In this ongoing series, LIFE IN FULL, we are writing to Baby Boomers (those of us in our 50s, 60s, and 70s) about how to maximize our Longevity and our Legacy. Find new episodes here every Tuesday and Thursday, and read the overview and catch up on earlier articles in this series by clicking here.
One nice Christmas present for “Seniors” might be to quit using the old and rather insulting phrases or clichés that often pop up in miserable attempts to describe what it is like to get a little older—things like “Over the Hill”, “Put out to Pasture”, “The Autumn or Winter of Life.”
But for we Baby Boomers, rather than fighting against or being insulted by this kind of language, maybe it is better to embrace the clichés but redefine what they mean. As we begin thinking about the autumn of our own lives, we need to examine and reinvent a bunch of these old terms and turn them into positives. We need to establish the fact is that autumn is actually the best season—the most vibrant and colorful, and the fact is that just over the hill is the best place to be.
Anyone who hikes or bikes or runs knows that cresting the hill and starting down the other side is what we work for and what we love. It’s exciting, you feel the wind, it’s faster and it’s beautiful.
And it’s easier. Coasting a little is fantastic. It allows you to pay more attention, to be more aware, to see where you are. Once you crest the hill, life becomes more aesthetic, more present, more in perspective.
We happen to live in the mountains of Park City, Utah, and the canyon on the way up is steep, especially if you’re on a bike, and the hillsides are treeless and a little barren. But the moment you go “over the hill,” everything gets better. Fir and pine trees everywhere — no more smog, bluer sky, and suddenly it’s downhill.
The crest, just over the summit, is where we happen to live, and it is the best place to be — both in our canyon and in our lives.
So yes, we are just over the hill, and we love it!
And autumn, the richest season, is anything but a fall! All the seasons are great—spring is lovely, summer is wonderful, and there is a lot to love in winter too. But is any time better than autumn—its vibrancy, its color, its crisp stimulation? We don’t think so—we will take autumn anytime, and it is the best and most mellow part of life.
So lets take on all these disparaging descriptions of what is actually the prime of life. And if we can’t re-make them, lets throw them out!
- We don’t know about yours, but our home is hardly an empty nest, which would be a foul thing (excuse the pun), stinky and falling apart. Are we really supposed to be sad that the baby birds have flown away? How about rejoicing that we’ve succeeded in launching them into the adult world, and that they can make their own nests somewhere else? Speaking personally, having raised nine children, the two of us now enjoy a mostly mess-free, relatively quiet nest that has never smelled better!
- Have you seen a horse put out to pasture? As we write, we are looking out the window, and our horses like nothing more than the fields where they’re grazing right now in our little mountain meadow. It’s a more relaxed, comfortable, liberated existence outside the confines of a barn. Once you’ve done most of the work, paid your dues in life, what’s better than soft ground, long vistas, and plenty of green grass? Particularly for those of us in the Church, there are so many options, in and out of the “pasture.” We can serve missions, we can work in the Temple, we can study all the interests we have not had time for earlier in life.
- The idea that after a certain age we start fading fast is nuts. Most of us do fade a bit as we older—physically, at least—but usually it’s anything but fast. Most of us actually change less between fifty-five and seventy-five than during any other twenty-year span of life. If we take care of ourselves, change happens very slowly.
- Forget young at heart. It can be a patronizing phrase used by youngsters to suggest that the more seasoned crowd is irrelevant. The fact is, as Jonathan Swift said, “No wise man ever wished to be younger.”
- And we won’t be slowing down, It’s just over the hill where you pick up speed and efficiency! Things can actually move more quickly because now you know how to get things done and you understand what really matters.
So, fellow empty nesters, fellow autumn dwellers, fellow speed demons down the other side of the hill, fellow grandparents, the message is this: rejoice! We are just where we want to be, and there has never been a better time to be here!
Join us again here on Thursday when we will continue to look at the positives and advantages of life as a senior—and specifically at the wonderful word “yet.”