Taking Stock in Reviewing Your Later Decades

Published in Pawtucket Times, March 8, 2013

During the turbulent 1960s, young protestors would say “Never trust anyone over 30 years old.” Today, now the younger generation sees the benefits of successfully transitioning into their thirties and well beyond.

Aging baby boomers now realize they are entering late adulthood when they receive AARP’s membership invitation to join America’s largest aging advocacy group in their late 40s. This little notification announces your chronological age (even though you have not made age 50 yet), is quickly tilting toward your later years, some would joke a key reminder that your senior years are fast approaching.

What about moving into your 60s? You’re still professionally at the peak of your career, but five years shy of moving into the rank and file of the retired.

On Becoming Age 60

In 2003, Dr. Justin Aurbach, a Dallas-based endodontist, who just happens to be my brother-in-law, would be turning age 60 in a few months. At that time, he shared with me the following thoughts about the impending age milestone.

“It’s great [moving into his 60s],” Justin noted, saying far too much [cultural] negativity has been piled onto this chronological age.

While some become frail or face debilitating chronic conditions as they enter into their 60s, at that time my aging brother-in-law was still in relatively good physical shape. However, he did acknowledge that he could not run a four-minute mile, but he never could at any age, he joked. But over ten years ago when we talked about his views on turning age 60, Justin told me that he played a little golf (like many of his friends), walked and jogged, even spending time to weight lifting.

Justin’s was a believer in vitamins and he took “a lot of them,” back then, he admitted.

As he moved into his middle sixties, Justin believed strongly that he would still be at the top of his game, still improving with age. At this time he said, “not only am I technically better, but my years of life experience have made me wiser in respect to knowing what can and can not be done in my life.”

Aging researchers have found that being plugged into a social network of family and friends is a key ingredient to successful aging. Justin must have read their studies. The aging endodontist told me he was still very lucky to have many friends who were part of his large external family.

With his upcoming birthday propelling him into is 60s, over ten years ago, he spoke of the loving support of his long-time wife, Michelle, 59, [my oldest sister] along with children their Jennifer, Leslie and Stephanie.

In his 2003 life review, looking over his almost sixty years of living, Justin remembered the ups and downs of his life. For him, times of sadness included the loss of his mother, common parental problems that he experienced with raising his daughters and failure to quickly achieve some of his professional goals.

However, his philosophy of looking at the glass half-full rather than half empty enable him to cope with adversity. This life stage was also a time of excitement and learning for him, moving into the “best time of your life.”

Getting to the Big “70”

Over a decade ago, when we spoke about his thoughts about turning age 60, Justin told me that he would “certainly keep forging ahead at a break neck pace.” New goals would always replace those that would be accomplished, he promised. In 2013, his pace has not slowed down one bit.

Justin acknowledged that advances in medical technology leading to the advent of non invasive tests, the near elimination of many dreaded diseases and a greater understanding of genetics and molecular biological have increased the odds for his celebrating the big “70.”

Today, Justin is age 69, ready to enter his 70th decade. Since his 2003 interview, he has adopted his fourteen-year-old granddaughter, Allison. Over the years, he has attended dozens of funerals, saying his goodbyes to his wife, father, father-in-law, mother-in-law, even close friends and colleagues. Regularly seeing familiar names on the obit page of the Dallas Morning News and attending funerals makes him aware of the need to accomplish his goals with the time he has left.

“Life goes on,” he says. A year after his wife’s death in 2009, the aging widower began to date, Ruth, a retired audiologist who now works as a fundraiser for a nonprofit charity.

Moving into his seventh decade, there will be no retirement or gold watch for my brother-in-law. Even though financially secure, Justin plans to continue to maintain a very full practice until his eighty-fifth birthday. His teaching of entry level endodontic students at Texas AM Baylor School of Dentistry will continue into his later years, too. A former president of the Dallas County Dental Society, he intends to stay active in the medical group.

Justin won’t be sitting in a rocker on the porch of his sprawling home in North Dallas. Being an avid bike rider for over 30 years, even with his busy schedule, he will still sneak in a ride when possible. Like his earlier years, he will continue to enjoy the fine dining establishments in his City, cook for family and friends, and even catch a play or chamber music performance.

But with advance age, there are challenges that many of his contemporaries face, Justin notes. He is working hard to help his older children become more financially independent. Like many aging baby boomers, in this severe economic downturn he has picked up a portion of their household expenses.

As an older parent of a young teenager, Justin finds it extremely challenging to keep up with the “high energy level” required in parenting. “It keeps you young, on your toes and aware of what is going on with the younger generations,” he says, noting that this late life experience has made him a “much calmer parent.”

It has been over a decade since my initial conversation with Justin in 2003, and he comments that this time went by “like the blink of an eye,” he says. His mantra may well be “Live your life to the fullest, don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.”

Share Insights Gained from Life’s Battles

For this columnist, growing older has always been like a bottle of wine, as you age you get better like the wine.

For those turning age 60 even entering their seventies, exercise and eating a healthy diet, developing a strong support network, and continuing to learn and seek out knowledge becomes very important, for increasing your longevity. Now it becomes important to take some time to reflect upon the ups and downs of your life and use the knowledge and wisdom gained to make better choices in your final years.

Most important, take time to share your newly gained insights with your children and grandchildren, even your younger colleagues. Give them the gift of your hard earned insights gained from life’s battles.

“It’s a new beginning for me,” quipped Justin, when he turned age 60 a decade ago. But as he prepares for the new 70th decade ahead he admits, “I feel like a newborn who is just beginning his trek into the wonderful world I live in.”

Reaching your 60s or 70s, key chronological age milestones in your life’s journey can give you a sign to slow down and reflect on the changes in your life, moreover, how you adapted to both personal and professional challenges. Ultimately, as Justin found out, reflection gives you the inner resources necessary to gracefully age in the final stages of your life.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a freelance writer covering medical, health care and aging issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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