Becoming Seventy: The Age of New Beginnings
At age seventy, my grandmother's frame was slightly bent as she walked. Her style of dress was distinctly old fashioned, and even inside the house she always kept her head covered. In my opinion at age twenty, she was a very old woman.
Today, the average woman in her seventieth year is still becoming old and playing bareheaded with her grandchildren in the park. Her bucket list includes exploits of which her grandmother never dared to dream. Her Baby Boomer instinct tells her that there's a whole new world out there, and that she has time to enjoy some of it.
We look briefly at few of the issues, some more exciting than others, in that new world.
New Age Group
“Welcome to the group,” was the birthday text I received from a seventy-year old college friend. Another friend messaged, “Looking forward to joining you all soon.” It might as well be a party group, since we are all delighted that none of us is as old as we thought we would be. Recent research suggests that women are not old until age 73. What does that mean to my friends and me?
Female Age Group Labels in 1920 and Today
Female Age Group
Age in the 1920s
Transitioning middle age
We continue the Baby Boomer trend of “rewriting attitudes . . . and changing just about everything,” wrote Bill Newcott, in the AARP Bulletin of January 2016, when the boomers first turned 70. We have become the new older people who want to be semi-retired and semi-employed, to have old-age status for the social benefits but not for the social bias, to begin new love relationships with new domestic and financial rules. Instead of adopting the old-age principles by which our grandparents lived, we embrace and add changes to fit our new lifestyle.
One speed bump in the road is that our children and neighbors recognize the community assets we have become. "Active grandparents are always on call," someone said.
Male Age Group Labels in 1920 and Today
Age of Males
Age Group in the 1920s
We are called to volunteer (since some speculate that we may be sitting at home doing nothing): to substitute for the baby-sitter, to help prepare for the church event, to help kill the snake in the backyard, to drive someone who just want to be driven that day.
No problem, unless it becomes too hectic a habit. We appreciate the opportunity to serve because we can, rather than be served because we cannot serve ourselves.
New Income Opportunities
Not all seventy-year olds have the time to be regular volunteers. Some take on part time jobs in their effort to keep active or keep practicing their craft. Some need the income, even to support their hobbies, and they get satisfaction from earning. Some seniors prefer to try something new, and they have the opportunity to earn as they learn.
Here are ten areas in which older people are entering and contributing for pay:
- Care Giving
- Customer Service
- Fundraising (Nonprofit)
- Librarian Assistance
- Medical Billing
- Tax Preparation
New Conversation Tactic
Mark Twain in his 70thbirthday speech (1905) expressed joy at reaching the age which qualified him to talk at length about his struggles and triumphs.
"The seventieth birthday! It is the time of life when you . . . stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach—unrebuked. . . You will explain the process and dwell on the particulars with senile rapture." — Mark Twain
It is true that like Mark Twain, many seniors are anxious to share their experiences with the youth, "to look down and teach;" but "back in the day" may not be an interesting topic except we are humorous and can speak their lingo. Now, there's a challenge: to become a comedian and use millennial and centennial slang.
Margot Benary-Isbert, a writer from the same period, shared an opposing attitude to Mark Twain's in the Prayer of the Anonymous Abbess:
"Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity."
This is not to say that we do not tell our stories, but that we do not offer continual commentary on the stories of others. For as long as we have control of our senses, let active listening be a new tactic in conversation with our youth as well as with our peers. The focus helps our aging brain maintain the ability to process speech.
Try and keep trying to listen. Better to be effective with a few words than to be known only as a talker. The seventy-year old who makes the effort to listen is becoming older and wiser. That individual also gets asked more questions.
In the same breath with which Moses informs us that age seventy is a possibility, he adds:
Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble. (Psalm 90:10 NLT)
He does not let us forget that our new season brings with it new kinds of suffering, and already I can relate. This year, I was diagnosed with arthritis. My discomfort may be mild compared to the many so-called old-age diseases like glaucoma, diabetes, hypertension, and Parkinson's, to name a few. The point is for us to become aware that the longer we live, the more susceptible to diseases our bodies will become.
Still, we choose life over the alternative and begin with new zeal to take care of ourselves. We learn to eat less food with more nutrients, to keep moving within limits, to get adequate rest without becoming lazy. We make adjustments to write ourselves into the script, instead of feeling like the agent responsible for keeping everyone else alive.
Sometimes, the emotional pain is the most devastating. At our age, we lose loved ones faster than ever, but the pain and sorrow are not useless. Even while we cry, we gain new appreciation for the age we are. We've just begun to really appreciate life.
- Becoming Seventy: Looking Back at Past Decades
Revisiting past decades boosts our sense of appreciation. The brief reflections will encourage us, as well as those who have passed seventy, to embrace the privilege of future birthdays with joy.
- Becoming Seventy: Five Reasons to Celebrate
Near the top of the hill, we make a preliminary gratitude list, beginning with: The View from the Mountaintop, The Mountain Guides, The Scars, Strength: Outer and Inner, and The Supernatural.
© 2019 Dora Weithers