Thursday, July 21, 2016
Age What? You Must Be Kidding!
When I turned on the computer this morning, the calendar blatantly announced that I’m 79 years old today. Even though I knew it in advance, it still came as a shock — like something out of a sci-fi fantasy. If you’ve been watching Wayward Pines on FX, you know that all the characters have woken up in their pods after sleeping for 2000 years. That’s how I feel. The last age that’s firmly in my mind is 44. After that everything else whizzed by, practically overnight, and here I find myself 35 years later. What should I make of that?
I Googled “age 79” to learn more about what to expect. That was a mistake. Twenty-seven of the first 30 hits were news reports about the death of one or another 79-year-old person: Merle Haggard, Antonin Scalia, former Ohio governor George Voinovich, Chinese activist Harry Wu, Jennifer Anniston’s mother, and a variety of lesser-knowns. The three non-death items dealt with life expectancy, joint impairments, and a list of celebrities who have managed to survive for 79 years. Determined to find something positive, I kept reading. After 60 items, I finally reached a life-affirming post, namely, “Mick Jagger Gets Girlfriend Pregnant at Age 79.” This was definitely more encouraging, though the article wasn’t clear if it was Mick or the girlfriend who was 79.
The other thing I found out from Google is that, according to USA Today, the average life expectancy in the U.S. these days is 78.8 years. That’s of particular interest to those of us who are celebrating our 79th birthday. We are people have spent our entire lifetimes on the good side of average life expectancy, and now we suddenly have shifted over to the downhill side. This does make for a notable birthday, though it gives one the jitters.
When I reached middle age, I started accumulating a list of famous people who were born in 1937. It made me feel more secure to have a group I am moving along with. Then I started Googling photos of these people to see how they were doing. This was reassuring because these are mostly Hollywood people whose staff members help them appear more youthful than they really are. Here is how my 1937 age-mates are looking these days.
Colin Powell (born Apr. 5, 1937), Heart symposium, McLean, VA, Apr. 15, 2016
Sally Kellerman (born June 2, 1937), Los Angeles LGBT gala, Nov. 2015
Warren Beatty (born Mar. 30, 1937), Cinema awards show, Apr. 12, 2016
Dyan Cannon (born Jan. 4, 1937), L.A. art show, Jan. 28, 2016
Morgan Freeman (born June 1, 1937), Academy Awards, Feb. 16, 2016
Jo Anne Worley (born Sept. 6, 1937), Film screening, May 9, 2016
Sir Anthony Hopkins (born Dec. 31, 1937), Interview, Jan., 2016
Loretta Swit (born Nov. 4, 1937), Interview, Feb., 2016
Dustin Hoffman (born Aug. 8, 1937), NYC theater opening, Mar. 2, 2016
Roberta Flack (born Feb. 10, 1937), Feb. 10, 2016
Jack Nicholson (born Apr. 22, 1937), L.A. Lakers game, Mar., 2016
Jane Fonda (born Dec. 21, 1937), Golden Globes, Jan., 2016
By and large, it looks like 79 isn’t a complete catastrophe. That’s especially true for Jane Fonda who hasn’t changed one iota in the last four decades. Given that the last age I remember is in my forties, I have to say that my late seventies don’t seem dramatically different. It is true that my hearing is poorer, my close-up vision is erratic, and it’s harder to figure out who the murderer is in Masterpiece Mystery. On the other hand, I exercise more, eat healthier food, and experience much less stress than during my turbulent work years. In some ways, life is better these days — more relaxed, more free, more pleasurable.
After working it through, I’ve concluded that being 79 — like 32 or 11 or 61 — is simply a fact of life, another chronological step that presents its own unique rewards and challenges. I think the trick in it is to accept what life brings along, do something special every day, try to get out of one’s comfort zone every now and then, keep a sense of humor, and say “I love you” to people who are close. These are going to be my birthday resolutions.