‘I’m turning 60 next week and I am NOT looking forward to it!’ Helen’s response to the Second Act Facebook page was no surprise. She’s certainly not the only one to struggle as a big birthday approaches. Personally, I’ve made ‘a right meal’ of each one, as my Dad used to say, worrying what it will be like, what it will mean to my life / work, dreading the worst.
When Helen was young, 60 meant crimplene and knitting – life was essentially over. Those old role models have a lot to answer for – we Boomers are plagued by long held expectations of what older age means, even though we are totally different and setting a new tone.
Helen’s life is the perfect example:
Someone less in the crimplene style is hard to imagine – more spiky hair and jazzy fingernails! Helen’s achievements are many – singing in a Barber Shop Choir that recently took Silver in a competition in the US, as well as being named ‘Best Entertainment’ is just one. She got her place after auditioning – a success made sweeter when she learned that the choir turn away 80% of applicants. Go Helen!!
She‘s built a fantastic family, who showed their love by throwing an amazing party for her big birthday. She danced and played so hard that she broke her toe – a badge of honour under the circumstances. She thought it important to do now, in case she can’t manage it when she turns 70 – I seriously doubt that will be a problem! Her family describe her as ‘not normal’, but maybe she is a perfect participant in the new ‘normal’.
Faced with ageing
Helen knows first hand what ageing looks like. She works every day with elderly people and I could hear the love she has for her work as she talked. “I treat them the way I want to be treated when I’m old – with respect and dignity’.
Nancy returns the favour in spades with her brilliant sense of humour, as does Margaret who regularly thrashes Helen at Scrabble. Then there was the lady who had forgotten how to turn on the radio. Just by doing that simple task, Helen brought music back into her life, leaving her feeling bright and alive again.
This is the prime of life
My theory, after many conversations with women over 50, is that this is the prime of our lives. With wisdom, knowledge and experience, we have so much to offer, so much to give and share. So I asked Helen – ‘if you saw this time as your prime, what might you do?’
It took just one long pause for her to create an inspiring picture of the future:
“I would love to go to more Nursing Homes and show them how to talk to people with dignity, so they bring out the best in their residents.”
“I’d love to engage young people with the elderly, so they learn to value age. I took one old lady to meet young people at the local school and I saw her light up as the youngsters talked to her. And they enjoyed it too. There are so many stories to tell and so much knowledge to share – it would do everyone so much good.”
In the Prime of her life
With those ideas, I can see Helen using her prime really well. Even a few years ago she woudn’t have had the experience and knowledge she has to share now. This is a perfect time to take her learning out into the world. And what a gift that will be to all of us.
Prime will look different for each one of us. It may be a time of solitude, a sharing of knowledge, a sharing of joy with family and friends – it may even be a time of crimplene and knitting. Prime is what we each choose to do with this culmination of our lives. Whatever we choose will be right – as long as we make an active choice
So settle back and look at your Prime. Will you do something new or do you prefer to settle softly into the familiar and enjoy your time of ease?
There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe