During the Q & A portion of a TV show featuring people who became millionaires by pursuing their dreams, a woman in the audience told about a business she wanted to start but felt it was too late. "After all," she said, "I'm forty."
Would not it be wonderful if you did not know your chronological age? If you had nothing else to go by except awareness of your mental and physical abilities, dreams and aspirations, how would your life be different? Take a minute to really think about it.
As I was growing up I can not recall the number of times I heard my mother say that if only she were ten years younger she would have done "whatever". In retrospect, she was an extremely intelligent woman with unappreciated talents and unrealized dreams. She respected and lived by the hidebound traditions of the time. Age mattered a lot then. Unfortunately, it still does.
As wild and wooly as our society has become; as much as it is now the norm to do whatever you want to do, and tradition be damned, when it comes to dealing with age, we are still stuck in the dark ages.
I pulled out of my files an article from Aging Today, November / December 2000. It opens with a quote by Matilda White Riley, founder of the National Institute of Aging's Behavioral and Social Research program. She opined that age is "losing much of its importance." She continued, "Soon specific ages will no longer serve as rigid criteria for entry, exit and performance in social roles."
That was seven years ago and we are just as hung up as ever on the importance of chronological age. Youth still rules.
When was the last time you saw a female TV personality – anchor, weather person, lifestyle editor – whatever – with naturally gray or white hair? Or with wrinkles, God forbid! How often do you see ads in which older women are portrayed in positions of authority or power?
TV and print ads continue to feature very young people to sell products to older people. Ads for cosmetic creams are shameless in that respect, promising what can not be delivered. Yes, Dove ads use older, but definitely youngish women to promote products and those ads are deceptive when they suggest Dove shampoo will deliver a thick head of hair to midlife women. When older people are used in ads, it's usually to establish identity with same age viewers for health insurance or reverse mortgages.
How often are midlife people assured it's not too late to start their own business – or are urged to use or develop abilities regardless of their age? Not very often. Positive, productive aging is still not held up as the norm.
What shows lack of progress more than anything is that aging in our culture still means decline, not growth. Our society refuses to face the fact that we are living longer healthier lives. The lifespan has increased by 27 years in the past century. In spite of this reality, we continue to assign 50 year olds to middle age, which is just a stone's throw to age sixty, which our would-be enlightened society continues to label "elderly."
If you are at midlife, or what our society classifies as midlife, ignore "the number" that you are. Prepare legally for the end of your life and after that is done, live each day with purpose and in a constant state of growth, fortified by a mindset that you will live forever. When you can make decisions with disregard for awareness of your age, it's not living in denial; it's the ultimate liberation.