In four months, I will be turning 60. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago when I wrote my first blog about being 53 years “old” and I don’t feel like I have changed that much over that time period. But here I am 6 years later….
Turning 60 is different than turning 50. It generally signals to society that you are officially “old”.
I hadn’t really thought much about turning 60 until I was asked recently to deliver a TEDx Talk. My speaking engagements are usually business-focused with messages around how to more effectively and efficiently target, reach and engage older adults to solve for their unmet needs. But this audience of @350 people was largely going to be comprised of adults in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. For this talk I needed to deliver a more personal message.
My talk needed to engage and inspire the audience and it required me to discover and articulate my purpose – not only for this talk but for me moving forward. What is my message and what am I trying to change? This took a lot of personal contemplation along with a little bourbon, although not necessarily in that order.
I came to realize that my purpose is to inspire individuals in a way that makes them feel better and more excited about getting older. I believe – against all of the ageist stereotypes – that by taking the right action, getting older can (actually) be the best part of your life. I consider myself to be an ambassador or evangelist for aging adults which ties in perfectly with my professional title of Chief EvAGElist Officer.
I began my talk by focusing on our youth-obsessed culture and some of the myths and stereotypes that can make getting older look depressing. I then highlighted how this growing group of adults 55 and over will represent a staggering 42% of the population by the year 2100. I spoke about our need to embrace aging and not battle it and I finished by focusing on four key pillars that can lead to an incredible life as you get older.
To truly embrace aging, we need to get over our Fear of Getting Older, or what I refer to as FOGO. Of course many people are afraid of dying, but many are worried about what may happen to them as they get older. In fact, our recent research revealed that 1/3 of Active Agers believe that older adults are fearful of getting older. This is not surprising given the ageist stereotypes we constantly see, along with our personal experiences such as hearing about friends or acquaintances who are suffering from ailments and diseases including cancer, dementia and Parkinson’s Disease, to name a few.
While there are some things that we cannot control, such as genetic composition that can link to certain diseases, there are many things we can do proactively to lengthen our lifespan and flatten the morbidity curve. That means not living in declining and poorer health as we age, but living a vibrant and healthy life for a longer period of time with a quick drop-off at the end. Who wouldn’t want that?
Back to my upcoming 60th birthday. While FOGO can be paralyzing, I plan on tackling the challenges that will come my way head-on so that the latter part of my life will be filled with great joy and happiness. Bring it on!