study found that age 60 and even age 65 is now middle age, not old age.
The study determined that the accurate way to measure age is not by years lived, but by years of life expectancy. 60 really was, and is, the new 50! Maybe even the new 40!
How old you are is determined more by the state of your physical and mental health than by the years you’ve lived. Faster increases in life expectancy for those who maintain good physical and mental health reflect a proportionate slowing of aging.
“Young at heart” is a real thing!
Tomorrow is my birthday. But there’s absolutely no way I’m getting old!
Staying healthy and physically and mentally agile is my primary goal. Not just for 2022, but for as long as I can do it. Because there are places I still want to travel to. And I want to see my grandkids grow up, graduate, see what they choose to do with their lives, go to their weddings, and possibly even get to meet my great grandchildren.
Its up to me to make that happen.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw If you enjoyed this blog and know someone else who would enjoy it, please share it.