Commentary: Redefining aging, or Happiness can keep you feeling young
A New York City tabloid, which is where I get advice about life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and the Yankees, recently had a story with the headline “60 is the new 32.”
This story was accompanied by a photo of Christie Brinkley in a very tight and very short black dress with her toothy grin and flowing blond hair.
“Still-sexy Christie Brinkley leads the not-so-over-the-hill gang,” the story said. But for my part, I’m getting a little tired of seeing Christie Brinkley photos everywhere since she turned 60.
She was in People magazine in a bikini and at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit party in a slinky orange dress with that same Cheshire Cat smile. Enough already.
Turning back the clock
We’re being fed this crazy deception that we can turn back the clock, that you don’t have to get old, and that if you’re getting old, you’re not one of the “chosen few.”
If you think I’m disgruntled because I’m getting old and can’t fit into a slinky orange dress anymore, you’re right.
But still, I’m tired of listening to all the hurrahs for celebrities who reputedly look 20 years younger, including Kim Basinger, Sharon Stone and Meryl Streep. (Hey, why aren’t any guys in this group?) Some, like Lindsay Lohan, look 20 years older.
Baby boomers are aging
The 76 million baby boomers, who pop sociologists tell us are “redefining” what it means to get old, are entering their senior years begrudgingly, and as a sort of rallying cry — or maybe it’s a defense mechanism — you constantly hear “60 is the new 40.”
Does anyone really believe that? Ask your joints if they feel 40. On the other hand, maybe 60 is what 40 was like during the Great Depression.
The rest of us can’t afford the same cosmetic surgery and treatments that the likes of Christie Brinkley and Dolly Parton can. And while most celebrities get to go to the gym a few hours a day, we have to get up and go to work in the salt mines, which is hardly conducive to looking 40.
Can’t afford to retire
The experts also predict baby boomers will continue working into their late 60s and beyond. You know why we’re working? Because we can’t afford to retire.
Remember, this is the generation that originally wanted to retire at 55 until the financial meltdown in 2008 evaporated our savings.
Virtually everyone I know over 50 who lost their job has been searching a long time for a new one, and some ex-journalists couldn’t even get work at Home Depot … probably because they don’t look 40.
The late Sherwin Nuland, professor of surgery at Yale University, who won the National Book Award for "How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter," often talked about aging with dignity.
In his book "The Art of Aging," he wrote, “The same formula that enhances our later years — continued mental stimulation, strenuous physical exercise, and unlessened engagement in life’s challenges and rewards — sometimes fosters an unrealistic confidence that the vitality thus maintained means that we are virtually the same as we were decades earlier, even in appearance.”
Nuland calls these self-deceptions “outbursts of denial and bad judgment,” which are common in the celebrity world, where 60-something-year-olds, indeed, act 32. In the entertainment industry, there may be no visible aging, but there certainly isn’t any visible maturity.
Good attitude vs. Botox
What will define the last decades of the notorious baby boomer generation? The denial of aging or aging gracefully?
A good attitude, not Botox, is the basis of healthy aging. A poll by the Marist Institute of Public Opinion asked several generations, “How would you say things are these days in your life? Would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?”
Guess what? The Greatest Generation took the prize. The survey said that 42% were “very happy” compared with 31% of the baby boomers, 31% of Generation X, and 28% of Millennials.
They found a deeper happiness in something more significant than a bikini body. And that’s worth looking forward to.
So what about Christie Brinkley? As my mother would say, “She looks good … for her age.”
Joe Pisani, who grew up in Shelton’s Pine Rock neighborhood, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.