Among the immutable facts of life is your birth day.  Everyone knows the date they were born and when their next birthday arrives.  When young that is a very big deal, the major social event of the year – a day highly anticipated.  There will be a party with family and friends, good eats, gifts, of course, along with hearing everyone declare that you’re growing up, becoming a “big” boy or girl.  And when you’re young, getting older means so much.  Who wants to be regarded as a “kid”?

By the early teens birthday parties have become old hat, lost much of their allure (sweet sixteen’s being an exception).  They’ve become stale, not all that noteworthy (except when you come of age for a driver’s license.)  Getting to twenty, however, is worthy of celebration.  You’re now reasonably mature, but need not assume much in the way of responsibility.  Immersed in the process of “finding yourself,” you’re at a stage of trial and error, a period of adventure, without firm commitments or permanent location.  Anything is possible.

Thirty must be taken more seriously.  At your party are friends who are married, some with kids, others on solid career paths.  You can remain a free spirit, experience wanderlust maintain serial relationships, but questions are beginning to be asked.  Have you considered “settling down?”  “Do you have a job with a future?”  “Where will you put down roots?”  There’s no panic at 30, you’re still “young” but you can’t expect to continue on like this.  Enjoy your party, but the days of reckoning may not be far off.

At your 40th birthday you should be in full stride, life choices made, potential being realized.  To be 40 is to be both “young” and “old”, certainly experienced enough.  Physically robust, mentally sharp, a career advancing, kids growing up.  And while you’re certainly not worry free (college tuitions, economic downturns, aging parents) there’s enough time and energy to address these issues.

Your 50th birthday is a watershed, likely represents a wake-up call.  The word “old” once used in jest, now appears closer to reality.  Your friends have entered the same age category and people in their 20s and 30s now look like kids.  Changing jobs or careers at this point appears unduly risky.  Aches and pains once readily dismissed or transitory now emerge with worrisome regularity.  Still, you don’t believe you are aging, are exercising vigorously staying sexually fulfilled, still able to keep up with your kids (who no longer are “kids”).  The future still looks bright; you’re still inclined to assume new challenges and welcome new possibilities.

Your 60th birthday, while not depressing, certainly is sobering.  You’re aware that not long ago, people reaching that age were regarded as “old.”  But now it’s different.  Sixty is the new fifty you’re told.  You believe it.  You feel fine.  You’ve not slowed down, still hard at work.  Looking in the mirror you see nothing that’s alarming.  But conversations about retirement crop up now and then.  You’re aware that Medicare coverage is not that far off.  Is this the time to buy “long-term care” policies?  You’re no longer inclined to advertise your age.  People might not react positively.  Potential employers, should you venture into the job market, may not be impressed.  If you have job security, be grateful.
At your 70th birthday, if your health is intact and your finances in order, you should be comfortable where you are.  You’ve made it through the turbulent world of work, your “kids” are adults and you’ve made your mark.  So what if the hair has thinned and you’re no longer at your full height.  You can relax, travel if you wish, sleep late, pursue a lifelong hobby, volunteer because you’ve now retired.  There are likely to be grandchildren to fuss over, steady babysitting assignments – if you live close by (not always the case these days).  You’re hoping for smooth sailing.  Surveys, you’re aware, indicate that those in their 70s consider these times to be the “best years of their lives.”  Still there are more doctor visits than ever before, chronic discomforts, while your eyes, ears and knees no longer perform up to par.  Filling up your days becomes an issue.  And people you know – relatives and friends – are now passing away at a pace you’ve never before experienced.  How many years do you have?  Entering your seventies normally indicates you’ll be around in your eighties – but there are no guarantees.  Best be more careful (don’t fall) than ever before.

On your 80th birthday . . . .  (to be continued)

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