From 59 to 60: What a Difference a Year Makes

Michael H. Glantz
21 August 2003

From 59 to 60: What a Difference a Year Makes

It's pretty interesting looking back to the times when I crossed certain age barriers. For example, turning 16 was a big deal because I could then drive legally. Eighteen was also important because I could be drafted into the Army. And at 21 (in the old days), drinking became legal.

Turning 30 seemed to affect lots of people. They hadn't reached their millionaire status yet or launched a career that would make them either well heeled or well known. To me, 30 was a no-brainer. I can't recall any trauma. In fact, I liked the 30s. For some reason it might have been my best decade.

There are lots of jokes about being 39: my best 5 years were when I was 39, some would say. Comedian Jack Benny used to say he was 39 decades after he was. That was part of his act, though. Many people seem to fear 40. Middle age begins somewhere around there, although it is not a fixed number. Maybe being middle-aged is really only a state of mind. I guess I know some people in their late twenties and early thirties who act as if they were middle-aged and others decades older than them who act as if they were in their 20s. Who's to say which group is right or which one is most content? Perhaps both are.

Then comes 50. Turning 50 caught my attention. It's hard to remember why. Perhaps it was work stuff that bothered me more than the age thing. Yet age started to be on my mind. At 50, it would be hard to change jobs. Who wants a 50-year-old, even one with lots of experience? Cheaper to get a young person and train him or her. I remember playing singles at my tennis club and glimpsing the four guys in their upper sixties and reminded myself that was going to be my next milestone. Scary I thought, going from a vibrant active energetic go-get-um tennis buff to a much slower-paced truly middle-aged person.

As I approached 60, I became more cognizant of aging. In fact, I decided to celebrate my 59th birthday as the important one in order to avoid the shock that people spoke about that seems to accompany entering the 60s.

This year, going from 59 to 60, is in fact a major jump for a host of reasons. At 59 you still believe that you are going to work forever. You have several projects that you are trying to complete, and you are starting new ones that will likely run for years. There is no proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The day you turn 60, that light appears and from then on it gets closer and closer at a steady pace.

You get increasing amounts of unsolicited mail about retirement. Join this club or that one and get your discounts. Move on from Centrum to Centrum Silver. Don't forget to get Condroitin to rebuild the cartilage you wore down over the years. Now it is on your mind. Gee, my knees do feel funny, now that you mention it. Yep, that pain in my lower back seems not to go away. Check that cholesterol level. Time for regular prostate check-up. Don't forget that colonoscopy. As if that were not enough, you learn that your dentist who took care of your cavities for decades neglected to remind you that your gums were receding. For the first time you hear the term "pockets in your gums." Off you go to the periodontist. Talk about pain.

As for the eyes, bifocals have been there for a decade or so for most of us, but no one ever told me about "floaters." Are they black spots or ribbon-like floaters? Why had I never heard of them before even though I have long been made aware of other kinds of eye problems?

The biggest change when leaving the 50s, at least to me, was the bombardment with unsolicited information about retirement. Friends and co-workers ask if you are going to retire early, say at 62? Or 65 or 70? There is your pension plan that you have to think about and deal with. When do you draw down your pension funds? The financial planners ask you to figure out what amount of money you need when you retire? What kind of lifestyle do you want? Retirement counseling notices appear every month. Pre-retirement email announcements become more frequent.

By the time you hit the sixties, it is likely that some of your co-workers have retired. Some tennis partners can now play any time during the day, while you are still restricted to a couple of hours at the end of the work day.

That is the difference that one year makes, that year from 59 to 60. It is not reversible. You now have a foot in the present and a foot in the future. Some of your thoughts float to issues surrounding retirement. How do you want to spend the last days of your working life? You are torn in two directions. You must think about not only when to retire but how. One cartoon said the following: many dogs have been walked to death by people who had not given any thought to what they would do once they retired.

--Michael H. Glantz

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