So here’s a funny story…
A couple of days ago, our mailman dropped a timely and unexpected little surprise in our mailbox that neither Dave or I were prepared for, and it set off a chain reaction of thoughts and emotions that I thought you might appreciate. So, I’m sharing, cause, you know, column…
This surprise wasn’t anything huge on the scale of surprises, but it had a deep and profound meaning with a long list of implications that couldn’t help but make my face flush a little bit. It was Dave’s AARP card. And it was right there, in all it’s glossy glory, with that upbeat welcome letter poking out of the envelope.
Now I made sure to carefully flip through the rest of the pile of mail to find mine, because if Dave’s was there then mine had to be there too because I turned fifty on Sunday and his birthday is still a couple of months away. But, funnily enough, he was the only one of us to get his new creds. And I was eating it up.
This was a moment—a sobering, hilarious, and beautiful moment where I got to rip him to shreds over his newly acquired Big Boy status.
So I called him into the kitchen under the guise that he got a package. And when I handed the letter over to him and watched his reaction, it was even more priceless than I expected. The second his brain registered what those four fire-engine-red capital letters were, he grabbed both top corners of the envelope and proceeded to rip it to shreds while he squealed Awwwwww HELL nah! And it was perfect. Because his reaction was exactly the same as mine would’ve been… Age is simply a state of mind and we’re as old as we feel.
Now no offense to the folks at AARP, but neither of us is willing to accept that we’ve aged into the mid-life stage of our life where things like retirement and slowing down tend to happen. And that’s because, to us, age is just a number. It has no bearing on our physical or emotional limitations. We’re as old as we act and feel. Or at least we are in my opinion.
And I’m not the only one who sees it this way. In his Thrive Global article Why Age (Shockingly) Is Really Only a State of Mind, serial entrepreneur and columnist Jordan French confirms my hunch that the more someone believes that the stereotypes associated with old age and aging apply to them, the more likely they are to see a decline in overall health. He also talks about the famous Atchley’s Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement that found that people with more positive views of their own aging lived, on average, 7.6 years longer than people with more negative views.
And I couldn’t agree more. Because now, at fifty, I feel younger and stronger and more capable than I did when I was half my age. In fact, I kinda feel like, if given the chance, I could kick my 25-year-old self’s ass. And I know Dave feels the same way, which is exactly why he shredded that AARP envelope and the lit it on fire. He did it because he wasn’t going to let anyone else dictate when he was going to approach retirement age. And neither will I.
We’ve both done our best not to give in to the stereotypes of aging that loom over all of us. Like how getting older somehow implies that we should start slowing down. Because it doesn’t. And we don’t.
I guess, in a way, aging is simply a case of mind over matter, or at least that’s how I’m choosing to look at it now that I’ve officially slid into my fifties.
And while I understand that a lot of people out there have challenges that are beyond their state of mind—things like physical disabilities—I’ve also seen enough people ignore their disabilities and find a workaround that enables them to keep raising the bar. And that’s just concrete proof that attitude is ever-y-thing. So that makes me believe, pretty wholeheartedly, that so many of our actual limitations hinge directly on our attitude.
Like, if we behave like we’re old and frail and incapable, we’re likely to live our lives like that, restricting ourselves before we’ve even tested our own limitations. And that’s sad to me. Because I think we’re all capable of staving off looking and feeling older just by staying committed to keeping a healthy attitude and lifestyle.
So, if it’s all the same to you, I’m just gonna keep believing that I’m ageless until a time when my body says, nah. I’m going to keep challenging myself in whatever ways I can to ensure that my body and my mind don’t plateau or get soft or slow or weak. And I’m going to keep being grateful for every opportunity I have to move my body and mind every single day.
Because as far as I’m concerned, age is relative and we’re really only as old as we feel inside your own head and body.
So sorry AARP, but I guess that means I’m gonna take Dave’s lead and pitch your snazzy little membership card in the trash. I’m just not there yet. And I have a feeling I never will be.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on GrownAndFlown.com, Hot Moms Club, LittleThings.com, MommingHub.com, More Content Now, Wickedlocal.com, and Care.com. Lisa is the VP of Community Development for SocialMama, the networking app for moms, as well as the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores everywhere.