What are You Capable of: The New Face of Aging

What are You Capable of: The New Face of Aging

Is 60 the new 40?

Is 60 the new 40? 50 the new 30? 40 the new 20…? All of a sudden, it sounds like we are aging backwards.

When you look at life stages, one’s 40s probably differ quite a bit from one’s 60s, at least on the outside. You’re at a different stage in your work life, your family life has probably changed a bit, and the way you spend your free time has probably changed, too. At 60, you have 20 additional years of experience. You have navigated a world that is unknown to someone at age 40. You have more experience to draw upon, wisdom to share, and knowledge to pass along to others. You have not only earned that experience, you have lived it!

Saying that 60 is the new 40 implies that you have to act younger than you are. But with 20 years of life lived in between, why would you want to go backwards in time?

‘60 is the new 40’ buys into the ageist stereotypes that exist in our society and culture today. While some 60 year olds might want to hit the rewind button, there are many more out there who are perfectly comfortable with who they are and the age that they are.

So let’s take ‘60 is the new 40’ as an empowering statement. One that says that you are not defined by your age.

The New Face of Aging

“Old” Is a State of Mind

If you wake up one morning and feel like you have to act like you’re 70 (whatever that means) and do all of the things that our culture says you have to do, then you probably will. But it’s mind over body and you can do what you believe you’re capable of doing. That might mean taking your dog for a walk around the block, spending time learning something new, or committing yourself to continuing to take part in the activities you love.

For years now people have proved that aging is a state of mind, and even if they fit into our culture’s definition of “old” they aren’t letting a number slow them down. Meet them below:

Gladys Burrill, or Gladyator as she is known to family and friends, became the oldest woman to complete a marathon at age 92 in 2011. She had only run her first marathon at age 86, after being a pilot, mountain climber, desert hiker and horseback rider. She broke the Guiness World Record, but that wasn’t her goal. She was inspired to run a marathon after enjoying the pre-marathon fireworks in 2003. Her advice? “Think positive. It's easy to get discouraged and be negative. It makes such a difference in how you feel and your outlook on everything.” With some hard work, determination, and positive thinking, Gladys was able to break a record.

In 2013 at age 64, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim between Cuba and Florida without a shark cage. The journey was 110 miles long and took her 53 hours. Sports psychology studies have shown that in extreme marathon-type activities mental determination is a far more important factor than the physical energy of younger people. Diana worked hard to reach her goal, and she didn’t let her age stop her.

Grandma Moses became one of America’s most famous painters at age 78. She began painting late in life when she was no longer able to do embroidery due to arthritis. After her death in 1961 at age 101, her paintings were presented in museums all over the country. Grandma Moses didn’t let her body get in the way. When she was no longer able to do one activity due to her arthritis, she quickly found another activity that would bring her joy.

You have probably seen, eaten at, or at least heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), but did you know that the famous fast-food franchise was started by Colonel Sanders at age 65? He received his first social security check, and realized he needed to take action to turn his dream into a reality. He traveled the country with his chicken recipe in hand, searching for suitable restaurants. Someone took a chance on him, and today KFC is one of the most famous worldwide fast-food chains.

When 92 year old Geneva Eskrivage was diagnosed with cancer she decided she needed to fulfill her lifelong dream, and she jumped out of a plane. She had always wanted to try skydiving, and receiving her diagnosis gave her the confidence she needed. When she was told she had cancer she decided to “start living” and cross some dreams off of her bucket list.

Lew Hollander became the oldest Ironman competitor at age 85. The Ironman is one of the toughest triathlons one can compete in, involving a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 22.66 mile run, raced in that order, without stopping. Hollander began competing in Ironman’s after retirement, as he had no desire to slow down. He believes that the best way to keep moving forward is to “use it or lose it.” If you keep moving, working, and trying, your body will be able to rebuild itself and will only get stronger, regardless of your age.

These people show that age is truly just a number, and aging is truly just a mindset. While of course there are certain things that come with age that one can not control. And ‘60 is the new 40’ does not mean that 60 year olds and older are now expected to jump out of planes, run triathlons, or create a fast-food franchise. But these stories show that people are out there everyday, pushing their limits and showing the rest of the world that nothing can slow them down. Slowing down will mean different things for different people. So take your own interpretation of the phrase, and do what you need to do to live a happy and healthy life. Try a new activity, go outside with a friend, or learn a new dance move! You can choose how you want to age, so take advantage of that power. 

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